on 21 May 2006
Well into his sixties and with considerable success behind him, Paul Simon could easily rest on his laurels. Instead he continues to produce innovative, exciting, thoughtful music. After the valedictory air of 'You're The One', the title is undoubtedly a Simon witticism, 'Surprise' being a masterly collection of 11 perfect songs, full of poignancy, wit and warmth. Songs that really are about something too, with beautiful, delicate vocals. Brian Eno's 'sonic landscape' hightens the purity of Simon's voice (and having seen him perform a couple of times relatively recently, I can vouch for the fact that even after all these years his voice really does sound this good) and gives each song a new dimension. In some cases, 'Who Wants to Live in the Northeast?' for example, it lends them an edge and a new, exciting edginess too. 'Father And Daughter' has even been remixed and had overdubs added to bring its sound more into line with the rest of the album. My favourites tracks are currently 'Another Galaxy' and 'That's Me' but I'm sure each of these lovely songs will become a favourite in turn. Paul Simon fan or not, do yourself a favour and buy this terrific album.
This album is Paul Simon's first in the last six years, and although it may not win him many new fans, his existing fan base will be pleased to find out that the man can still write lyrics with the best of them.
As usual, the songs can be compared to short stories, told in his unique style with minimal backing arrangements, just there to perfectly frame the storyteller's art.
"How Can You Live in the Northeast" asks simple questions about the meaning of life, while "Everything About It Is a Love Song" is an introspective on a life past. "Outrageous" is a rant about bothersome things, while "Sure Don't Feel Like Love" is more political. "Beautiful" is a track that takes you back to the old Simon & Garfunkel days, as does "Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean", two of the better songs on the album. The excellent "Father and Daughter" brings the album to a close with a moving tribute to the love that a man reserves for that special little girl in his life.
"There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you"
And so it goes, eleven tracks from the master, each longer than 3 minutes, about love, war, politics, and whatever else he chooses. A great album for any Simon fan.
on 23 May 2006
I have read some derogatory reviews about SURPRISE but disagree
as this is a superbly entertaining listen. The melodies are strong,
and not cloaked beneath the surface,
and Simon's lyrics are more accessible than in a long time.
Pardon my French, but this album dumps dung from a great height on " You're the one. "
Brian Eno's involvement is a bonus, and his embellishments very
welcome as it steers the artist in a quite different direction.
The musicianship is exemplary and even Simon's fretwork ( he is
THE main guitarist )although not mind-boggling, is not half bad.
Only the final track "Father and Daughter" does not involve Eno,
ann this makes it slightly more commercially appealing and an
obvious choice for a single. I don't think there is a weak track in sight,
and if you were put off by sleights you encountered, don't be,
but just be open-minded as to Eno's electronic involvement.
Paul Simon's voice, as usual, is as pure and clear as freshly blown glass;
who needs a frizzy haired partner to harmonize with ?!!
Surprise is the title , and will probably be your reaction too.
Coming from someone who actually KEPT the Capeman album,this
release is actually up there with his best work.
Purchase without trepidation, cheers.
on 20 July 2006
This album is the most satisfying Paul Simon solo album for me since Graceland 20 years ago! Not that there haven't been moments of genius since, on all the subsequent albums but whereas Rhythm Of The Saints, Capeman and especially the last album You're The One" were for the most part disappointing, this album is actually more in the style of his classic 70s output culminating the gentle but underrated 'One Trick Pony' from 1980. There are hints of Gracelandish guitar and Brian Eno produces some interesting soundscapes but the melody and Simon's thoughtful inciteful lyrics are mostly to the fore. Who but Paul Simon can continue to offer such astute observations about Life and its mysteries after more than 30 years? His voice also is still perfect. Quite remarkable, as David Coleman might have said.
And whereas the electronic production was slightly ill-fitting to some of the Hearts And Bones tracks (eg Cars Are Cars) but worked triumphantly on other cuts ('Allergies', 'Think Too Much Part 2) here it mostly works too. No amount of production on any album can disguise the melodic and lyrical genius of the man. He is simply more consistent overall in this respect than anyone. Including Paul McCartney.
Did I, possibly the biggest Beatles solo fan on the planet, really say that? Well Yes I did. This album is a pretty triumphant return to form, sadly unlike Paul's last rather lacklustre effort. So Go On Paul, top your mate next time please.
