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Graceland

Paul Simon

1986

Graceland
Album Summary

Graceland is the seventh solo studio album by the American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. It was produced by Simon, engineered by Roy Halee and released on August 25, 1986, by Warner Bros. Records. In the early 1980s, Simon's relationship with his former musical partner Art Garfunkel had deteriorated, his marriage to actress Carrie Fisher had collapsed, and his previous record, Hearts and Bones (1983), had been a commercial failure. In 1984, after a period of depression, Simon became fascinated by a bootleg cassette of mbaqanga, South African street music. He and Halee visited Johannesburg, where they spent two weeks recording with South African musicians. Further recordings were held in the United States, with guest musicians including Linda Ronstadt, the Everly Brothers, Louisiana band Good Rockin' Dopsie and the Twisters, and Mexican-American band Los Lobos. Graceland features an eclectic mixture of genres, including pop, rock, a cappella, zydeco, isicathamiya and mbaqanga. Simon wrote songs inspired by the recordings made in Johannesburg, collaborating with African and American artists. He received criticism for breaking the cultural boycott of South Africa because of its policy of apartheid. Following its completion, Simon toured alongside South African musicians, performing their music and songs from Graceland. Graceland became Simon's most successful studio album and his highest-charting album in over a decade; it is estimated to have sold more than 16 million copies worldwide. It was lauded by critics, won the 1987 Grammy for Album of the Year, and is frequently cited as one of the best albums of all time. In 2006, it was added to the United States' National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important".

Wikipedia

Rating

3.76

Votes

9614
Genres
Rock
Folk
Singer Songwriter
Pop

Reviews

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Sat Apr 03 2021
5

“Graceland” by Paul Simon (1986) Please listen. I became very familiar with this fine album when it first came out in 1986, and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. Very well recorded and produced, with sublime if quirky lyrics and ear-opening instrumentation, “Graceland” pioneered a refreshing development in popular folk/rock. The most striking aspect of the work as a whole is its ready deployment of African musicians, such as the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mombazo (led by Simon Shabalala), guitarist Ray Phiri, and superb fretless bass player Bakithi Kumalo. Listen to Kumalo’s run at 3:43 on “You Can Call Me Al”. Tell me if it’s like anything you’ve heard before. Indeed, listen to this entire song for the inimitable bass playing. Also, listen to the first 27 seconds of this album (Forere Motlohelo on accordion [!!], Vusi Kumahlo on drums, Bakithi Kumalo on bass). Loud. You’ll know you’re in for a treat. Highly referential lyrics—South Africa, 1970s & 80s, Apartheid—perfectly bound to the melodies and phrasing. As subtle as it needed to be. God, this good music. And screw the accusations of cultural appropriation. Those accusations are just another glaring instance of liberals unnecessarily and inconsequentially eating their own. The African National Congress can sit on it. (The only ‘appropriation’ I objected to was when the 2000 Al Gore for President campaign used “You Can Call Me Al” as a theme song. Simon no doubt approved, but hey . . . Spoiled the song for me.) Overall, great album. Wanna decrease racial tensions? Get together across the racial divides. Produce music together. Solve problems together. Make babies instead of killing them. Peace, dude. 5/5

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Wed Nov 11 2020
2

Ugh. Sanitised world music for middle class drones with no imagination and less soul. Horrible

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Mon Mar 27 2023
2

I’m not saying this record is a toothless snoozefest flirting with cultural appropriation…but I’m also not not saying that.

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Wed Mar 10 2021
1

This is almost aggressively bad. I can't stand either Simon's twee songwriting nor his powder-puff non-event of a voice. But the biggest crime is just how absolutely terrible this sounds, production wise. Crappy synth sounds clash with noise-gated drums and that weird farty bass sound that plagued the era. I can't believe this plastic, milquetoast grab bag of cheap pop and world music borrowings is considered a classic. Dogshit.

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Thu Jan 14 2021
4

Great album, I loved that they used Ladysmith Black Mambazo in a lot of the songs. Had some very powerful subjects like moving forward after divorce, and the pain of losing everything in "Homeless". Also, cant ignore "You Can Call Me Al", great album, 8/10.

