Still several weeks behind on the classic album front. But I wanted to leave this one until I cam back from my holiday in South Africa – it’s Paul Simon’s Graceland.
Some Historical Context
I’m not sure I can remember a time when I didn’t know this album. When it was released I was frequenting the kinds of pubs and wine bars where it was being played constantly, so it soon injected itself into my consciousness. This is very much the music that I listened to a lot at the end of the 80s. Not just this album but (as for many other people) this is the album that opened my ears to the possibilities of World Music. I have this album to thank for a lot of the music that I still listen to today.
I loved the album, but for some reason I didn’t buy it. Well, not until earlier this year when I wanted to listen to it again just before I went to see Paul Simon celebrating the album’s 25th anniversary with a gig in Hyde Park.
The rest of this post will be written as I listen to the album.
1. The Boy in the Bubble
There are so many strong songs on this album, but I think this is my favourite. I love the accordion on it. It’s just such a happy song that draws you into the album. The lyrics are infectious and positive too – “These are the days / Of miracles and wonders”. I can’t listen to this song without grinning.
Anther great song. It’s probably the song that sounds most like Paul Simon’s previous work, but it has that great pedal steel guitar on it. Fabulous lyrics too.
3. I Know What I Know
When I listened to this album last summer, it was probably the first time I had listened to it for about six or seven years. And I had completely forgotten about this song. Which is weird as I used to really love it. It’s a song that I used to play on the guitar. In some inexplicable way this seems to be a companion piece to Simon’s earlier “Late in the Evening”.
Every classic album must have a weakest track. And I think that this is Graceland’s. That’s not to say, at all, that it’s a weak track. It’s just that in amongst so many classics, this doesn’t quite cut it. On pretty much any other album, this would be a standout track. Never really understood that strange fade-out at the end though.
5. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
Is there any point in describing this? There can’t be anyone who doesn’t know exactly what this sounds like. And what a great song it is. Hearing it I always want to go out and buy Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s complete back catalogue.
6. You Can Call Me Al
This is the big hit single from the album. It must have been the lead single. Another one that everyone can sing along too. Do you remember Chevy Chase in the video?
7. Under African Skies
When I think of this album, this is the song that usually pops into my head first. I mentioned that I’ve recently been on holiday in South Africa. And this is the song that I found myself humming most often.
Another song that I absolutely love. The performance they did of this in Hyde Park last summer was just electrifying.
9. Crazy Love, Vol. II
This is another song that seems slightly ill at ease on this album. It’s a good song, but isn’t quite in the same league as most of the others.
10. That Was Your Mother
And this is another song that I had forgotten, but as soon as I heard it I remembered just how much I loved it.
11. All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints
Not the strongest track to end the album. I think that’s becoming quite a theme with these posts. Artists seem to push the better songs to the front of the album. I suppose that makes sense.
An absolutely astonishing album. And it still sounds as good as it did in 1986. They don’t get much better than this.