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Pop/Rock - Released June 1, 2012 | Legacy Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions Special Soundchecks - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
With Graceland, Paul Simon hit on the idea of combining his always perceptive songwriting with the little-heard mbaqanga music of South Africa, creating a fascinating hybrid that re-enchanted his old audience and earned him a new one. It is true that the South African angle (including its controversial aspect during the apartheid days) was a powerful marketing tool and that the catchy music succeeded in presenting listeners with that magical combination: something they'd never heard before that nevertheless sounded familiar. As eclectic as any record Simon had made, it also delved into zydeco and conjunto-flavored rock & roll while marking a surprising new lyrical approach (presaged on some songs on Hearts and Bones); for the most part, Simon abandoned a linear, narrative approach to his words, instead drawing highly poetic ("Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"), abstract ("The Boy in the Bubble"), and satiric ("I Know What I Know") portraits of modern life, often charged by striking images and turns of phrase torn from the headlines or overheard in contemporary speech. An enormously successful record, Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop/Rock - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
If any musical justification were needed for the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel, it could be found on this striking collection, Paul Simon's post-split debut. From the opening cut, "Mother and Child Reunion" (a Top Ten hit), Simon, who had snuck several subtle musical explorations into the generally conservative S&G sound, broke free, heralding the rise of reggae with an exuberant track recorded in Jamaica for a song about death. From there, it was off to Paris for a track in South American style and a rambling story of a fisherman's son, "Duncan" (which made the singles chart). But most of the album had a low-key feel, with Simon on acoustic guitar backed by only a few trusted associates (among them Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel, David Spinozza, Mike Manieri, Ron Carter, and Hal Blaine, along with such guests as Stefan Grossman, Airto Moreira, and Stephane Grappelli), singing a group of informal, intimate, funny, and closely observed songs (among them the lively Top 40 hit "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"). It was miles removed from the big, stately ballad style of Bridge Over Troubled Water and signaled that Simon was a versatile songwriter as well as an expressive singer with a much broader range of musical interests than he had previously demonstrated. You didn't miss Art Garfunkel on Paul Simon, not only because Simon didn't write Garfunkel-like showcases for himself, but because the songs he did write showed off his own, more varied musical strengths. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Rock - Released June 3, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc.

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Pop/Rock - Released June 1, 2012 | Legacy Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
With Graceland, Paul Simon hit on the idea of combining his always perceptive songwriting with the little-heard mbaqanga music of South Africa, creating a fascinating hybrid that re-enchanted his old audience and earned him a new one. It is true that the South African angle (including its controversial aspect during the apartheid days) was a powerful marketing tool and that the catchy music succeeded in presenting listeners with that magical combination: something they'd never heard before that nevertheless sounded familiar. As eclectic as any record Simon had made, it also delved into zydeco and conjunto-flavored rock & roll while marking a surprising new lyrical approach (presaged on some songs on Hearts and Bones); for the most part, Simon abandoned a linear, narrative approach to his words, instead drawing highly poetic ("Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"), abstract ("The Boy in the Bubble"), and satiric ("I Know What I Know") portraits of modern life, often charged by striking images and turns of phrase torn from the headlines or overheard in contemporary speech. An enormously successful record, Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Rock - Released September 7, 2018 | Legacy Recordings

