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Review: New Paul Simon CD

Elvis Costello writes the introduction on the liner notes to Paul Simon's new CD "So Beautiful or So What," and he promised me "rock and roll surprises." And Simon delivers. I won't detail them here or they won't be surprises to you. What I will say is that this definitely goes beyond the confines of the typical rock and roll record, without getting outlandish or silly. Paul Simon has never been afraid to search the world over for musicians, or unique musical instrumentation and vocals. Like he did with "Graceland" and "Rhythm of the Saints," Simon takes us on a journey that takes us somewhere new..in this case..down south for a little gospel, across the ocean to India, and back home again. And he does it while still maintaining his rock and roll sensibility. Skimming the credits, I saw quite a list of musical instruments..from glockenspiel to tuned bass djembe, conga, harmonica, harp, and celeste and angklung. (A celeste is similar to a glockenspiel, and is the instrument used in Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; an angklung is an instrument made of bamboo tubes.)  The use of these instruments (and others) creates a very interesting record that never jumps the bridge into novelty..but just seems to work. Simon is definitely reflective and even philosophical throughout most of the album, but he's never depressed..even in the quieter, slower ballads. As he says in the song's title tune, "Life is what we make of it, so beautiful, or so what." Paul Simon's world is definitely beautiful, and it's a nice place to visit. Key songs: "The Afterlife" "Rewrite"

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04/11/2011 1:02PM
Review: New Paul Simon CD
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