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So Beautiful Or So What CD

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Image of album by Paul Simon


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During his distinguished career Paul Simon has been the recipient of many honors and awards including 12 Grammy Awards, three of which ("Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Still Crazy After All These Years" and "Graceland") were albums of the year. In 2003 he was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as half of the duo Simon and Garfunkel. He is an ... Read more in Amazon's Paul Simon Store

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So Beautiful Or So What + Surprise + The Rhythm Of The Saints
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Product details

  • Audio CD (13 Jun. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B004LAIU4I
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,232 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Getting Ready For Christmas Day 4:06£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. The Afterlife 3:40£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Dazzling Blue 4:32£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Rewrite 3:49£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Love And Hard Times 4:09£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Love Is Eternal Sacred Light 4:02£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Amulet 1:36£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Questions For The Angels 3:49£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Love And Blessings 4:18£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen10. So Beautiful Or So What 4:08£0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Description

Product Description

12th studio album by the popular American singer-songwriter. The album has been very well received by critics and has been described by Simon himself as 'the best work I've done in 20 years'.

BBC Review

Whenever pop songwriters venture in search of profundity, they tend to overreach themselves, their lofty ambitions toppled by hubris and laughable pretention. Not so rock icon Paul Simon, who’s been writing astutely crafted songs, poetic, questioning and rich in meaning, for almost half a century; remarkably, his 12th solo studio album finds his gifts undimmed, even sharpened, by time.

There is a tendency among music critics to proclaim each new album from an elder statesperson as their best since (take your pick). But this must surely rank as one of Simon’s most affecting post-Garfunkel achievements.

Conceptually bound by the biggest themes of all – love, God, mortality, and our place in universe – this deceptively casual yet carefully focused collection never struggles under the weight of its ambition. Instead, Simon delivers these ruminative sermons with wit, warmth and wisdom. Despite virtually every song being haunted by notions of divinity and the attendant spectre of death, they’re realised with such shimmering lightness of touch that the overall effect is surprisingly life-affirming.

"Most folks they don’t get when I’m joking / But hopefully somebody will," he sings, in that conversational, ageless voice, on the almost free-associative Love Is Eternal Sacred Light, which somehow encompasses the origins of the universe, suicide bombers, and the exultant freedom of life on the open road. Now almost 70, it’s as if he has so much to say but with little time remaining (the album clocks in at just over 30 minutes, with not a moment wasted). In the same song he declares that love is "free from the shackles of time", while in the poignant Dazzling Blue he thanks God that he found his wife before it was too late.

When death does come knocking in The Afterlife, rather than bringing an end to earthly trials, it presents a bureaucratic chore where "you’ve got to fill out a form first, then you wait in the line." Even such deities as Buddha, Moses and Gene Vincent must endure this process: the ultimate joke.

Driven by Simon’s uniquely percussive acoustic guitar, and with his world music leanings embedded naturally rather than overtly, this beguiling album shows him to have lost none of his ability for finding universal truths within the guise of introspection. It’s a profound statement from a master of his craft.

