Classic Albums: Paul Simon—Graceland

Classic Albums: Paul Simon—Graceland

Based on these two releases, serious music fans should love the new Classic Albums documentary series, which chronicles the making of various landmark records while foregoing the fluff you might expect. Paul Simon—Graceland and Stevie Wonder—Songs In The Key Of Life both dig deeper than most projects assembled from archival footage, and each comes with new interviews with both the artists and their collaborators. Though it does gloss over the controversy surrounding Simon's hiring of South African musicians, the Graceland documentary provides an interesting look at the classic 1986 album. While Graceland's critics have accused Simon of simply grafting his own material on top of others' music, the film subtly makes clear the degree to which the album was a collaborative process. That it emerged at possibly the lowest point in Simon's career (with the possible exception of right now) only adds to the drama. Though covering an arguably better album, the Songs In The Key Of Life documentary has less instant appeal to people who aren't already fans, simply because the background story is less compelling. Wonder was at the height of his career when he began the two-and-a-half-year process that led to the classic 1976 double-album. In place of human drama, however, is a reunion of the album's musicians and a good deal of information about the recording. You probably didn't know that "Pastime Paradise" features a gospel choir, a group of Hare Krishnas, and the sound of a gong recorded both forward and backward; and if finding out such facts doesn't interest you, you're probably better off listening to the album than watching this video. For hardcore fans, however, this is great stuff.

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