430. Paul Simon, 'Graceland'
Warner Bros., 1986
Frustrated by the experience of writing good songs that didn't come to life in the studio, Paul Simon set out "to make really good tracks," as he later put it. "I thought, 'I have enough songwriting technique that I can reverse this process and write the song after the tracks are made.'" Simon risked severe criticism by going to South Africa (then under apartheid) and working with the best musicians from the black townships. With the fluid energy and expertise of guitarist Ray Phiri and the vocal troupe Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Simon created an album about isolation and redemption that transcended "world music" to become the whole world's soundtrack. The bright grooves backed some of the sharpest, funniest lyrics of his career.