(Record Review)"Simon's Graceland: A Masterful Musical Meld
by Paul Christley Tumey
First Published: Capital City Magazine #24 (Nov, 1986)
Where were you when you first heard Paul Simon's Graceland?
It's one of those events where things are different ever after... especially if you were listening in the fall of 1986, when the record first entered the world. It was like nothing else we'd heard.
I was 24 and living with a 44-year old lovely lady. She procured a copy on a cassette tape and lent me her Walkman (remember those?). The music heralded both a new optimism and realism in my life as I matured into a freshly minted adult American.
(Click on the image at left to enlarge and read. )
It's my belief we become different people when we listen to some songs. Graceland's new sounds subtly made me into someone new. Part of that newness for me was becoming a published writer.
This article was one of my first published articles. My buddy Frank Young was the editor of a remarkable weekly magazine, Capitol City (Tallahassee if the capitol of Florida) and he bought some articles from me. I will always be grateful to Frank for making me a professional writer.
Although I've published a lot of record reviews since then, this is one of my favorites. For all the clumsy slightly overblown writing, I managed to get close, I think, to what listening to the music felt like. I was heavily inspired by what Greil Marcus had done with his landmark book on American music, Mystery Train. I think I at least conveyed the new experience the music held for the listener. The publisher invited me to a staff meeting one day and played a message on the office answering machine. It went something like this:
"I just read Paul Tumey's review of Graceland. I just want to say how great it is that you can get such quality writing in a free local magazine. I'm going to go out right now (voice cracking) and buy the record!"
The record was only weeks old when this review was published, I was gratified to see it win a bunch of awards and become a critical and popular favorite. I guess today you could say it's a classic, a landmark record.
So much has changed since 1986... .and so much is the same. Personal computers, email, the Web, Obama... surely these are days of miracle and wonder. Politically, things in Africa shifted... but overall, the world feels much the same to me as it did back in 1986. Simon's compassion echoes to the recent earthquake in Haiti: "Somebody sing, somebody cry why, why, why?"
As for musical influences, just listen to The Givers, a youthful amazing new group that owe a lot to Graceland. Go here and listen to their amazing 5-song EP and you may feel a trace of that initial excitement Graceland caused when it was it new. Sublime sounds that make you feel good and expansive.
From one Paul to another: Thanks, man.