Paul Simon – Graceland – When Clarity Is King

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Graceland

We regularly do shootouts for Graceland. Having played so many copies over the years we’re become quite familiar with the range of sound on the album, what constitutes good, better and best, and we understand precisely what qualities the premier copy must have in order to win one of our shootouts. 

Above all the thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It has many other good qualities as well: It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals.

The better copies have all these qualities to some degree, but the one thing a good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s especially good about the sound of Graceland.

Without clarity the music simply doesn’t work. Since the shortest definition of a Hot Stamper is that it’s the pressing where the music works, you can be sure that any Hot Stamper copy on our site has at least that going for it.

Graceland Issues

The biggest problem with the sound of Graceland that we encounter in our shootouts is GRAIN. If you’ve got a copy lying around, throw it on and listen closely to the vocals. Odds are that you’ll hear more grain than texture, and that’s not the most pleasing way to hear this music.

Other big issues were lack of energy, an overall dark quality, thickness and congestion. We had to play a bunch of copies to find those that were both smooth and involving, but it was worth the trouble when we heard how correct and musical the best pressings sounded.


Side One

The Boy In The Bubble
I Know What I Know
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes

Side Two

You Can Call Me Al
Under African Skies
Crazy Love, Vol. II
That Was Your Mother
All Around The World or the Myth of Fingerprints

AMG 5 Star Review

As eclectic as any record Simon had made, it also delved into zydeco and conjunto-flavored rock & roll while marking a surprising new lyrical approach (presaged on some songs on Hearts and Bones); for the most part, Simon abandoned a linear, narrative approach to his words, instead drawing highly poetic (“Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”), abstract (“The Boy in the Bubble”), and satiric (“I Know What I Know”) portraits of modern life, often charged by striking images and turns of phrase torn from the headlines or overheard in contemporary speech. An enormously successful record, Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.