Paul Simon has been around for so long now that every human
being on the planet should have some kind of opinion on his
music -- either "he did some cool stuff once" to "boring old
fart" to "sheer genius" to "his experimentation with non-european
rhythms in the late 80's created some interesting music".
Personally, i fall into category three. As a child i spent
many many days listening to my mom's old Simon and Garfunkel
records. When The Concert In Central Park was
on HBO in the early '80's i watched it over and over. I still
think that Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard is one
of the catchiest tunes ever written.
I also really liked Rhythm Of The Saints, his
last outing from wayyy back in 1990. What i liked about that
album is that it continued his experimentation with african
and carribean rhythms. He was growing as an artist in a different
direction. I guess you could call it "world music". Whatever
-- it was cool stuff!
But he has been gone for a while. He was (and might still be)
married to Edie Brickell. I know he produced and played extensively
on her last solo album, which totally failed to make the charts
and which i never heard.
And now Paul Simon returns with You're The One.
This album is not "world music" so much. In fact, it is very
guitar heavy. (And not guitar-heavy in a Metallica sense, but
guitar heavy for someone whose last album featured tracks of
him singing over a 20-piece african drum troupe!) On this album,
the rhythms are still interesting and fresh sounding, but for
some reason they are buried under the guitars. The guitarwork
in itself is good -- lots of slide and tremolo. Still, the balance
seems lacking. It is as if the producers made a conscious choice
to make this a "retrun to old form" for Paul Simon the Folkie
from the 60's. Why?
I would say that this is not his best work. Many of the songs
just sort of meander away in a pointless "adult rock" sense.
It is only the last two tracks on the disc that really grab
my attention. The last one, Quiet, is a beautiful almost
ambient tune of wandering vocals and washed-out sounds. The
track before it, Hurricane Eye, features Simon's light
vocals backed by guitar and banjo for great effect. These two
tracks are really relaxing and beautiful. They challenge the
listener to hear with the whole being, to just let yourself
go into the music, as truly great Paul Simon songs have always
been capable doing.
Only two songs on the new album really touch me. I know that
he is capable of so much more.