All-Time Albums: #89

Paul_Simon_Graceland

PAUL SIMON Graceland
(1986)

The Boy In The Bubble 3:59 (UK single, #26)
Graceland 4:48 (UK single)
I Know What I Know 3:13
Gumboots 2:42
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes 5:34 (UK single)
You Can Call Me Al 4:39 (UK single, #4)
Under African Skies 3:34 (UK single)
Homeless 3:45
Crazy Love, Vol. II 4:17
That Was Your Mother 2:51
All Around The World Or The Myth Of Fingerprints 3:15

 

The first album I ever bought on Compact Disc. Does that mean I will always have a slightly rose-tinted view of Graceland, even after all these years? Perhaps, but it’s equally true that time has been kind to this quirky, intelligent, sometimes verbose but strangely commercial record. It sold over 1.5 million copies in the UK, mostly between September 1986 and early 1988, but it continues to pop in and out of the charts whenever an anniversary comes along.

It’s a well-told story. ’60s singer-songwriter icon, one half of the biggest duo in recorded music history, gets his mojo back after years of slip-slidin’ away and two especially poor-selling LPs at the start of the ’80s. Graceland was born in the world of Apartheid, when “world music” was something obscure and right-on that a few hippies might traipse along to at WOMAD each summer (when they claim it brought World Music to the masses, perhaps they’d like to remember Joni Mitchell ten years earlier, and Peter Gabriel five years before).

Ultimately, it’s a joyous album full of engaging tunes, often with then-unusual arrangements and a playful sense of word association. Its major hit single, the song (and video) which effectively sold the project to the likes of Radio 1 and MTV – and thus by default – the general population), You Can Me Al had all these elements quite brilliantly woven into its 4 minutes. “Why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?” was just one of many strokes of lyrical genius.

You can be as clever as they come, but if the melodies aren’t there you are stuffed. Which is why the album became such a triumph, why everyone from middle-aged blokes to housewives and teenagers all fell for its charms.

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