Graceland

So I think I mentioned in the Bridge Over Troubled Water post that mi madre was a big Simon and Garfunkel fan, and growing up there were always S&G albums around the house.  Well, when I look back, maybe it would be better to say that she was a big Paul Simon fan, because she also had a bunch of his solo records.  And she always liked to quote the song “Still Crazy After All These Years”…well, actually, she still quotes it from time to time.  So when this album came out, she didn’t hesitate to pick it up.  It was the 80s and she had it on cassette (I’m guessing it was probably a delivery from Columbia House), and we had a small cassette stereo in the living room that she would play this on.  At the time, the “You Can Call Me Al” video was out with Chevy Chase (who was probably at the height of his career) lip-syncing Paul Simon’s part, chair dancing, and playing trumpet (it is a funny video).  Years later, we even played “You Can Call Me Al” in marching band, and we even had horn motions modeled after that Chevy Chase dance.

So yeah, all of this was probably my first exposure to “world music”.  Due to the success of this album, Paul Simon seemed to be all over the place on T.V. performing with African choirs and such in the background.  And I put “world music” in quotation marks because it really is world music lite.  I don’t mean any disrespect to Paul Simon or any of the performers on the record (it really is a great record), and there certainly are African rhythms and vocal parts and stuff, but its all filtered through a very western lens of electric bass, guitar, and drum set.  Hell, even some of the African choir parts on “Homeless” have some distinctly western harmonies (no doubt due to the plethora of Christian missionaries that flooded Africa trying to bring religion to the masses).  Really, the only distinctly African part on the album to my ear are the Gaza Sisters’ background vocals on “I Know What I Know”.  But as I listen now to this CD copy of the album that I bought for $3 at Used Kids Records (actually it’s an enhanced CD, but I need to find a computer that’s still running Windows 95 to see what’s on it!), I realize how ground breaking this album was back in 1986 when it was released.  And kudos to Paul Simon for braving the political ramifications of going to South Africa and doing something that actually helped to bring about the end of apartheid.

Other lists: Paul Simon doesn’t seem to get as much acclaim for his solo work as he does for the stuff he did with Art Garfunkel, but this album does rank at #5 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Albums of the Eighties.

Ch-ch-changes: This album jumped up 10 spots from its original position of #81 on the 2003 list.  I don’t know why.

My favorite track: “You Can Call Me Al”

Honorable mention: “The Boy in the Bubble”

Quote: “A man walks down the street, he says ‘Why am I soft in the middle now? Why am I soft in the middle? The rest of my life is so hard! I need a photo-opportunity!  I want a shot at redemption! Don’t want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard!'”

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