Pigs, sheep and wolves....
Released October 2000
Recorded at The Hit Factory, New York City
Running time 44.04
1. That's Where I Belong
2. Darling Lorraine
4. You're The One
5. The Teacher
6. Look At That
7. Señorita With A Necklace Of Tears
9. Pigs, Sheep And Wolves
10. Hurricane Eye
Ten years after the glorious South American-influenced Rhythm Of The Saints, Paul Simon had only released the unsuccessful Songs From The Capeman stage musical project three years earlier. So, this was his first "proper" album in ten years. It is an extremely understated, low-key album, with a strong, pumping bassy sound, but very slow-tempo rhythms. The African/South American influences are still there, underpinning the whole thing, but not obviously so. The album has been described as elliptical in its economy of speech, in its whole low-key, gentle feel. Personally I would say Paul Simon has always been like that. It is almost a trademark of his. He is never "in your face".
That's Where I Belong is a perfect example of that gently understated beauty. It has lovely rhythms and Simon's vocal delivery is still as perfectly nuanced as always. Darling Lorraine is a wry tale of a marriage breaking up. It has some real echoes of Graceland in it at times and some guitar straight out of Rhythm Of The Saints. It actually ends very sadly. Old begins with some Cecilia-style percussion and melody. Simon is beginning to recognise his ageing and here he wittily expresses it. You're The One is hypnotic in its sound, Simon's voice is sensual and smooth, honeyed and always strangely reassuring. It is a totally infectious, intoxicating track. There are vague hints of Eastern Sufi-style vocals at one point and some fifties rock 'n' roll backing harmonies too.
The Teacher is very South American in its sumptuous percussion rhythms and also in its lyrics. It is a beautiful song that sweeps over you like a warm evening wind over the Amazon (or how I imagine it). The rich, warm bass and drum sounds are just wonderful. So very evocative. In the same vein is the quirky Look At That. Señorita With A Necklace Of Tears tells of a "frog in South America whose venom is an antidote for pain...". Again, the music is just a delight and Simon's delivery perfect.
Love is walking pace slow, haunting and deeply meaningful. Nobody does this sort of material quite like Paul Simon. Listening to this album, it is surprisingly how little critical credit it gets. Personally, I really rate it. It has layer after layer of appeal. Pigs, Sheep And Wolves is beautifully odd. Its rhythm is addictive, its lyrics perplexing. Hurricane Eye is a bit more clunky than the rest of the material on the album, without the easiness of melody, but it has an insistent, hard-hitting denouement. Quiet is a plaintive, sombre haunting number to end on, with Simon's voice singing against a sonorous string background and some deep keyboard noises in there too. I really feel at times that Paul Simon is some sort of guru when I listen to him. He is so damn wise. Or sounds it, anyway. This is a highly recommended, under-appreciated album.