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Fri Mar 12 2021
5

One of my all time favourite albums and I’m struggling to pick any faults with it. There’s something about the African Choral sound that instantly gives me those euphoric goosebumps. This is also my mum’s favourite album of all time so I spent most of my childhood bopping along to the Graceland cassette tape. You Can Call Me Al has a big claim to be high on the list of greatest songs of all time but there’s some hidden gems in here too such as Under African Skies, Crazy Love II & Homeless (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo who are also absolute legends). The naughty little saxophone hook in Gumboots is absolutely stonkin’. Had the biggest grin on my face all day listening to this back.

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Sun Feb 07 2021
5

This was a favorite when I was growing up and is a family favorite now. It's great on road trips, especially with children. Has a positively enchanting atmosphere that is so beautifully pristine and rich. Love everything about this album. From the wonderful guitar, bass, percussion, and vocal work, to the superb production with just the right mix of reverb and delay in all the right places. But what I think is the album's most outstanding feature is probably the lyrics. Absolute poetry with just the right amount of idiosyncratic conversational flashes to keep it down to earth. Not to mention perhaps the most culturally significant aspect of the album in the incorporation of the African musicians and blending of styles that was absolutely revolutionary at the time. Only David Byrne/Talking Heads and maybe Peter Gabriel had really ventured into that type of fusion on the US pop charts at that point.

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Tue May 04 2021
5

I don't have to listen to this masterpiece to know its a 5 out of 5 for me, but I will! The 25th anniversary edition as well, what a treat! It is a glorious example of two different genres coming together and creating something even better. Paul Simon's lyrics and soothing melodies are gorgeously complimented by the Soweto choir. African and western instruments combine wonderfully. Every contribution is perfect. I love the bass lines. Every track is different and danceable, singable and just fantastic. Every time I listen, I hear even more wonderful musicianship. I can't see how anyone could listen to this and not feel elevated. Anyway, I would happily play just this album for the rest of time.

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Tue Feb 02 2021
3

Clearly the more talented of the duo, Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, is an album where I can understand why his solo career was so successful. Albeit, this album isn’t my favorite musically, it’s evident that Paul Simon’s talent was on full display here. Bands like Vampire Weekend clearly draw influence from this album, however stylistically just not my thing. Drawing influence from an African style, Louisiana jazz and all the accordion you can handle, this album makes its mark as one of Simon’s better solo offerings.

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Wed Mar 31 2021
3

liked it. good background music

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Fri Sep 10 2021
5

One of my favourite albums of all time. Of course, it is impossible to extricate Graceland from the political environment from which it was born, and the folks who would tell you otherwise are ignoring a significant and real part of its history. The album is a beautiful mixture of American pop, rock and jazz, and traditional black South African music. However, it would be remiss of me to not draw a connection through Graceland to Elvis Presley, a white man who popularized black music among white audiences. I don't believe his intention was ever to take credit wholesale for the sounds of Graceland, but it's not an unfair comparison, and one worth considering as you listen. Still, Simon's goal was to create new musical expression free of political boundaries (such as the ongoing Apartheid) and at this, I think he succeeds, creating one of the most vibrant and diverse feeling albums I've ever heard. Exceptional.

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Thu Jan 14 2021
3

I would listen to this while driving through rolling mountainous rural areas or while baking banana bread in a sunny kitchen with my grandma. Might also be good for dancing to in a low lit living room after drinking white wine. Overall, fosters a happy ambiance with memorable melodies and an artisan-craftsman-house vibe.

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Fri Sep 24 2021
3

My dad was big Simon and Garfunkel fan but somehow Graceland never came on his radar. I always wondered what my life would have been like if the sounds of this album had been played around the house in the mid 80s. (I probably would have hated it.) This album absolutely feels like the creative work of a middle-aged man who has hit a creative rut and has taken inspiration from other cultures in other to get his groove back. There are some good tunes but ultimately it feels a little overwrought.

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Mon Feb 21 2022
3

i am rather conflicted on how to approach my rating and review. i read deeply into the polarizing controversy with this album; it’s fascinating that this album is so deeply beloved when so much contention surrounds it. while the african music is gorgeous, it is not the place of a white westerner to steal and profit from it, let alone during apartheid. that being said, i cannot deny how amazing some tracks are—diamonds, al, graceland. those songs alone can explain why this album is so memorable, more than 35 years later.

