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Monday, June 25, 2012

Paul Simon

Graceland: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Legacy)

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Despite the misnomer—2012 is actually the 26th anniversary of Graceland—this two-CD/two-DVD set places Paul Simon's seventh and finest album in greater context. Inspired by a cassette tape the singer-songwriter received featuring the street music of Soweto, South Africa, Graceland was partially recorded in Johannesburg with native musicians. It succeeded artistically and commercially (eventually selling 14 million copies). But it also drew the ire of anti-apartheid activists who claimed Simon broke the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against South Africa's regime of racial segregation.

The making of the album and the ensuing controversy is explored in Under African Skies, a detailed 100-minute documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger, who followed Simon on his 2011 visit to South Africa to reunite with many of the musicians who played on the record. A second DVD features The African Concert, the original 1987 film recorded at Rufaro Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe, that combined Graceland songs with traditional South African music. A second CD complements the original remastered album with demos and early versions of key tracks.

Graceland
arguably introduced world music (not to mention South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo) to the masses while re-energizing Simon's career. But the album didn't seem foreign, thanks to perky arrangements, jaunty melodies and that video for “You Can Call Me Al” starring Chevy Chase (included on one of the DVDs). As Peter Gabriel, no stranger to world music, states in Under African Skies: “Graceland helped people around the world think there was a lot more to South Africa than suffering.”