Paul Simon has been at the forefront of music, for as long as most of us can remember. with a career dating back as far as the 1950's, and having already established himself with the seminal work, as the 'Simon & Garfunkel' duo. It wouldn't have been unreasonable to think that his solo work, would have paled in comparsion. Yet after a steady stream of steadily more accomplished solo albums, it wasn't until this his 9th studio album (Released in 1986), that he hit his creative peak, with his "Graceland" album. An album that so beautifully (and some would argue 'Seamless'), fuses: Singer/Songwriter, Worldbeat, Contemporary Pop/Rock, African hymnal songs, and presented in such a largely accessible way, that it became one of the first 'World' music (or certainly 'World influenced albums), that was a huge hit in the west.
It's not hard to see why this album was so easily accepted by the western music buying public. With an elite cast of musicians that would eclipse most festivals, these were either musicians that were already huge on the musical circuit, or due to become big after having a hand in this recording...so people such as: Linda Ronstadt (Vocals), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Vocals), Youssou N'Dour (Percussion), Los Lobos' - Cesar Rosas (Vocals, Guitar), all contributed to the construction of this album, and their performances are beautifully captured (especially Ladysmith Black Mambazo, backing vocals, on some tracks) and remains a remarkably powerful album. Possibly because the album covers so many bases. (Possibly in an effort to appeal to as wide an audience as possible). And so it proved to be as eclectic a record as Paul Simon ever recorded. So you have the sublime Adult-orientated rock ("The Boy in the Bubble"), Poetic, articulate singer/songwriter tracks, for those seeking something a little more substantial ("Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"). The glorious and irresistible catchy pop, of the hit single ("You Can Call Me Al"), torch-bearing hymnal African harmonies, ushering in broadly accessible world music ("Homeless").
What is hugely impressive here, is the fact that each track is truly deserving of inclusion on this marvellous release, nothing on this album feels like it was included to fill out the album, and it's shift through various moods of being Exuberant, Poignant, Reflective, organic, and spiritual & Consistent remain unquestionably impressive. In fact it was such a perfectly realised album, that when taken as an album whole, it all comes together to combine into making this one of the greatest albums released in the 80's. For those that aren't huge fans of Paul Simon, but do appreciate his work, I (very) strongly urge you to pick this album up even if you only have a passing interest in his music. This album not only helped open up the floodgates to Western ears appreciating (accepting??) World Music, but also remains his creative high point (both musically & Artistically)....you'll be surprised at just how well this album, has stood the test of time, with it still sounding as vital as it did back then (obviously, not as political important, as this was released around the Apartheid days), but few could argue it's cross cultural musical experiments, and become the album for which other culturally fused music was judged against.