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Fri Mar 31 2023
2

My opinion of this album MAY have been swayed by the fact that my subway was delayed for 25 minutes while I listened to it, but I found it to be incredibly grating. The production and sounded dated, the African-inspired instrumentation was cheesy at best and culturally appropriative at worst, and I found myself just generally annoyed while listening to this album.

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Mon May 15 2023
2

ah, when cultural appropriation was seen as cool and helpful. never liked it

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Fri Mar 12 2021
5

You know what Paul, you can call me al

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Tue Mar 16 2021
5

Cultural appropriation aside, this album is a tremendous feat in bringing together different influences - notably, African - to create a completely singular sound. Consummate production, especially in the bass and rhythm tracks.

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Tue Oct 05 2021
5

Probably my favorite album of all time. When I first heard it in 2012, this record changed how i listened to and thought about music. There are so many songwriting and production decisions here that just totally floored me, from the combination of the upbeat accordian grooves with totally programmed drums to the super melodic bass lines. What really made me become obssessed with this album, though, is how conversational and impromptu his vocal delivery is. There are sooo many lyrics on this album, and his phrasing throughout is very cluttered and erratic. It risks sounding clunky and awkward, but instead it makes this whole record feel unpredictable and lively. One of the few albums i wish i could hear again for the first time

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Mon Aug 14 2023
5

I bought this album several years ago, when I first heard about the 1001 albums list. I'd heard "You Can Call Me Al" quite a bit when I was a kid, but I'd had no idea how great Graceland was supposed to be. I remember immediately falling in love with this album from the first moment that I listened to it. I've loved eighties pop music for all of my life, but Graceland is an incredibly unique addition to eighties pop, but still manages to contain the types of sounds that I love. Graceland is one of those rare albums that I can listen to without wanting to skip a single song. Even though I love the whole album, my favorite tracks are the ones that have more of a zydeco influence, with "The Boy In the Bubble" and "All Around the World" being my favorite tracks aside from "You Can Call Me Al." Overall, this is an outstanding album, and one of my favorites of all time. Personally, I think a lot of the scrutiny surrounding this album is unwarranted. While the criticisms of violating the apartheid boycott seem to have faded somewhat, the accusations of cultural appropriation seem to have grown over the years. Personally, I think that Paul Simon had the best intentions when he recorded this album. Yes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but this isn't Ryan Adams or Phil Spector that we're talking about here. It's impossible to say whether this album was a net negative or positive for apartheid, but it is possible to appreciate this album for being an incredibly beautiful piece of music that gave a lot of people the opportunity to be exposed to African-influenced music and African musicians, and I think that's a universal net positive.

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Wed Nov 08 2023
5

My favorite album when I was 12, even got to see the tour at the Royal Albert Hall, anti-apartheid protesters and all! Still love it to death

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Tue May 18 2021
4

Clearly a great musician and an interesting pop sound. Really catchy songs. Not all of it is my vibe, but I can respect it. On one hand I think it's rad how Simon brought sounds of African musicians into his music and featured them in front of a wider audience, but at the same time, seeing him use their sound while recording in South Africa during aparthied and just throw his hands up and say effectively 'uhhh i don't know how to write protest songs' and making note of how black musicians would get anxious in late night recording sessions, and not doing much is dissappointing, especially given that he knew enough to try to hide his recording in south africa due to other cultural boycotts...

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Wed Nov 08 2023
4

Along with Brothers In Arms, Roger The Engineer, and some unknown 10cc compilation, Graceland was stamped deep through my ears into my young brain, likely mostly on the roads between Carshalton and Great Baddow on visits to my dad's parents, and I return to this with a mix of nostalgia and suspicion. I remember the video with Paul Simon and Chevy Chase in white yuppy suits. I've noted before that Paul Simon is a prat, and I wish I had a picture of Steven Van Zandt's face when Simon asked him, hey, isn't Nelson Mandela a communist, that's what Kissinger told me, but this record is so special that no amount of apartheid-swerving or shady plagiarism muttering can spoil it, or prevent a grudging acknowledgment that Simon has an incredible ear, and was able to make a strong suite of pop songs from elements that hadn't been combined before. Post-Carshalton, there was one other time this album played a part in my life: leaving Memphis on a road trip, looking forward to joining my partner on this odyssey a couple of days later, my friend Howard asked me to confirm we were on Elvis Presley Boulevard, which I did, and he told me to put on his mix CD, "Track 3, now!" and Graceland came on, which was where we were going next: a euphoric moment. Good going, plonkerman! Can you try to do this with Japanese noise rock next? Thx!

