Friday, September 20, 2013

Paul Simon - Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes

In 1986, Paul Simon's career was at an interesting juncture.  On the one hand, he was one of the foremost singer/songwriters of the 1970's, with three top 5 LPs (plus another three top 5 albums as half of Simon and Garfunkel).  Oh, and he had recorded 26 top 40 singles, too.

On the other hand, his 1983 album, Hearts and Bones had not broken the top 30, and a case could be made that his most interesting work (and biggest successes) were behind him.  Simon had other ideas, however, and recorded the unexpected and brilliant Graceland album.

Some readers may have a hard time appreciating just how out of left field this album was.  World music was in its infancy, and South African music was essentially unknown in the rest of the world.  In addition, music was very stratified in the 1980's.  The idea of combining western pop with mbaqanga and turning it into an album ... this was insanity.  And genius, as it turned out.  The resulting album was a masterpiece that managed to sound fresh and familiar at the same time.

The album rejuvenated Simon's career, and went 5x platinum in the U.S., where it peaked at #3.  It had similar success globally.  Graceland also appeared on seemingly every best of list -- Rolling Stone considers it the 5th best album of the 1980's.

For the blog, we went with "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes," our favorite cut from the LP.  The song features Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a black South African men's choral group singing the intro (in Zulu of course).

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