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A CAREER CAPSTONE; MAGNIFICENT!,
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This review is from: Live in New York City [2 CD / DVD] (Audio CD)Paul Simon's music has been a part of my generation's life for so long that it's possible that he's taken for granted by some. This magnificent collection of songs, none from what I consider his lovely, though musically immature, S&G period - save for an obligatory Sounds Of Silence and the resurrected Only Living Boy From New York - stands as a testetament to Simon as songwriter. There is a reason why he was awarded the Gershwin Prize for American Popular Music my friends. And that reason is that his singular muse, his distinctive style, his constant and continual pursuit of new musical vistas has made him the country's greatest composer of popular song. Yes - above Bob Dylan, and on equal footing with Stephen Sondheim.
The songs included in this concert rank with Simon's best, particularly those from So Beautiful or So What. Dazzling Blue is an exquisite gem, and The Afterlife retains its vitality and witty rhythmic wordplay ("hey, what you say, it's a glorious day - by the way how long you been dead? Maybe you maybe me maybe baby makes three but she just shook her head")
The Obvious Child starts things off with a slower tempo than the original - bringing a sense of majesty to its powerful rhythmic foundation. No slowdown for That Was Your Mother - it remains joyful, and its shufflin' Cajun rhythm will still make you jump up and dance. And its during this song - the sixth on the CDs - that the band gels into a groove and really comes alive. Slip Slidin' Away has more poignancy now that our generation is in its fifth or sixth decade. I could go on and on.
That said, it should be noted that Simon himself seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself - something not to be taken for granted. Never a dynamic performer who seeks to ingratiate himself with his audience (i.e., the You're The One DVD) Simon relies on the music itself to do that. In this show SImon seems happy and more than comfortable on stage. As well he should be - his band remains an extraordinary ensemble who do justice to the quality of the music they are presenting.
If you are an old fan you will love hearing the Graceland songs, Kodachrome, and Still Crazy After all These Years - songs that have retained their beauty and have gained "classic" status. If you are relative new to Simon's recent work you are in for a treat. This is mature popular music in the finest sense of the word. Simon's craftsmanship never quite leads your ear to expected places, and his lyrics are smart, witty, and meaningful.
Reading this over, I realize that this sounds awfully serious and somber, where I really meant to be respectful. So let me just end by saying that this set is a lot of fun. It contains joyful music that will bring back memories of your youth, and give you pause to celebrate the moments of today.
If this is how terribly strange it is to be 70, well, I'm looking forward to it.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 19, 2012 5:07:08 PM PDT
Name Withheld says:
Your description of "The Afterlife" is actually describing "Love In Hard Times" -- which I did not see listed -- and I assume is not on the disc?
Which...with all due respect....kinda makes me wonder if you actually listened to/viewed it?
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2012 5:51:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 19, 2012 6:00:06 PM PDT
Oh I've certainly listened to it! (note that amazon confirmed the purchase on the review) but you did catch me in a valid major boo-boo.
I thought that this set deserved a little more than the first review wrote. I listened again, then I put on SBSW and sat down to write this review, perhaps a bit hastily. A friend called, and I returned to the computer a bit later and referenced the wrong song. I've corrected the mistake - thank you!
You are correct in that Love In Hard Times is not on the disc - although I was obviously still thinking of it while writing. I stand by my original words that it is an extraordinary, and extraordinarily moving song that I never tire of listening to. There's an amazing interview with Simon on Youtube where he discusses the songs genesis.
Again - Mea culpa. How terribly strange to be 60.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2012 3:30:05 PM PDT
Name Withheld says:
I agree w/your review of LIHT! It's actually a shame it ISN'T included on this disc because I know he played it in some of his concerts on that tour (not sure if he played it in Webster Hall or not). Also a shame re: some of the other noteworthy omissions from that concert -- as noted by the other reviewer. I particularly miss Peace Like A River which was a rarity on this set list. But then...I can never get enough Paul Simon. BTW, if you're talking about the Barnes & Noble interview, in which he's demonstrating his songwriting technique for LIHT on guitar for that song -- I think that is the best Paul Simon interview of all time -- and I think I've seen most of them. He was on a roll that night and I loved that the interviewer had the wisdom -- and lack of ego! -- to just let him talk without interruption. The LIHT portion is only a small part of a long interview -- which I think is in multi-parts on YouTube -- and if you haven't seen the rest -- I HIGHLY recommend.
