Co-Organizer for Can Jam '09
Member of the Trade: Paradox
- Dec 6, 2004
[size=large]***DOUBLE WHAMMY WEEK***[/size]
Paul Simon – Graceland
For the older folks here it is hard to imagine anyone who is 30 years and older who hasn’t heard at least one track from this album. However, the reason I picked this particular album this week is because I was startled to find out that one my brothers friends (who is 19 years old) doesn’t know who Paul Simon is. Moreover, he had NEVER heard of Graceland. So for those who don’t know or haven’t heard of this album, here is why you should own it:
Paul Simon started out with Art Garfunkel. I am sure you have heard of Simon & Garfunkel – he was the Simon.
This in turn brings me to the current album – Graceland. Released in 1986, Graceland was one of the best releases of the 1980’s and won a well deserved Grammy for best release of 1986. Graceland contains a South African influenced sound which was and still is quite unique. Moreover, the sound varied from track one until track eleven, experimenting with both mbaqanga and zydeco fusion and including musical styles from Malawi, Zibabwe, rhythms of Soweto and some songs sung in Zulu..
Graceland goes beyond the distinction of just being a good album – it is a cultural milestone and accomplishment. From what I heard, Paul Simon composed it after taking a trip to Africa and insisted on allowing Africans to take part in the production of the album. The result were various African arrangers helping out with the words and music (including Chikapa Phiri and Joseph Shabalala from Ladysmith Black Mambazo).
There is also a special appearance by Linda Rondstandt. Rondstandt lends her gorgeous alto to enhance “Under African Skies.” The artists which accompany Paul Simon are wonderful (accomplished players such as Baghiti Khumalo (bass) and Ckikapa “Ray” Phiri (guitar)). However, it is Simon’s voice and accomplished lyrics which carefully mesh with the mellow African grooves which stand out in this album. The ingenious use of percussion, accordion, horns, and backing vocals throughout the album and the many disparate musical elements blend into a seamless simple sound that can only be called a huge accomplishment. The album may be old but the music still remains as fresh, lively and fun as the first time I heard it at the age of 9.
I definitely consider this album to be a cohesive piece. Each track seems to flow naturally from the previous track. The recent re-release, which I linked above, includes extra bonus tracks, which I feel are a cool addition but hinder the original flow of the album - nothing that can't be fixed by ripping to lossless. The best thing about this re-release is the remastering. The sound is fantastic and is leaps and bounds beyond the first CD release. I know because my father owns the first release. The sound is crisper, clearer and the bass and guitar comes through much better.
HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Seu Jorge – The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions
This is for those of you who saw the above pick and said “WOW - Big deal – good job LFF, pick an album whom everyone knows about.” – I know there are some of you who said this. So here is one for you:
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was a movies which I was forced to see due to my brother’s ever growing fascination with movies - not to mention he worships any movie released by Wes Anderson. I don’t really get the movies but I do enjoy the soundtracks.
This soundtrack really stood out from the rest of Anderson’s soundtracks because of his inclusion of Seu Jorge singing covers of David Bowie songs in Portuguese played on acoustic guitar with only Seu Jorge singing them. When I heard him in the movie I thought “Gee, that song sounds very familiar – of course – it’s Rebel Rebel!!”. It immediately caught my ear. Needless to say I was soon in my local music store looking for the soundtrack. To my despair, the original soundtrack only included a few of the songs. I passed mostly because Anderson’s soundtracks are badly remastered and because a few of the songs I wanted were present on the soundtrack.
Enter this album. It seems that public demand was quite high and thus Anderson decided to get together with Randall Poster and release a Seu Jorge only album. Thank goodness. Moreover, the remastering is fantastic. It is definitely a great listen on Grado’s and UE-10’s. The songs are all written by David Bowie and are all performed acoustically by Sue Jorge in Portuguese. The singing is not the best, but the songs reach a whole new level of beauty through the acoustic guitar and Seu Jorge’s beautifully textured voice. Jorge’s warm and loose guitar playing matches his timbre, resulting in a batch of covers that retain the original framing of the Bowie classics while reminding the listener of singers like Caetano Veloso.
It definitely makes for an interesting listen for audiophiles, lovers of Brazilian music, lovers of World music and lovers of David Bowie’s music. Recommended!