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So Beautiful or So What CD+DVD, Limited Edition
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The problem with PEN, I said, is that it has a very narrow, 19th century sense of what constitutes a "writer." But, I continued, that definition exploded in 1962 or 1963, when Bob Dylan started hitting his stride. Now we've had four or five decades of songs that wouldn't be out of place in poetry magazines --- we ought to let a few of these kids into PEN. Dylan first, of course, then the usual suspects: Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Carole King, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, John Prine. And Paul Simon.
Talk about a non-start. I'm not sure the higher-ups at PEN ever really heard the idea of welcoming singer-songwriters. Or maybe they did --- not much later, the membership committee was disbanded.
And now it's a decade later, and I'm listening to "So Beautiful or So What," Paul Simon's 12th solo release and his first in 5 years. Music is not a competitive sport --- unless you happen to be a musician --- but I'd put this up there with recent Dylan and a few lengths ahead of the recent Springsteen releases.
This will not be a majority view. If you love Dylan --- and I do, just not blindly --- he will always stand alone, like Shakespeare. And no one works harder in live performance than Springsteen; he's a monument to the dignity and decency of blue-collar America. Simon? In the poet laureate of rock race, he'll always be third, simply because he never seems to break a sweat.Read more ›
Raw, bouncy, funky instrumentation abounds, with digital effects, loops and world music beats. This results in songs that have catchiness and verve before considering their lyrical content. Those who feel Simon should move away from the international sound that has informed the bulk of his work since "Graceland" will not be pleased, but even if he is not stretching his sonic palette he is nonetheless weaving extremely strong tunes from it. What anchors them, unsurprisingly, are his thoughtful, shrewdly observant poetry.
"Getting Ready for Christmas Day" starts the album in an unorthodox note with its crunchy textures and offbeat, unaffected vocals. It sounds as though someone hit the record button in the middle of a jam session.
The sitar-infected "Rewrite" is instantly endearing with its pulsing, swaying production and Simon's moving, unsentimental lyric that wax on the aid of a selective memory in an effort to comfortably move forward in life. This perspective is also glimpses on "The Afterlife," which parades along with just as much pep and strut. "You've got to fill out a form first and then you wait in the line" says Simon of the long journey to "glimpse the divine."
Not all is rosy and optimistic. On "Questions for the Angels" - which works effectively as a flip-side for "The Afterlife" - Simon confronts the emptiness and depravity which cause many to question the purpose of life.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My Least Favorite Paul Simon Album Well Second Least Album... Just Not The Paul Simon I'm Use too...Published 21 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is a really good and really underrated album. I thought the first two cuts alone were worth the price of admission but the last cut, which is the title cut, blows me away. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Michael W. Malter
Solid album with excellent songs that summarizes all the musical wisdom of Simon. Rewrite, Dazzling Blue, The Afterlife, Love and Hard Times, Question for the Angels or Love and... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Matilde Grana
What is not to love about the quintessential Paul Simon? I love his voice, the way he writes and sings and every single note he plays. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Erin Leigh Darnley
Great album, A couple I zip by, too slow, but most are classic Paul Simon.
I could listen to the instrumentals alone, they are the best, the vocals just make them better.
More than ever this world needs high-quality music to lift itself above the dreck that surrounds it. But, to our despair, this is not it.Published 11 months ago by amphyrion