--Paul Whitelaw

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By GlynLuke TOP 100 REVIEWER on 14 Oct. 2011
Format: Audio CD
This album is a welcome surprise from one of the finest songwriters of our time. Since the career-best Graceland, Paul Simon`s releases have either been uplifting and inspirational like Rhythm Of The Saints, slightly incoherent yet brilliant collections of songs such as the mostly superb You`re The One, or muddled near-misses like Surprise, his last rather misconceived effort. To call this a return to form is merely to speak the truth.
He sounds rejuvenated - at 70 already! - on a brief set of heartfelt songs on which his writing, singing and musical skills (he has always been a quietly virtuosic guitarist) are at their bright & shining best. At first I really didn`t like the cover, but looking at it closer one can see that it complements the esoteric yet generously compassionate, humane nature of the songs within.
The soundworld Paul creates here is both eclectic and spare, with instruments such as kora, tabla and glockenspiel adding subtle textures to the already beautifully crafted songs. There`s no dud song, nothing that goes on too long, no songs that don`t quite come off, and the whole thing is produced with the accent on clarity and a brightly warm immediacy.
To highlight one song: the opener, Getting Ready For Christmas Day, starts the whole thing off in glorious style, overlaying Paul`s vocal onto an old sermon recorded as long ago as 1941 by one Rev JM Gates, complete with scattered congregation calls & cries. It not only works, but is a burst of joyous ebullience that puts the listener in a very good place for the rest of this supremely listenable album.
I think this is, by a whisker, Paul Simon`s most wholly satisfying album since Graceland.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Marcia TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Aug. 2011
Format: Audio CD
Although this is not the strongest album by Paul Simon it is in fact very good. The songwriting is up to the usual standard and the music ideas not only work well but they are very interesting.
There are some great arrangements and the whole album is a solid contribution.
There are some good stand out tracks that act as highlights and it is also the sort of album that will mature over time. It needs many listening sessions to get to fully apreciate it.
Generally this album is a worthy and welcome recording from the great Paul Simon. This album does not have the striking originality of the likes of the Graceland album but it doesnt matter. It does however have some strong original songs with a familiar Paul Simon style.
This is one of those albums that in the future we may look back at and see it as a classic. I would compare it to "Hearts and Bones" in terms of its strength and solid quality. And like Hearts and Bones I doubt it has enough commercial potential to have many hit single releases in todays pop climate.
This is a great album and will appeal to anyone that likes Paul Simon.
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72 of 85 people found the following review helpful By David Lusher TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 April 2011
Format: Audio CD
Paul Simon is a musical institution. I personally rate him as important to American music as Bob Dylan. One of his strengths is his gift of lyricism. Another is that he was always well ahead of the game in weaving the rhythms, instruments and voices of world music into Western popular music. His judgement in using the best of African sounds was to the fore in 'Graceland' and 'The Rhythm Of The Saints'. He develops this further with this excellent album. 'Rewrite' particularly echoes the work of the late Ali Farka Touré. But this album is a smorgasbord of wonderful music and is surely the best album Paul Simon has delivered for years. He is a seasoned musician and is still able to give us something so fresh and vibrant. 'Love and Hard Times' is one of those wonderful Paul Simon songs that draws you into a story and takes you along for the ride. 'Love Is Eternal Sacred Light' pounds away and is infectious, wonderful music. 'Amulet' is a melancholic acoustic guitar instrumental. 'Questions For The Angels' is a discursive ballad that queries life in general and Simon muses gently as it drifts along. The title track track is a swampy groove-fest with shimmering guitar and an arrangement to die for. There is so much to enjoy here. Paul Simon's voice is still crystalline and unique. His songwriting remains a revelation. He has always been a fascinating listen and this album delivers big time. Buy it - you'll love it!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By culturevulture59 on 1 Aug. 2011
Format: Audio CD
This CD is not as immediately attractive as Graceland, but as usual, Simon has gathered around him some great musicians,the production is really polished and I love the way he mines different musical traditions and adds his own take on them.

I particularly like the slower tracks on the CD. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why but the lyrics are moving without being sentimental and the mix of very American music with that of world music works well.

I'm probably going to have to listen to the CD a couple more times but I'd say it's well worth investing the effort.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bungliemutt on 14 May 2011
Format: Audio CD
Paul Simon's Graceland has a place in the history of popular music whose genius is almost unquestioned. Its originality at the time and subsequent influence are beyond doubt, but it is a frequently irritating listen; an insipid distillation of African rhythms, form over substance, style over content. The Rhythm of the Saints was by far a happier experiment in what became known as crossover World Music, and to a large extent So Beautiful Or So What represents a third bite of a similar cherry. This time round though, Paul Simon's ethnic heart is less visible on his sleeve, and So Beautiful delves into rhythmical grooves for the sheer joyfulness of doing so, with less global signposting and po-faced worthiness.

For a man hitting 70, this is a surprisingly modern sounding record, influenced by loops and grooves more akin to practitioners less than half Simon's age. But this is no mere exercise in form; the sheer quality of the songwriting makes Simon sound more refreshed and relevant than he has done for years. 'Getting Ready for Christmas Day' starts things off in fine form, as exuberant and original sounding as it is unexpected. 'The Afterlife' has a lovely shuffling rhythm that leads neatly into the fabulous 'Dazzling Blue', a song that would have slotted neatly into the Graceland running order, except that it sounds so much more vibrant and modern. 'Love And Hard Times' slows the pace down a little, coming on like an outtake from Bookends, a lovely reflective song. Thereafter things begin to meander a little, hence this review's lack of the full 5 stars. But the title track which comes at the end is truly magnificent, arguably the best thing on an album of many delights.
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