Wednesday, November 2, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: PAUL SIMON - SONGWRITER
At least this one is solid and classy. The double-disc is a thoughtful walk through the solo years, curated by none other than the man himself. While it's sometimes a bad idea for the artist to do the choosing, as they often go for strange picks rather than fan favourites, Simon knows there has to be a certain level of big songs, and it's not like there's a shortage of them available.
The set starts off with the one temptation for hard-core fans who already own it all, a brand-new live version of The Sound Of Silence, recorded earlier this year, Simon showing he can still deliver quite a punch with this, his earliest hit. With a bit of a different arrangement, and of course, no Art, it's a new look at a song that has held up remarkably well. The other reason collectors might be doing a double-take on this set is the inclusion of a soundtrack song not found elsewhere, the quite lovely Father And Daughter, Simon's hymn to his own, from the 2002 movie The Wild Thornberrys. But with only two of 32 tracks offering a hint of new, any long-time fan won't be rushing to the checkout with this.
Another nice touch is the inclusion of Aretha Franklin's version of Bridge Over Troubled Water, certainly a superior recording, and a smart way to tackle the S&G years. If you haven't heard her take, Franklin hooks onto the gospel roots and does her expert thing. I wish there were two or three more choices like that here; perhaps Peter Gabriel's recent slow version of The Boy In The Bubble, or maybe an original Peruvian version of El Condor Pasa. But there are many hits and albums to get to I suppose, and Simon dives in with the obvious, and not-so obvious choices.
The 70's give us Mother And Child Reunion, Kodachrome, American Tune, and Still Crazy After All These Years, and Simon also finds room to include a couple of quieter moments, Tenderness and Peace Like A River, at the expense of crafted hits Slip Slidin' Away and Loves Me Like A Rock. But no 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover? A number one hit there, Bub. Simon disposes of the 70's way too quickly, but I suppose he's giving equal weight to all his babies. That's going to come back to haunt us on disc two. But meanwhile, we've reached the 80's, and his two crucial albums. Ya ya, Graceland, sure, but first, there was the frustrating failure of Hearts And Bones. Three tracks are included here, and I say good on you, Paul, it was a misunderstood masterpiece, and deserves to be plugged at every turn.
Graceland, followed by The Rhythm Of The Saints, and we're cooking now. But we've just started disc two, and you know what that means: The Capeman Cometh. Simon's Broadway flop has still not found an audience for its songs either, and the inevitable inclusion of two of them here won't change anyone's mind. The albums slip by with the 90's and 00's, with Surprise and You're The One, all of higher quality, but strangely unable to stay with us. The three cuts from So Beautiful Or So What, while equally appealing, seem destined to suffer the same fate.
I have no answers for this, other than perhaps Simon got too hung up on his nifty lyrics and neglected the tunes. I mean, I don't have a clue what The Obvious Child is about, but it rocks and I like to sing along to it. That's been missing for awhile in his music. However, I did find some renewed interest in these later album cuts, and maybe we just need to live with them a few more years. Except that friggin' Capeman thing. It's time to give up on that one.