Friday, 7 September 2018

Paul Simon - In The Blue Light (2018)




Released September 2018

Paul Simon has decided to re-visit ten of his older songs and give them a new makeover. It has proved to be a beguiling album, worthy of attention. These are my initial impressions of the new versions-

"One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor" - From "There Goes Rhymin' Simon". This song hasn't actually changed too much, the evocative piano intro has remained, although Simon's vocal is now considerably slowed down, more barroom bluesy, with some deep-voice backing vocals. He has added some jazzy piano too.

"Love" - From "You're The One". The new version has a lighter, more gently percussive backing but the general vocal tempo stays pretty much the same. When the song kicks in, the bassy backing is similar but the overall production is not as heavy. The acoustic guitar is sharper. I prefer this one to the original, slightly. Simon's voice is excellent, too, as it is throughout the album.

"Can't Run But" - From "Rhythm Of The Saints". An orchestrated version full of strings and flutes, without any of the Brazilian rhythmic percussion of the original. The vocal is as strong and convincing as the original, but I feel it has lost its South American, intoxicating soul somewhat.

"How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns"-  From "One Trick Pony". It begins with some jazz piano and stand-up bass and then a wonderful saxophone break, as opposed to the previous syncopated percussion, also, Simon's vocal is slower in delivery. It is given a far more jazzy makeover, tinkling piano and haunting brass all over it, giving it a new sheen.

"Pigs, Sheep & Wolves" - From "You're The One". Again, this has a lighter rhythm and another jazzier approach. The shuffling rhythm is not nearly as thumping or bassy. Here, Simon turns it into a jaunty New Orleans jazz celebration of a song. It hasn't lost any of its quirkiness though.

"Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War" - From "Hearts And Bones". A sombre cello intro begins the song and it is delivered mournfully and in a sort of graceful 1930s fashion. Its tender string orchestration replaces the backing vocals. It was always a lovely song, here Simon gives it even more soul.

"The Teacher" - From "You're The One". The tracks from "You're The One" all had a bassy, thumping backing that formed the ambience of that album. As with all the four tracks from that album, this version benefits from a lighter touch. A Spanish sounding acoustic guitar lends a beautiful backing to it. Some beguiling saxophone enhances it too. Lovely.

"Darling Lorraine" - From "You're The One". The original had some "Rhythm Of The Saints" rhythmic, seductive backing. Once again, this deepness of sound is replaced by an acoustic guitar and a gentle percussion. I like both versions, but this version has a haunting beauty to it.

"Some Folks' Lives Roll Easy" - From "Still Crazy After All These Years". Originally, it was a slow, subtle guitar-backed ballad. Now it is a plaintive, classically-influenced piano backed number. It has lost that slight country air to it and is now a torch-style late night song with a distinctly jazzy, infectious percussion and sumptuous stand-up bass line where a string backing used to be. Beautiful. Definite improvement on this one.

"Question For The Angels" - From "So Beautiful Or So What". The original gentle vocal and acoustic guitar is very similar, although there are a few more nuances in the backing on this one. It also suddenly develops what sounds like an Australian aboriginal didgeridoo break before the line about Jay-Z. Slightly incongruous but interesting.

Overall, it is a thoroughly worthwhile listen. The originals were good and so are these versions.

B-

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