Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The #78 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--"Graceland" by Paul Simon

A historic album graces the Top 100 Albums next.

We're up to #78, and it is Graceland, the seventh studio album from the great Paul Simon. And it has a fascinating tale how it came about. Paul Simon was listening to a cassette tape of the Boyoyo Boys' instrumental "Gumboots". Simon became so interested that it gave him the idea of doing a collaboration with musicians from South Africa.  Over the course of several months, he would record songs, send a tape to South Africa, where musicians there would add their parts, and send it back.  The song turned out so well that it progressed into an album and Simon traveled to South Africa to record it.  It shows the adventurous nature of Simon; rather than play it safe the way many artists do, he dared to try something different.

Simon took some heat for breaking the cultural boycott against apartheid in South Africa. However, just to the contrary, those on the Anti-Apartheid Committee said that the album showcased the talents of the black musicians in South Africa without supporting the South African government at all. For anyone that knows Simon at all, they know that he would never do anything to support apartheid; it is completely against his nature. I completely agree that it was his way of showing support for blacks in the country, which it did--it gave tremendous exposure to the talent of the African musicians.

Three big hits ("You Can Call Me Al", Boy in the Bubble" and the title "Graceland") and a popular music video for "You Can Call Me Al" helped generate sales and airplay.  

Graceland reached #3 and spent 23 weeks inside the Top 10 and 97 on the chart.  It has sold 5 million copies in the United States and has a very good Track Rating* of 8.86.  

The album reached #1 in Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Switzerland and the U.K. It was decorated with Grammies for Album of the Year and Song of the Year (for "Graceland", the title track). Graceland helped Simon win Best International Solo Artist award at the Brit Awards in 1987.  Additionally, the album was added to the United States National Recording Registry in 2007.


(All songs written by Paul Simon, except where indicated.)
  1. "The Boy in the Bubble" (Forere Motloheloa/Paul Simon) - 3:59
  2. "Graceland" - 4:48
  3. "I Know What I Know" (General MD Shirinda/Simon) - 3:13
  4. "Gumboots" (Lulu Masilela/Jonhjon Mkhalali/Simon) - 2:44
  5. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" (Joseph Shabalala//Simon) - 5:45
  6. "You Can Call Me Al" - 4:39
  7. "Under African Skies" - 3:37
  8. "Homeless" (Shabalala/Simon) - 3:48
  9. "Crazy Love, Vol. II" - 4:18
  10. "That Was Your Mother" - 2:52
  11. "All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints" - 3:15

Simon played acoustic guitar, synclavier and six-string electric bass. Ray Phiri and Sherman Robertson contributed guitar, Adrian Belew played guitar and guitar synthesizer, Demola Adepoju contributed pedal steel guitar while Daniel Xilakazi played lead and rhythm guitar. Cesar Rosas played guitar and also sang backing vocals, David Hidalgo played guitar, accordion and sang backup, Barney Rachabane, Mike Makhalemele and Teaspoon Ndele played saxophone on "Gumboots", Rob Mounsey played synthesizer, and Forere Motloheloa and Jonhjon Mkhalali played the accordion.

Conrad Lozano, Alonzo Johnson and Lloyd Lelose played bass on the album. Lenny Pickett played tenor sax, Alex Foster played alto saxophone, Ronnie Cuber played both bass and baritone sax, Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Earl Gardne and Alan Rubinr played trumpet, and Dave Bargeron played trombone. Bakithi Kumalo played bass, Steve Gadd played drums, Ralph MacDonald, Youssou N'Dour, Babacar Faye and Assane Thiam played percussion, additional drummers from South Africa were Isaac Mtshali, Vusi Khumalo, Petrus Manile, Alton Rubin, Jr. and Louie Perez.

 David Rubin played the washboard, Lulu Masilela was on tambourine, Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff and Alan Rubin played trumpet, Dave Bargeron and Kim Allan Cissel played trombone, Johnny Hoyt and Steve Berlin played sax and Morris Goldberg played soprano sax and penny whistle. The Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, the Gaza Sisters, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Diane Garisto, Michelle Cobbs and Joseph Shabalala are credited with backing vocals on the album.

Most of the album was recorded in South Africa from October of 1985 to June of 1986. Graceland was released August 12, 1986 on Warner Brothers Records.

Paul Simon has the #78 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--Graceland.

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