Friday, 23 December 2011
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes: Graceland - Paul Simon (1986)
Every now and then you get a concept album on which everything pulls together and creates a magical musical experience. I was a bit reluctant to cover what many regard to be Paul Simon's opus but I was cajoled into giving it an in depth listen by one of my friends. From the accordion which opens the album, the tribal drums, chanting backing vocals and fretless bass, this album is steeped in traditional African music fused together with Simon's insistent voice and folk sensibilities. Expansive would be a good word for describing this album as each track seems to be built on a far grander and wide scale than a large number of more introspective albums from the singer/songwriter genre. It has something reminiscent of Pat Metheny's music (especially 'New Chataqua' and 'American Garage').
Quite rightly, it is consistently touted as one of the greatest albums of the 1980s and with very good reason. The marriage of different musical genres id one made in heaven, with stand out tracks like the mega-hit 'Call me Al', the catchy 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes' and the mystical 'Graceland', this is an indispensable album for the collection. Like most of Simon's records there are whole host of accomplished and outstanding session musicians including the prolific Brecker Brothers, Adrian Belew, Steve Gadd, The Everly Brothers and even a guest vocal from Linda Ronstadt. The famed writing talents of Paul Simon and crispness of the production on this album on adds to the other fantastic parts on this album. This album must have been a huge gamble for Paul Simon despite the growing interest in traditional African and Creole music (The Zydeco, whilst an interesting instrument was not something often heard on pop records) and on this occasion its paid of for the artist.