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As the saying goes, if you want something done right, you’d better do it yourself. This is why Paul Simon entrusted the cover of his own songs to… Paul Simon! Except that Art Garfunkel’s former accomplice completely reshapes his past tracks. Ten songs in total, forgotten for the most part, handpicked from his albums There Goes Rhymin' Simon (1973), Still Crazy After All These Years (1975), One-Trick Pony (1980), Hearts and Bones (1983), The Rhythm of the Saints (1990), You're the One (2000) and So Beautiful or So What (2011). By re-orchestrating them as jazz − sometimes even classical − pieces (gone with his folk and world temptations!), he folds his art flat and demonstrates how timeless his compositions are. For such a refined stylistic exercise, Simon surrounded himself with musicians as legendary as himself. Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet, Bill Frisell’s guitar, Bryce Dessner’s (from The National) arrangements, Jack DeJohnette and Steve Gadd’s drums, Joe Lovano’s saxophone, young Sullivan Fortner’s piano as well as John Patitucci’s bass further reinforce the project. But beyond this star-loaded panel, In The Blue Light truly fascinates for its unusual melancholy. At 76 years old, Paul Simon hasn’t authored a legacy piece, but rather the work of a wise man who glances in the rear-view mirror with great originality. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Pop/Rock - Released June 9, 2017 | Legacy Recordings

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When you're an institution like Paul Simon, and strictly speaking you don't have anything to prove, you can do whatever you like. So surely Art Garfunkel's former bandmate was doing exactly that when he recorded this ample (two hours!) live set in Hyde Park in London on 15 July 2012, as part of the Hard Rock Calling Festival. As so often in this kind of situation, when the artist possesses an XXL-sized body of work and discography, the recording plays the role of a kind of Best Of. And that is precisely what it is. All Paul Simon’s hits get an airing here, in pretty vigorous versions. The concert reunites Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who were present on the album Graceland, but also features a guest appearance by the great Jimmy Cliff. Solo career (Kodachrome, Graceland, Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover) or works from the Simon & Garfunkel period (The Boxer), nothing is missing from this first-rate performance. © CM/Qobuz
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Released five years after Warner's last Paul Simon comp, the single-disc The Paul Simon Collection: On My Way, Don't Know Where I'm Goin', the double-disc The Essential Paul Simon is a full 17 tracks heftier than its predecessor and contains all but one of its 19 songs (MIA is the latter-day "Love," which only hardcore fans will recognize as from You're the One, and they're not quite the market for this set anyway). It's also slimmer than the 1993 box Paul Simon 1964/1993, which spanned three discs but also encompassed his '60s recordings with Art Garfunkel, plus a single the duo recorded as Tom & Jerry, along with selections from his solo debut, The Paul Simon Songbook -- it was ambitious, where this compilation is efficient, picking up after the parting of ways with Garfunkel and running straight through until 2006's Surprise. The sequencing isn't strictly chronological -- some songs are shuffled around for effect, with "Still Crazy After All These Years" closing the first, while "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" is cleverly followed by the zydeco stomp "That Was Your Mother" -- but it roughly divides into having the first disc devoted to the '70s and early '80s, the second devoted to Graceland and beyond. Some might argue that there's too heavy of a Graceland presence here -- a whopping six tracks, over half the album -- but it is his biggest album and functions as a nice transition between his better-known '70s hits and the more esoteric but frequently compelling work that he's done since. And, unlike The Paul Simon Collection, The Essential Paul Simon is designed to introduce fellow travelers to the interesting work he's done since Graceland, as the second disc emphasizes that quite greatly, and it does a good job of it, while also providing a good summary of his best-known (and much of his best) solo work. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Electro - Released June 1, 2018 | Legacy Recordings

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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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The third new studio album of Paul Simon's post-Simon & Garfunkel career was a musical and lyrical change of pace from his first two, Paul Simon and There Goes Rhymin' Simon. Where Simon had taken an eclectic approach before, delving into a variety of musical styles and recording all over the world, Still Crazy found him working for the most part with a group of jazz-pop New York session players, though he did do a couple of tracks ("My Little Town" and "Still Crazy After All These Years") with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section that had appeared on Rhymin' Simon and another ("Gone at Last") returned to the gospel style of earlier songs like "Loves Me Like a