I can’t say this is my favorite sounding track on Paul Simon’s latest album, but it does have a killer message. These words have been coming up in my mind a lot lately…’so beautiful or so what’ really seems like a helpful mantra for when you start to search for those questions in life that just can’t be answered.
“I’m going to tell my kids a bedtime story A play without a plot Will it have a happy ending? Maybe yeah, maybe not I tell them life is what you make of it So beautiful or so what“
This was the first of those 3 albums I became hooked on this year. Sadly, it was extremely overlooked, but I hardly think it matters for this legendary singer/songwriter who turned 70 this year (read my thoughts on that, HERE). Paul Simon continues to churn out some of the best songwriting I’ve ever heard on this album. The first four songs are incredibly strong, with especially “Rewrite” making a lasting impression. While there are tracks I found myself skipping over, all in all this album is one of Simon’s best of the last 2 decades.
There are some musicians that played a large part in my childhood and who sort of faded into the background as I got older. In April, Paul Simon released a gorgeous album of songs that’s one of my favorite albums of this year. This is the same artist who put out “You Can Call Me Al” in 1986, one year after I was born. The video to that song is one of my earliest memories.
I vividly remember singing “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes” late night with friends in college. I’ll never ever forget spinning a Simon & Garfunkel album in the basement of my grandparent’s Cape house – the soundtrack to my favorite summer. I can remember the first time I REALLY listened to “A Dangling Conversation”, and how much it moved me. Paul Simon’s tunes perfectly compliment some of my favorite movies – like “The Only Living Boy In NY” in Garden State and “Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard” in The Royal Tenenbaums. I remember falling a little bit more in love with my boyfriend, the first time he played his version of “Duncan” for me. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was one of my Mom & Dad’s romantic tunes when they first got together. And lately, I’ve really been enjoying “Obvious Child” and “Late In The Evening” after finally seeing Simon and his dynamite band live at the Wang in Boston earlier this year.
70 years old today and still putting out songs that REALLY move me, Paul Simon is one of my favorite artists of all time. His music has been the soundtrack to my life.
Happy Birthday Paul!
My favorite track from the new album, “Dazzling Blue”
By now you can tell I’m a big fan of the new Paul Simon album, and I hope you’ve gotten the chance to hear it from start to finish. The other day I was simply blown away by these lyrics…it’s just so amazing to me that out of his pen, comes this seriously powerful imagery:
“Earth becomes a farm Farmer takes a wife Wife becomes a river and the giver of life Man becomes machine Oil runs down his face Machine becomes a man with a bomb in the marketplace”
I’m seriously stoked about the new Paul Simon album, So Beautiful Or So What, and I can’t stop listening to it. This track is probably the most playful…it’s a lot of fun musically as well as lyrically. I love that he writes a song about the writing process and some of its difficulties… I’m really just more and more convinced that he’s an absolute genius. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see him live in Boston on June 1st. Check out this tune:
I haven’t been quite this excited for an album release in a long while. Paul Simon is one of my all-time favorite artists, and after hearing the first two singles from So Beautiful Or So What, I knew this collection of songs was going to be special.
The album starts off with those two singles… “Getting Ready For Christmas Day” which is complete with samples from a 1941 sermon of the same title by Reverend J.M. Gates, and “The Afterlife” which playfully explores the nature of our pace of living and how that may affect life after death. Both of these songs have a movement to them that we aren’t used to hearing from Simon’s music…he says he experimented with certain sounds throughout this album and when it worked, it was ‘fresh’. “Dazzling Blue” is the third track and it’s by far my favorite. Even after listening to this song dozens of times, it still takes my breath away. Tabla, clay pot, and Indian vocal syllables of percussion lay down the foundation while guitar, fiddle, and vocal harmonies make this song soar. The words have a very deep impression on me… and I hope to one day include this song in my wedding ceremony.
The album then takes a fun, light turn with “Rewrite”, which touches upon the difficulties of writing in a playful manner. “Love and Hard Times” is the first tender ballad on the album, and one of many tracks that mention God. Simon says he’s not sure exactly why he keeps writing about God since he doesn’t consider himself a very religious person. The pace is picked right back up again with track #6, “Love Is Eternal Sacred Light”, and then it slows down once more with the instrumental interlude, “Amulet” and “Questions For The Angels”, which has words that really open up the mind and heart. Simon uses excerpts from a 1938 recording of “Golden Gate Gospel Train” to round off the tune, “Love & Blessings” and he finishes the album off with the title track. “So Beautiful Or So What” has a driving guitar hook, a persistent beat, and words that leave you with a strong impression.
I think Elvis Costello says it perfectly in the introduction he wrote for this album’s liner notes… “It’s a lot to add to what you’ve done when those songs are titles anyone could name but Paul’s greatest songs will find worthy, easy company here.”
The new Paul Simon album, So Beautiful Or So What, is outstanding. One song in particular really speaks to me and I’ve had it in my head since I first heard it. This song is so beautiful to me that I’m pretty set on having it featured as a part of my wedding ceremony if I have one. I’ll write more about the entire album on Tuesday when it comes out…
“Maybe love’s an accident, or destiny is true But you and I were born beneath a star of dazzling blue Dazzling blue
Dazzling blue, roses red, find white linen To make a marriage bed And we’ll build a wall that nothing can break through And dream our dreams of dazzling blue”
I’m very much looking forward to some music that’s coming out in early 2011. As always, Amos Lee sings with an abundance of SOUL on his new single, “Windows are Rolled Down”, and I can’t wait to hear more off his forthcoming album, Mission Bell. Adele is a few years older and she’s still as fierce as ever… the followup to her debut album, 19 comes out in February and it’s fittingly called 21. I might be most excited about the long-awaited studio album from Sam Beam and Iron & Wine titled Kiss Each Other Clean; what I’ve heard of it is amazing! And we’ll have to wait until April for the rest, but the always incredible Paul Simon has given us a taste of his forthcoming album with a single about Christmas that’s not really a Christmas song.