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Sat Oct 28 2023
3

paul got that jungle fever before it was cool. this album gave me an overwhelming desire to purchase some Heinz baked beans.

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Mon Jan 31 2022
2

A blend of dated 80s sounds and casual cultural appropriation. Sounds like a Sting record.

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Sat Aug 19 2023
2

this is an album i have never been able to really get into. i don't think it's awful but for some reason it has never clicked for me. i am a pretty big simon and garfunkel enjoyer and i really like paul simon's early solo output but i have never really gotten this one. the songs, to me, are not as good as on some of his other records and i really cannot get past the production and the, quite frankly, really corny world music schtick he employs on this one. i don't know who is going to paul simon as a source of world music. maybe it's peoples' gateway to it but to me it just comes off as pompous.

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Fri Oct 02 2020
1

Ugh, more overrated music by a guy who appropriates African music to benefit himself. The music sucked, too

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Fri Jan 15 2021
1

I really, really didn't like this.

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Fri Jun 25 2021
1

Absolutely not. Paul Simon has nothing to say for an hour. There is absolutely nothing interesting or noteworthy about this album. Skip it. Listening to the rest of the album has ruined "You Can Call Me Al." Absolute garbage.

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Mon Jun 28 2021
1

Weirdly country-ish and totally rubbish. Don't like his voice, the music is both nuts and terrible. No idea what's going on.

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Fri Jul 30 2021
1

for all the things from the 80s that people make fun of, it's wild to me that "aging rock/folk dudes find relevance by appropriating African music" isn't higher on the list. and people STILL hold this trend in high regard. Simon's voice, not really evolving past his folk days, sounds confused, sing-speaking over a semi-eclectic group of songs, ensuring he can ruin as many genres as efficiently as possible. were people clamoring for white guy beat poetry over zydeco music in the 80s? also holy shit the tone on that fretless bass is the absolute worst, it's almost impressive how they zeroed in on the single most nasal, farty midrange frequency and pushed that ALL the way up. I hate almost everything about this and that's not even including the nagging gross feelings about Simon heading to apartheid-era South Africa to plunder black music. Even with You Can Call Me Al being catchy, this album's lucky that I can't rate lower than 1 star.

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Fri Jul 30 2021
1

Absolutely nothing stuck with me. It was like I forgot I listened to it right after I listened to it. But remembered enough to know I didn’t want to hear it again.

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Fri Jul 30 2021
1

This album sucks. Paul Simon sucks.

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Sat Mar 26 2022
1

Not my cup of tea, didn't finish it.

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Sat Jul 03 2021
5

One of the best albums ever. Every song is a jam. Already listened to this album 100 times, but it’s still so good.

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Wed Oct 07 2020
5

Amazing album. One of my favourites.

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Tue May 25 2021
5

Groovy, eclectic, and rich. Not much else I could wish for here.

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Fri Oct 23 2020
5

Paul Simon literally one of the GOATs

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Tue Feb 23 2021
5

Great album, holds up so well.

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Thu Mar 11 2021
5

jag tyckte detta var klockrent. kulturell appropriering eller ej.

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Sun Jan 17 2021
5

One of my all time favourite albums, every song is really good at a minimum and some are amazing!!

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Tue Feb 02 2021
5

Fantastic message. great vibes. some tribal energy here. Loved it

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Wed May 26 2021
5

Likely one of the best albums of all-time. Such a showcase of talent.

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Tue Apr 27 2021
5

Reading about the album, apparently he heard a bootleg cassette of South African street music and got on a flight out there to record new sounds. What a extraordinary final product

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Tue Apr 27 2021
5

A wonderful album. This is such a sound.

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Thu Feb 18 2021
5

I love Simon & Garfunkel, and I love Simon. Funky, fun, and interesting sound.

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Thu Jan 14 2021
5

With the exception of "crazy love", this is a pretty perfect, timeless album to me. It's the kind of album that you can put on when you're on a long road trip.

