15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Gushingly positive review of The Capeman,
This review is from: Songs From The Capeman (1997 Concept Cast Album) (Audio CD)
Maybe enough time has now passed for the initial negative reaction to The Capeman stage show to fade into the distance. Like everyone else, I never saw it, so can only rely on the accepted wisdom that it was bad. This "soundtrack" album, though, is a complete and utter masterpiece no matter which way you look at it.
I'm certainly a Paul Simon fan, but not blindly so - like most enthusiasts I have my opinions about the higher and lower points in his career (and no two opinions about these things are ever the same). The Capeman is perhaps Paul Simon's highest achievement; sheer unadulterated brilliance from start to finish. Its lack of acceptance, even among many Simon fans, could be due to the perception of it as overly self-indulgent. I find great artists like Simon are often at their best when they are at their most self-indulgent, if self-indulgence is what this is.
Simon synthesises the musical influences from his youth - doo-wop and salsa from the end of the 50's in NYC, to tell a story he remembers from the same period and place. The musical combinations are often incongruous and "challenging", but ultimately brilliantly evocative, while never resorting to pastiche. On top of all this is the "theatrical", storytelling aspect of the album, which somehow works perfectly in its own right - I can only imagine that any stageshow would have been a distraction to the words and music. Even with Simon himself taking on the vocals for multiple roles, the story and characters come across vividly, and the narrative power and scope are unprecedented (I think he intended to but never got around to releasing a full cast album?). Simon's "character" monologue-style singing shows his narrative vocal strength like never before (and yes, there is some rude language - the kids better skip this and go back to their Limp Bizkit and Eminem albums if you don't want them to grow up warped). Marc Anthony and Ednita Nazario have never had better material to sing, and do a magnificent job.
Ultimately, this album stands as a monument to top-class, brave and adventurous songwriting. As such, it of course had to fail commercially, and it's a shame to think of someone like Paul Simon being discouraged by poor public reception to great work such as this. Some people are used to working their whole lives in obscurity, but to someone like Simon it may come as a shock when something he does is so disparaged. I guess Amazon is one place to try to address the balance.