Rock." Of course, "My Little Town" also marked a return to working with Art Garfunkel, and another Top Ten entry for S&G. But the overall feel of Still Crazy was of a jazzy style subtly augmented with strings and horns. Perhaps more striking, however, was Simon's lyrical approach. Where Rhymin' Simon was the work of a confident family man, Still Crazy came off as a post-divorce album, its songs reeking of smug self-satisfaction and romantic disillusionment. At their best, such sentiments were undercut by humor and made palatable by musical hooks, as on "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," which became the biggest solo hit of Simon's career. But elsewhere, as on "Have a Good Time," the singer's cynicism seemed unearned. Still, as out of sorts as Simon may have been, he was never more in tune with his audience: Still Crazy topped the charts, spawned four Top 40 hits, and won Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Vocal Performance. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Though he recorded the album's prominent percussion tracks in Brazil, Paul Simon fashioned The Rhythm of the Saints as a deliberate follow-up to the artistic breakthrough and commercial comeback that was the South Africa-tinged Graceland. Several of the musicians who had appeared previously were back, along with some of the New York session players who had worked with Simon in the 1970s, and the overall sound was familiar to fans of Graceland. Further, Simon's nonlinear lyrical approach was carried over: he continued to ruminate about love, aging, and the onslaught of modern life in disconnected phrases and images that created impressions rather than telling straightforward stories. But where Graceland had seamlessly merged its styles into an exuberant whole, The Rhythm of the Saints was less well digested. Those drum tracks never seemed integrated effectively into what had been dubbed over them; at the same time, they tended to lock the songs into musical patterns that reined them in from the kind of excitement the South African music on Graceland generated, making the melodies harder to grasp. At the same time, Simon sang his lyrics in a less involved way, which sometimes made them seem like collections of random lines rather than the series of striking observations Graceland seemed to contain. No Paul Simon album could be lacking in craft or quality, and The Rhythm of the Saints was a typically tasteful effort. But this time around, Simon hadn't quite succeeded in bringing the wide-ranging elements together; the album sold about half as many copies as Graceland (that is to say, a none-too-shabby two million), and that's about right -- where Graceland was an exotic adventure, The Rhythm of the Saints was more of an anthropology lesson. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Retaining the buoyant musical feel of Paul Simon, but employing a more produced sound, There Goes Rhymin' Simon found Paul Simon writing and performing with assurance and venturing into soulful and R&B-oriented music. Simon returned to the kind of vocal pyrotechnics heard on the Simon & Garfunkel records by using gospel singers. On "Love Me Like a Rock" and "Tenderness" (which sounded as though it could have been written to Art Garfunkel), the Dixie Hummingbirds sang prominent backup vocals, and on "Take Me to the Mardi Gras," Reverend Claude Jeter contributed a falsetto part that Garfunkel could have handled, though not as warmly. For several tracks, Simon traveled to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios to play with its house band, getting a variety of styles, from the gospel of "Love Me Like a Rock" to the Dixieland of "Mardi Gras." Simon was so confident that he even included a major ballad statement of the kind he used to give Garfunkel to sing: "American Tune" was his musical State of the Union, circa 1973, but this time Simon was up to making his big statements in his own voice. Though that song spoke of "the age's most uncertain hour," otherwise Rhymin' Simon was a collection of largely positive, optimistic songs of faith, romance, and commitment, concluding, appropriately, with a lullaby ("St. Judy's Comet") and a declaration of maternal love ("Loves Me Like a Rock") -- in other words, another mother-and-child reunion that made Paul Simon and There Goes Rhymin' Simon bookend masterpieces Simon would not improve upon (despite some valiant attempts) until Graceland in 1986. