Classic Album: Paul Simon - Graceland
Classic Album: Paul Simon - Graceland
- Genre : Rock
- Type: News
- Author : Super Admin
- Date : Tue, 15 Dec 2015
In the beginning, two men, both considered crazy by their peers and one thought to be washed up, skirt a United Nation's cultural boycott and set off to South Africa on a journey of personal redemption. Throughout the wayward tale, they find the love of music that had been eluding them for so long, and in return, we receive Graceland. It's really a classic tale, one of maturation, understanding, and learning what's right for one's self, and thanks to the help of a variety of South African talents, (many to be mentioned later in this article) Paul Simon's 1986 album Graceland remains one of the most intricate, worldly, and yet intimate albums of the last many decades. It's an expedition Quixote and Sancho would be proud of.
For those unaware, Graceland encountered some pretty difficult issues upon recording and release. There was a cultural boycott of South Africa due to apartheid that Paul Simon more or less ignored. The last two albums he released were major flops, and his marriage had recently unraveled. Needless to say, Paul Simon was going through a tough time and so was the world around him. Through Simon's disregard of U.N. policy, he was able to go to South Africa and record with a variety of talents such as Bakithi Kumalo, who's bass lines help create the rhythm and structure of the album; Joseph Tshabalala, who contributed to multiple songs; and guitarist Ray Phiri. He flew multiple artists from South Africa to the United States to record with him, and by virtue of the popularity of Graceland, allowed much of the world to hear sounds they were unfamiliar with at the time.
The album itself is personal and introspective, dealing largely with relationships. It mostly avoids the political issues of the era, and instead focuses its lyrical content on the relationship of hope and disappointment. Title track "Graceland" relays the journey of the narrator and his son to Memphis, Tennessee, the location of Graceland. Throughout the song he tells of his recent heart-wrenching divorce, his feeling of loss, and his belief/hope that nonetheless "We all will be received in Graceland."
Watch "You Can Call Me Al" from Paul Simon:
A journey to the home of the king of rock 'n' roll is all too relevant. When Simon first decided to go to South Africa, it was because a cassette tape of South African music had fascinated him and reminded him of 1950s rhythm and blues. From there he became interested in mbaqanga, a style of street-pop native to Soweto, South Africa. The influence of this music can be heard throughout the album and it is partially responsible for the upbeat sound of Graceland overall.
"The Boy in the Bubble" sets the images of war and famine against the lyrics "These are the days of miracle and wonder", while "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" depicts the relationship of a rich girl and a "a poor boy/Empty as a pocket." The juxtaposition of shattering and sparkling snapshots of people as well as time give Graceland its unique up-and-down quality. Often searching for hope in the worst of places and during the hardest of times, the album is able to portray the complexities of growing older while still providing an upbeat physical nature through the album's instrumentation and melodies.
Over the course of a journey, we often find ourselves back where we began. In the case of Paul Simon, it's Graceland. Here, the home of rock 'n' roll has been revitalized through a journey to where many of the genre's roots come from. Through the tale, Paul Simon finds what he had lost, and he makes it through the darkest of times back to the top of popular music.
—The ARTISTdirect Staff
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