Graceland

Paul Simon

Warner Brothers Records, 1986

http://www.paulsimon.com

REVIEW BY: Matthew Turk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/18/2004

As I sat down to write this review, I searched for the right way to express what I think of the album, and after much thought I believe I have found it.

This album is like a beautiful dream. The coherence in the lyrics is only there when you don't look for it (like a schooner in a Magic Eye painting); the beauty of the music, however, is constant. Paul Simon famously traveled to Africa to find inspiration (and some musical collaborators) for this album, and it is greater for this.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The stream of conscious "Boy In The Bubble" is good, but certainly not the pinnacle of the album. It's followed by an excellent, vivid portrayal of lost love -- the title track of the album is exquisite, with a soft rhythm that is nevertheless driving and intense. The lyrics, not entirely specific, are poignant and troubled, and exemplify the skill and mastery Simon has for his craft.

"Gumboots" is another standout track, almost comical in feel but lyrically somber, pleading with an off-screen love. This cinematic staging is characteristic of the album, and Simon plays it to great effect.

"Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes" features Simon backed up by Ladysmith Black Mambazo during an extended intro, but the rest is a slow, fluid song. "You Can Call Me Al" is probably the most famous song of the album, and for good reason -- it's effective and uplifting without being trite, despite the essential incoherence of the lyrics. The latter half of the album is just as strong, with "Under African Skies" hooking a guitar loop underneath gorgeous dueling vocals (courtesy of Linda Ronstadt) and "The Myth of Fingerprints" seeking an entire new mood for the album, with a faster pulse and harder music.

Graceland is an excellent album; if it suffers, it suffers from trying too hard -- the African influences at times feel a bit contrived, although in fairness that is rare. Some songs feel like they are seeking a point, but never quite crest above the surface of pleasant music into beautiful music. Overall, however, it is a satisfying listen that only improves with time.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A


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© 2004 Matthew Turk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.