Paul Simon has had an amazing career with Simon & Garfunckel and as a solo artist. One would think his collaboration with Art Garfunckel would stand as his most prolific achievement however it has been as a solo artist where Simon has really made his mark and particularly with the groundbreaking album Graceland. This 25th Anniversary box set is part of Simon’s complete catalog being repackaged and reissued.
It has been 25 years since that landmark release came out and Simon made his trek to South Africa where he met the now famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo. And most certainly that wonderful acapella group of gents would not have been recognized as international stars without the opportunity to work with Simon on Graceland.
The celebration of the recording reminds us that he created an entirely new genre and opened the door for countless artists to have new opportunities. This deluxe box set is an appropriate crowning achievement with bonus tracks, concert footage and video clips, the documentary film Under African Skies, a deluxe book featuring unreleased photos, new liner notes, a replica of Paul Simon's handwritten lyrics pad, and a poster of the album cover. The replica of the handwritten lyrics is perhaps one of the most unique items I have had the pleasure to hold in my hand from such an expansive box set. Additionally the Exclusive disc contains 5 previously unreleased live tracks recorded in San Sebastian, Spain from the Graceland/Rhythm of the Saints Tour of 1989 and the Bonus CD is an interesting look at some of the alternative tracks and some in their formative stage.
There is lot to take in with this set. To hear all of this wonderful music again is a complete joy. As it was said several times in different instances during the Under African Skies (Documentary), music is like praying, a spiritual or religious experience. And honestly that is the way I have always felt about music and even more so with music like you hear on legendary and unique recordings like Graceland. Another interesting part of the DVD is Simon’s visit to South Africa last year to reunite with the original band members and the up close interview with him reflecting on how the recording transpired and the stir it caused in South Africa. What I gleaned from the documentary DVD was an incredible amount of information that I was unaware of. Simon took a lot of heat from folks in the South Africa as they believed he was breaking the embargo in place protesting Apartheid (racial segregation). He was not of course as they did come to realize and he in fact was on the ANC side and brought much more attention to the situation there that gave leverage to resolving the issues. This along with making world music mainstream was a monumental change that Simon helped to put in motion.
The second DVD in the set is a concert in South Africa from 1987. It is really an experience watching Simon perform with all that talent that was part of the Graceland recording. The replication of the studio recording is spot on and everyone on the stage is exuding a confidence and joy that is truly genuine.
Anyone that has enjoyed the album Graceland will really appreciate this beautiful box set. There has been some phenomenal packages released since last year and this is one of the very best. I would not be surprised to see it win some awards the next time the Grammy’s come around.
Key Tracks: Graceland, Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, Homeless
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Founder MuzikReviews.com
June 17, 2012