Posted on Sep 24, 2012 4:33:15 AM PDT
Slim Jensin says:
Excellent songs yes, above Dylan no.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2012 4:43:02 AM PDT
I'm a huge Dylan fan as well - seen him countless times - but in terms of overall song construction (esp. melody, integration with lyrics) I would disagree.
Dylan as poet yes - for musical craftsmanship - no. I would disagree. Respectfully.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2012 8:55:42 AM PDT
Slim Jensin says:
Do you play an instrument? I do and Dylan's melody's fit his lyrics fine to my way of playing. Many musicians have recorded Dylan's music, more than Simon's. Please don't take this wrong. I am a huge fan of Simon, in fact he's in my top 5. I have always thought that Dylan's melody's were beautiful, some more so than others. "Every Grain of Sand","Positively 4TH St.", and "Make You Feel My Love", have very lovely melody's to me. "Like a Rolling Stone" with it's melody's , was the #1 rock and roll song of all time, of course that could change. Well you have far more musical knowledge than I so this will be my last reply. However Dylan is still better at song writing in all parts, words, melody, and his deliverance is unbeatable, in my opinion as a player. Respectfully to you also.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2012 10:33:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 24, 2012 6:16:42 PM PDT
Fair enough - each to his own taste - Simon is a Dylan fan as well!
Edit: Later in the day, a friend reminded me that he once asked me who I considered to be the most important American composers of popular music in the 20th century. Without hesitation, I replied: Gershwin, Ellington, and Dylan. I stand by that - I think that Dylan is without peer as the most important composer of popular music in our time.
That said, I would maintain that Paul Simon is the better composer. Not as important as Dylan perhaps, but far more interesting musically, and a much finer craftsman. I have no argument with any of the Dyaln tunes you mentioned - some are absolutely sublime. But few possess the singular uniqueness of some of Simon's work - songs that stand completely apart from all others, sound like no others, and explore/push musical boundaries to new areas. I don't think that any of his folk-inspired S&G songs accomplished this - most were derivitive of previous styles/tunes/influences - as are virtually all of Dylan's.
But during his solo years you have singular works like all of Graceland, all of Surprise, all of SBOSW - particularly the hauntingly poignant Love In Hard Times which sounds like nothing else in American popular music - and much of his other post-Graceland albums.
Dylan's TOOM got me through a very difficult period of my life in the late 90s. Love and Theft convinced me that Dylan's renaissance was real. And Modern Times, to paraphrase the bard himself, was like a locomotive steaming along on its own powerful momentum. Each was a masterpiece. Each was also heavily influenced by, unfused with, and - in some cases taken from - American roots music. That detracts nothing from their greatness. But I respectfully suggest it does detract from their originality. Instead, they tap into a deep sense of the American soul through their familiarity. This has lead to Dylan's newest, Tempest, which - while arguably great - is also startlingly familiar to the ear.
Simon has taken another path ("I'm on my way, and I don't know where I'm going"?) by his inner desire - in fact need - NOT to follow the known musical path, but rather to seek unknown chord progressions and harmonies. That approach leads us to Another Galaxy and songs like those on SBOSW - unique, different, and challenging for the American pop audience who long for him to produce another S&G reunion album.
So - I stand by my opinion. Both men are great, but for different reasons. (And yes, I do play an instrument, piano, rather well thank-you-for-asking!) Dylan and I do share something in common: asked by Rolling Stone who he most admires, he replied "Paul McCartney - he can do it all".
But don't get me started on McCartney!
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2012 12:21:26 PM PDT
S. Bottino says:
Simon and Dylan are like two different very fine wines...or foods...or just genius, but different...hard to compare. But I've got to say, personally, after Time Out Of Mind and/or Love and Theft (about that time period) I think Dylan was/is coasting...it's good quality coasting, I just don't see him trying very hard in regards to songcraft anymore...and I know that "simple" can be great...but Modern Times and Together Through Life and Tempest are not 4-5 star material at all (my opinion) and they are hyped as such. "So Beautiful or So What" is Paul Simon still trying to push the barriers and dedicated to quality, melody and good construction...I just feel at this point that he is trying much harder than Bob Dylan. "Love In Hard Times" is a shining example of that. And...don't forget a very famous Dylan quote: "Never give
100%" Bob, of course, is "his own thing"...so my opinions are just...opinions...enjoy both artists!
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2012 6:40:20 AM PDT
I do - all the best to you too! (Defintely agree on Together Through Life - stopped listening to that a long time ago - feel Tempest is between the two discs you mention in terms of overall quality. I know that's a minority opinion as well!
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