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Though it was released to coincide with the opening of the film One-Trick Pony, which Paul Simon wrote and starred in, the One-Trick Pony album is not a soundtrack, as it is sometimes categorized, at least, not exactly. If it were, it might contain the Paul Simon song "Soft Parachutes" and other non-Simon music featured in the movie. Instead, this is a studio album containing many of the movie songs, some of them in the same performances (two were cut live at the Agora Club in Cleveland). The record is not billed as a soundtrack, but a sleeve note reads, "The music on this Compact Disc was created for the Paul Simon Movie 'One-Trick Pony.'" Anyway, if Simon was in fact writing songs for Jonah, his movie character (as seems true of songs like "Jonah," "God Bless the Absentee," and "Long, Long Day"), he intended that character to take a somewhat less considered lyrical viewpoint than Paul Simon generally does, but to be even more enamored of light jazz fusion than Paul Simon had been on his last album, Still Crazy After All These Years. Tasty licks abound from the fretwork of Eric Gale, Hiram Bullock, and Hugh McCracken, and the rhythm section of Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, and Richard Tee is equally in the groove. This is the closest thing to a band album Simon ever made, and it contains some of his most rhythmic and energetic singing. But it is also his most uneven album, simply because the songwriting, with the exception of the title song and the ballads "How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns" and "Nobody," is not up to his usual standard. Maybe he was too busy writing his screenplay to polish these songs to the usual gloss. (It can't have been than Jonah wasn't supposed to be as talented as Paul Simon. Could it?) In any case, though the album spawned a Top Ten hit in "Late in the Evening" and may have sold more copies than the film did tickets, it remained a disappointment in both artistic and commercial terms. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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The disaster of Songs from the Capeman hit Paul Simon particularly hard, so he decided to quickly record a new album, his first proper collection of songs since 1990's The Rhythm of the Saints -- his first album in ten years, really. Nevertheless, if this album has a relative, it's 1982's Hearts and Bones, since it's a deliberately low-key, insular record, especially when compared to the sweeping worldbeat explorations of Graceland and Rhythm. But where Hearts and Bones was a singer/songwriter album, no two ways about it, You're the One illustrates the influence of its predecessors, but it's not showy about it. The African and South American rhythms are as much a foundation of Simon's music as folk is, and his compositions reflect it, boasting surprisingly tricky rhythms that carry through to his melodies themselves. That, combined with Simon's determination to meet aging head-on, makes You're the One a bit of an acquired taste, especially since its compositions are never overtly accessible and melodic -- they're all tone poems, driven as much by tone and lyric as song itself. This all results in a record that may be a little too deliberately low-key and elliptical for most tastes, especially since it demands full concentration even from serious fans. But this does reward close listening, and even if it doesn't shine as brilliantly as Hearts and Bones (his most underappreciated record), it does share some similarities in that it's an unassumingly intellectual record that feels like it was made without an audience in mind. Which means it's more interesting than successful, but interesting can have its own rewards. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Hearts and Bones was a commercial disaster, the lowest-charting new studio album of Paul Simon's career. It is also his most personal collection of songs, one of his most ambitious, and one of his best. It retains a personal vision, one largely devoted to the challenges of middle-aged life, among them a renewed commitment to love; the title song was a notable testament to new romance, while "Train in the Distance" reflected on romantic discord. Elsewhere, "The Late Great Johnny Ace" was his meditation on John Lennon's murder and how it related to the mythology of pop music. Musically, Simon moved forward and backward simultaneously, taking off from the jazz fusion style of his last two albums into his old loves of doo wop and rock & roll while also incorporating current sounds with such new collaborators as dance music producer Nile Rodgers and minimalist composer Philip Glass. The result was Simon's most impressive collection in a decade and the most underrated album in his catalog. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Folk - Released March 23, 2004 | Columbia - Legacy

