In my mind this album is iconic. Paul Simon suffered a couple of bad strokes, including a failed marriage, a flopped album and his breakup with Garfunkel. And then he made this. Musically it came in the right time, politically a bit too early. According Matthew Oshinki in 1001 Albums you must hear before you die this is a product of Simon’s midlife crisis: some people buy Ferraris, others go to South Africa.
1986 was in the middle of the boycott against South Africa because of the Apartheid. With this album Paul Simon went directly against that. People blamed him, there were protests, threats and even an attack on the Simon’s agent. The eighties were in many ways violent times.
The album itself is an eclectic collection of styles. The use of African musicians on the album was totally new in that time. The popularity of Graceland led to many copycats, but never as good as this one. Also, it resulted in lifting some African musicians and connecting them to western music. The album acted as a bridge between cultures in that way.