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Sat Feb 27 2021
5

My favorite Paul Simon album ever

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Mon Mar 01 2021
5

I will always enjoy listening to this record.

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Sat Jan 23 2021
5

Excellent release that has been the reference point for several acts to come afterwards, such as Vampire Weekend. As we've moved further from the original release, some more unsavory aspects of the album have come to light, but overall has a very important place in widening the general populaces musical knowledge. Plus, You Can Call Me Al is a bop.

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Fri Jun 18 2021
5

hard to be objective about this one, since i've always loved it. i loved his up-yours by working with a black group from south africa during apartheit; i loved the music in general, and i honestly loved the swahili in particular. i spent the better part of a week reading along with the lyrics until i knew the intro Diamonds by heart.

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Tue Jan 26 2021
5

Grácil, exuberante y positivo. Creo que es de esos discos (y artista) que en nuestro círculo jamás se menciona y es una obra maestra que todos deberían conocer. Con 30 años de carrera se da el lujo de sacar su mejor disco. Lleno de mezclas inesperadas y sonidos que en su momento eran tan nuevos que crearon toda una sección en la tienda de discos con la cantidad de imitación que inspiró. Ritmos africanos, latinos, callejeros mezclados a la perfección con pop que no se siente vacío y, lo que a mí me impresiona más, echando la guitarra al fondo y dejando TODO el disco para que sea el bajo el líder musical. Una maravilla de los 80s.

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Tue Apr 27 2021
5

Might have to be a full marker for this one! Absolutely brilliant and rightly universally considered one of the best albums of all time. Bravo. So joyful - great for the beginning of the working week

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Fri Mar 12 2021
5

Wow, where has this album been my whole life? Very fun and engaging with top tier musicianship. I think it has the potential to be in my top 10 albums, but I'll have to give it a few more listens. Definitely a major influence for Vampire Weekend.

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Tue Mar 02 2021
5

Fighting it out for my personal top 10. We listened to this on family trips in the car. Still puts me in a great mood.

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Sat Jan 16 2021
5

Albüm başlangıcından sonuna kadar çok iyiydi amk. Özellikle giriş şarkısında good vibes vermeye başladı. Diamonds on the soles of her shoes deki bassline iç kıpratıyor. You can call me al daki synth hemen adamı zıplatıyor

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Tue Apr 27 2021
5

Song tracks on this album reminds me of west African music like what was playing when I was in Burkina Faso. I had a nice walk around sunny kenilworth listening to P.Simon

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Fri Feb 05 2021
5

Great album, already knew it

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Tue Feb 16 2021
5

One of the greatest albums of all time.

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Fri Mar 12 2021
5

What a journey ! A nailed on 5*.

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Tue May 18 2021
5

Controversial for valid reasons, yes. But this album is solid and remains uniquely wonderful.

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Tue May 04 2021
5

A masterpiece from a proper musical genius.

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Sun May 16 2021
5

There are a few albums that you can play and listen all the way through, without feeling like skipping any tracks. This is one of those albums. I love this album. The music is great, and the lyrics are clever and often playful. I love the contributions from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who help create some of my favorite tracks on this album ("Homeless", "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"). I also love the great hamonies from Linda Ronstadt on "Under African Skies". I've heard "You Can Call Me Al" so many times, and I'm not tired of it yet. This is an album that I recommend and share.

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Sun May 16 2021
5

One of my all time favourites.

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Fri Jul 16 2021
5

Great album. Nice chill, feel-good 80s pop that is genuinely interesting to listen to with Paul Simon's unique style with some popular bangers in the mix. You Can Call Me Al is, of course, a great track. Got it on vinyl - wouldn't have it if it wasn't very decent. 4.5 from me

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Thu Jul 29 2021
5

allround great album with a unique sounds and well written songs not much else to say here

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Mon Aug 02 2021
5

Call Me Al has been one of my favorite jams and most favorite music videos for years now. This album would get 4 stars just for that. The other songs are new to me, but are all infectiously good. Glad Paul went to Africa.

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Mon Aug 09 2021
5

Mon préféré de Paul Simon. Tellement bon 5/5

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Sat Aug 14 2021
5

5/5 Well produced and nice sounds

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Fri Sep 24 2021
5

A classic album, with truly memorable melodies and lyrics.

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