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The first album to use this title is one of the most mysterious in Paul Simon's output and almost belongs more with Simon & Garfunkel's discography, given its 1965 recording date. Following the failure of Simon & Garfunkel's first, all-acoustic folk revival-style album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, Simon headed off to England to see about pursuing music over there. While he was in London, he found himself in demand as a visiting American "folksinger" (though Simon's credentials in this area were rather limited), began building up a following in the coffeehouses, and was eventually pegged for a performing spot on the BBC. Suddenly, there were requests for Paul Simon recordings, of which there were none -- as a result of his being signed to Columbia Records in America, however, he was brought into the London studios of British CBS and recorded this album with only his acoustic guitar for backup. The resulting album is spare, almost minimalist, as Simon runs through raw and unaffected versions of songs that he was known for in London, including "The Sounds of Silence," "The Sun Is Burning," "I Am a Rock," "A Simple Desultory Philippic" (in its earliest form, and far nastier than the version later done by Simon & Garfunkel), and "Kathy's Song." The notes are very, very strange, but a bigger problem is the production by Reginald Warburton and Stanley West, which isn't terribly sympathetic; the sound isn't very natural, being very close and booming, but the album is a fascinating artifact of Simon's work during the interregnum in Simon & Garfunkel's career. And there is one fascinating number here, "The Side of a Hill," which eventually resurfaced as the countermelody song in the Simon & Garfunkel version of "Scarborough Fair" (a song curious by its absence here, considering that Simon was doing it in his coffeehouse appearances) two years later. ~ Bruce Eder
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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During the production of The Rhythm of the Saints, Paul Simon latched upon the idea of turning the story of Salvador Agron -- a '50s Puerto Rican hoodlum nicknamed the Capeman -- into a musical. (Agron was convicted of stabbing two kids to death during a New York street fight; during his prison term, he educated himself and turned into a poet and activist.) Collaborating with poet Derek Walcott on the lyrics and book, Simon worked on the musical for seven years, writing a set of songs that evoked doo wop, '50s rock & roll, and Puerto Rican music. A few months before the Broadway premiere of The Capeman, Simon -- who was not performing in the musical -- released Songs from The Capeman, an album that functioned as a calling card for the play. The record suggests what a complex and ambitious musical The Capeman may be, but it doesn't succeed on its own terms. Simon's songs have the narrative drive of a stage musical, but are littered with idiosyncratic, conversational flourishes, profanities, and self-consciously literate wordplay that keep them insular and nearly impenetrable. Similarly, the music is forced and labored -- it often sounds like he has to push the melodies into unnatural paths -- and it never has the graceful, joyously organic spirit of doo wop and Puerto Rican music, which is what he needed to capture in order for The Capeman to succeed. Instead, the project is a cerebral exercise, not only in writing but also in white liberal guilt, and it's an exhausting one at that. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

Ten years after playing a free concert in New York's Central Park with Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon returned, backed by the New York session musicians and the native musicians from South Africa and Brazil who had enlivened his solo work. The show was filmed and recorded, and the audio release was a 23-track double-disc set running nearly two hours. Half the selections came from his Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints albums, but unlike the Graceland Tour of 1987, the Born at the Right Time Tour of 1991 made room for Simon's earlier solo work as well as a few Simon & Garfunkel songs. Simon made such stylistically various material work together by front-loading the set with the newer stuff and rearranging some of the older solo stuff, so that "Kodachrome," for example, was refitted with a guitar line courtesy of Graceland player Ray Phiri. (Wisely, except for a becalmed Africanization of "Cecilia," Simon didn't monkey with the S&G songs, most of which came at the end of the set.) But Simon also toned down the Brazilian percussion that had dominated the Saints material and sang it more convincingly, so that "Born at the Right Time," for example, was far more effective than it had been in its studio version. On the whole, then, Concert in the Park managed to be an enjoyable and surprisingly cohesive career summary. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released April 10, 2015 | Sony Music UK

