In many ways we are living in the era of the box set. Originally an artist would issue a box set of material as a career spanning release that might contain a number of previously unavailable tracks, and major artists would issue multiple sets, but lately there has been a proliferation of anniversary edition sets concentrating on just one album. One of the latest is Paul Simon’s classic album, Graceland, which has celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition is a 2 CD/2 DVD set which includes the remastered original album, the Under African Skies documentary film with extended bonus interviews, the 1987 African Concert from Zimbabwe, three original music videos, the Saturday Night Live performance of “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,” and a narrative titled, “The Story Of Graceland,” as told by Paul Simon. There are also replicas of the original Graceland poster and handwritten lyrics pad, plus an 80-page book containing new and archival photos.
The first disc contains the remastered original album. The 1987 Grammy winning album, which has sold in excess of 14 million copies worldwide, is presented in pristine condition. The album was previously released in 2004 in an enhanced form, so the music has been cleaned as much as technology will allow. Songs such as “The Boy In The Bubble,” “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,” “Under African Skies,” “Graceland,” and “You Can Call Me Al” all deserve to be heard at their best.
The second disc begins with five demos or early versions of Graceland material. While “Homeless,” “Diamonds On The Soles Of her Shoes,” and “All Around The World” have appeared before, the demos of “Crazy Love” and “You Can Call Me Al” were previously unreleased and provide a glimpse into Paul Simon’s creative process. The most interesting track is “The Story Of Graceland” as told by Simon in which he reflects and philosphises on the creation of the album.
The first DVD is centered on the Joe Berlinger-directed documentary Under African Skies. It chronicles the history and evolution of Graceland and
gives a history lesson about the political climate of South Africa 25 years ago. The film brings Graceland full circle as is it follows Paul Simon’s return to a far different South Africa. There are a number of extended interviews that complement the film. The three music videos and Saturday Night Live performance seem out of place on this disc, but they are historically interesting.
DVD 2 brings the set to a close with the resurrection of Simon’s 1987 live performance at Rufaro Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe. This is not a typical Paul Simon concert as his pop material is missing. It concentrates on the material from Graceland and includes Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The concert may seem somewhat dated today but at the time it was historically significant.
Much of the material contained on this box set has been issued before but Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition gathers it together in one place. It may not be a release for everyone, but for the Paul Simon enthusiast it is a journey worth taking.