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Paul Simon - In The Blue Light (Album Review)

Tuesday, 18 September 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

While Paul Simon may not be as prolific as Bob Dylan (38 solo albums) or Van Morrison (39), he might beat both artists in terms of consistent quality. Records like ‘Rhythm of the Saints’, released in 1990, and 2016’ s ‘Surprise’ often matched the brilliance of his work with Art Garfunkel, but may have been overlooked due to ageism within pop music.

Thus, the 76-year-old is justified in his decision to release an album of reworked songs for his 14th solo release, and ‘In the Blue Light’ calls upon various musical grandees in a marvellous late afternoon assembly of rich, easy-ish listening.

Standout tracks include Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War - from 1983’s ‘Hearts and Bones’ - which is here re-envisioned with New York’s yMusic chamber ensemble to deploy a throbbing, cinematic elegance.

Unlike the original recording, it never quite tumbles into schmaltz and the urgency of the violins gives it a modern orchestral feel that elevates and enriches a song of high, high quality.

Similarly, the new version of The Teacher is a thing of great skill and panache. The original - from 2000’s ‘You’re The One’ - had a pomposity and imbalance to its mix that made it quite an easy song to skip.

Here, duelling guitars give the track a cantering drive that complicates and enriches the vocal. Additionally, while the intellectualism of the lyrics are typically Simon, Wynton Marsalis’s sax drops us into ‘The Dream of the Blue Turtles’-era Sting. Some will run a mile from that, but it works extraordinarily well.

The standout moment, though, is a string makeover of Can’t Run But, again with yMusic and this time arranged by the National’s Bryce Dessner. Not only does this track demonstrate the meticulous melody writing and timeless lyrics of the original, but gives a genuine feeling of originality to a track whose western musicality may have been lost in the Brazilian arrangements of ‘Rhythm of the Saints’.

Simon may be retiring from touring, but let us all hope his music making is far from finished. He’s still learning and improving.

Paul Simon Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu September 20 2018 - NEW YORK New York - Madison Square Garden (USA)
Fri September 21 2018 - NEW YORK New York - Madison Square Garden (USA)
Sat September 22 2018 - CORONA - Flushing Meadows Corona Park (USA)

Click here to compare & buy Paul Simon Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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