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Though billed as a Paul Simon anthology, Sony's 19-song Ultimate Collection features nearly as much Simon & Garfunkel material as it does his solo work. Ranging from the duo's early-'60s breakthrough folk hit "The Sound of Silence" to Simon's 1990 percussive, Latin-flavored single "The Obvious Child," this set is focused largely on the more titanic tracks of his career. Displaying his range equally as a singer ("Still Crazy After All These Years") and a songwriter (the Art Garfunkel-led masterpiece "Bridge Over Troubled Water"), it's difficult to choose highlights, as almost all of these songs are career highlights and many are widely recognized as iconic classics of pop music. While it would be nice to see some representation of Simon's excellent solo releases of the late '90s and early 21st century, it's tough to argue with the selections offered here. ~ Timothy Monger
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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The obvious surprise of Surprise, Paul Simon's tenth solo album and his first since 2000's underrated You're the One, is that the singer/songwriter has enlisted Brian Eno as his collaborator. At first glance the pairing seems odd, even awkward, since they seem to come from opposing backgrounds: Simon the folk-rock troubadour and Eno the avant-garde art rock adventurist. Dig a little deeper, and the similarities do surface. For one, there is the mutual shared interest in world music -- most evident in Eno's productions/collaborations with Talking Heads at the turn of the '70s and on Simon's 1986 Graceland and its 1990 follow-up, The Rhythm of the Saints, but there are undercurrents running as far back as Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecilia." But more than any other singer/songwriter of his generation, Paul Simon has demonstrated a keen interest in having his albums sound unique and distinct from each other, using each album as an opportunity to explore a different sonic characteristic, so working with a sonic landscaper (as his back-cover credit on Surprise calls him) is not out of character. Similarly, Eno has not been entirely adverse to pop, either, as his ongoing collaboration with U2 proves, not to mention his productions for James or even the flamboyant pop of such early Roxy Music singles as "Virginia Plain." So, their collaboration here is unexpected, but not unnatural -- in fact, it's anything but unnatural, since Surprise is as seamless and graceful as Graceland, which it resembles greatly in how it blends a new sound with Simon's songs. But where Graceland found Simon writing around existing rhythm tracks, the opposite is true here: Eno fills in the space behind songs, creating an evocative, dream-like bed for Simon's words, which, more than ever, scan equally well as poetry as they do song lyrics. Simon was shifting toward this direction on You're the One, but he pushes even harder here, largely abandoning familiar song structures -- only two cuts here have something resembling a conventional chorus, and one of those is "Father and Daughter," originally released on the Wild Thornberrys soundtrack and the only track not treated by Eno -- for elliptical, winding songs that demand attention. These are songs that cry out for the kind of cinematic sounds Eno brings to them, since he helps give them structure, momentum, and emotional weight, and his "sonic landscapes" do this precisely, following the contours of Simon's words and enhancing his meaning. And while Surprise glides along easily, thanks both to Eno's seamless work and the warmth of Simon's voice, it's an album meant to be listened to closely, and it pays back that effort handsomely. With repeated plays, Simon's songs don't seem as open-ended, and there's more to discover within Eno's production, particularly in how it plays off Simon's recurring themes of faith, aging, fatherhood, and getting by in George W. Bush's U.S.A. But this is not by any stretch a protest record; "How Can You Live in the Northeast?" and "Wartime Prayers" are about the uneasiness of living in the post-9/11 America, yet they're not statements of outrage, they're about the emotional toil of the time, and they have counterparts in the wearied narrators of "Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean" and "Outrageous." It adds up to a bittersweet undercurrent that runs through Surprise, not unlike the melancholy threaded throughout Hearts and Bones, which this also resembles in its overall introspective tone and arty bent, but this is hardly a one-dimensional record; there is gentle hope and wry humor as well, giving this music a rich elegance that makes it stand among Simon's best work. Unlike such deservedly praised comeback albums from some of his peers -- such as Dylan's Love and Theft, the Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang, Paul McCartney's Chaos and Creation in the Backyard -- Simon doesn't achieve his comeback by reconnecting with the sound and spirit of his classic work; he has achieved it by being as restless and ambitious as he was at his popular and creative peak, which makes Surprise all the more remarkable. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released April 8, 2011 | Legacy Recordings

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Paul Simon in the magazine
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