Top positive review
Stunning revisit of some adored tracks
8 September 2018
My favourite Paul Simon song is "One man's ceiling..." and my favourite Paul Simon album is "Hearts and Bones", so you may wish to consider my comments in the light of that.
The CD arrived yesterday, and I put it on my little JVC player in my study while I was working. It sounded OK, the first song ("One man's ceiling...") grabs you straight away with that incredible piano riff, but there was something missing from the sound. So after work, I took it downstairs and put it on my hifi. The difference was incredible - the bass sounds rang out and brought the whole album to life.
So, what did I think? Imagine you've got a really great uncle (or aunt, you choose), they're your favourite relative, and you love them deeply. Then one day you meet them at work and they're just a completely different person. Well, that's how I sort of felt after the first couple of listens. Same songs, just in a different context. I should also say, I never used to buy singles (I reckon I've bought 3 in my 53 years), only ever albums because I love to hear the the context of what the artist was producing when they put out the original, so I have very few Greatest Hits CDs, etc.
Of the songs themselves? I'll start of by saying that the least successful is "Rene and Georgette Magritte..." but quite simply because the original version was perfection and you can't improve on perfection. This version has lost a lot of the minimalist feel of 'Hearts and Bones' but there's no doubt it still works as a great song. You're just left wondering what Paul felt was missing from the original based on what he says in the sleeve notes. The two most successful reinventions are "Can't Run But" and "Some Folks' Lives..." The orchestration on "Can't Run But" is beautiful and the change in tone from the "Rhythm of the Saints" version brings a new life to the song with its different syncopations. I loved the new version of "Pigs, Sheep and Wolves", Paul's vocals are clearer than on the original and you can hear the words better, which brings a new dynamic to their power. And the backing is phenomenal. Wynton Marsalis has written an arrangement that at times sounds like a New Orleans Jazz Band, and it really works well.
Which brings me back to "One Man's ceiling..." How am I going to treat my favourite Uncle now I've met him in a different context? The original is one of my Desert Island tracks, and the thing about favourite songs is you don't want them to be anybody else's favourites, you want to keep them as personal and close, and nobody else is allowed to share it with you. So now other people might get to know this song and it might be their favourite too, and I just don't want to share my favourite uncle with anybody, even if the uncle they know is the work version rather than the home version.
To sum up - this is a stunning album. Paul's voice is strong and there is a clarity to his vocals, the musicianship is brilliant. I love the blues & jazz reimagining, everything about this album is sublime. Buy it, you'll love it too.