INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Orlando Sentinel JUNE 2, 2006 - by Jim Abbott
PAUL SIMON: SURPRISE
Paul Simon's first studio album in six years never equals Graceland - what a masterpiece that would be! - but it's still a solid collection of songs that shows this singer-songwriter hasn't lost his spirit of adventure.
Sonically, these eleven songs provide a much richer environment than his linear, guitar-driven material on You're The One (2000). Lyrically, Simon seems to have more to say, albeit as obliquely and dourly as ever.
This is a guy who has been indulging in his midlife crisis since Still Crazy After All These Years, and he has no intention of resting easy now. Fortunately, spacey yet unobtrusive production touches from Brian Eno make Simon's ruminations go down without becoming heavy-handed.
There's also an occasional nod to the world condition, a topic that Simon approaches on tip-toes in Wartime Prayers. It opens with a solitary guitar that almost recalls The Sound Of Silence, then eventually opens into a noble anthem powered by gospel voices, electric guitars and a wash of keyboards.
You cannot walk with the holy if you're just a halfway decent man, Simon intones quietly. I don't pretend that I'm a mastermind with a genius marketing plan. I'm trying to tap into some wisdom. Even a little drop will do.
While that song is majestic, Simon likes to vary the mood: There's a funky guitar at the center of Outrageous and a Bo Diddley rhythm opens Sure Don't Feel Like Love.
A teardrop consists of electrolytes and salt, Simon explains in the latter song. The chemistry of crying is not concerned with blame or fault.
Eno's contributions as sonic landscaper (Simon's term) are most startling in the opening of songs such as That's Me and in other spots where drum-and-bass collide with Simon's soft, understated singing.
It's an approach that takes Simon in another new direction, an appealing one at that.