Highlights here are the first song 'How Can You Live In The North East?' The witty 'Outrageous' is superb. 'Wartime Prayers' is fine, although not the classic it is made out to be in some quarters. 'Beautiful' is nice and infectious as is 'Sure Don't Feel Like Love' and 'I Don' t Believe You'. 'Another Galaxy' is Paul Simon's answer to The Beatles 'She's Leaving Home' best part of 30 years later. It works wonderfully. The other tracks all have something to commend them and then comes 'Father And Daughter', an absolute Paul Simon classic, where simply awesome melody and delivery come about as naturally as naturally as a cool mountain stream. Sublime end to a fine album. Thank you Paul.
on 10 July 2006
I have been a Paul Simon fan for as long as I can remember. I have wonderful memories of my sister and I playing 'Bridge...' and the Simon & Garfunkel greatest hits album. And my fist listening to the alien sounds of Graceland that now seem so familiar to me.
I had no great expectations for Paul latest venture, I have always trusted in him to transport me to somewhere new and to somehow link his songs to my own past experiences. But frankly nothing could prepare me for this....
So much has happened in this little world of ours since 9/11 and much of it is reflected in the pool of lyrical beauty. Wartimes Prayers moved me to tears on first listening and how the words echo how many of us feel at this time...
"I'm trying to tap into some wisdom. Even a little drop will do. I want to rid my heart of envy, and cleanse my soul of rage before I'm through."
I find myself listening to this album almost everyday, and even when I'm not physically listening to it, the songs are playing in my mind...And that ain't no bad thing I feel. So much for someone saying it had no melody and no hook...how wrong they were. It's hard to sit here a break the album down, song from song as they are all so incredible. And I'm warm with summer and can't think straight!
Someone said that if you were a fan of Tom & Jerry, S&G, or pre-Graceland, you'd probably hate this album, well, I love all the above and I love this. I love Paul's music because it's never the same, he evolves and will continue to do so, so long as breath passes is lips...Did I just say that..gosh!
I love everything about Paul, his guitar playing, his melody and ever beautiful lyrics and his wonderful voice that is warm and gentle and has no hatred or sharpness and not even venom.
Yep it's true, I'm still crazy, for Paul and his music, after all these years....
on 14 December 2006
The cerebral Mr Simon makes a welcome return with an interesting sonic landscape.
Far better than 2000's muted "You're The One." This is an interesting sounding album with some (as you would expect) excellent songwriting in evidence. As ever, the man's idiosyncratic phrasing is to the fore but it does not grate as here it is employed with intelligence and style.
Opener "How Can You Live In The Northeast?" is an intelligent and well-produced song that covers religion and global politics in one fell-swoop taking in Hurricane Katrina with eloquence and grace. No clunking undergraduate posturing.
"Outrageous" is bordering on funk and carries itself well. "Wartime Prayers" is stunning and moving. Mr Simon at his intuitive best.
"Father & Daughter" could be terrible. It pre-dates the other songs on this album and middle-aged men writing songs about their kids is not a recipe for greatness but here it somehow works.
"Sure Don't Feel Like Love" is sharp and melodic. "That's Me" is memorable and well-crafted.
A welcome, intelligent, stylish and accomplished effort. And a return to form. The man's still got it. Looking forward to his next one.
on 1 October 2006
This could well be Paul Simon's best album. Every song is superbly sung, played and arranged. I must mention Steve Gadd's drumming - absolutely brilliant. The rhythms are very complex on several of the tracks - try tapping along and you'll see what I mean - but he is in total command. The melodies are exquisite. The lyrics are, by turns, witty, joyful and deeply heart-wrenching.
I bought the album very soon after it came out and I haven't stopped listening to it. I play it almost every day, something I haven't done with an album since I was about 15 (over thirty years ago). I must admit that at first I found the Eno contribution a bit intrusive, but after a few plays it fitted like a glove.
When you consider others of Paul Simon's generation who were considered greats - the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Dylan - none of them has maintained the consistency of Paul Simon. For him to produce an album as good as this after such a long and excellent career is amazing, and very, very welcome. I just hope he carries on for a long time. I am hungry for more.
on 8 June 2006
Really, this album is a marvellous offering by Paul Simon and though I am not a major fan and haven't really followed his last few musical 'journeys' closely, I was intruiged by this combination with Brian Eno and wanted to see what he'd come up with.
Let me pre-warn old school Paul Simon listeners though; if you liked Tom and Jerry, Simon and Garfunkel or the pre-Graceland Paul Simon, you're going to be dissapointed. You might even hate this album. It is, to use my poor english, edgy in its undertones and has an electronic base that is typical of anything Brian Eno works on. If you are expecting Paul, a guitar and a few backing instruments, you will be shocked.
BUT to those who have an open mind, and aren't prone to stereotyping artists, this album will be a pleasant, and really delightful surprise (pardon the pun). Paul Simon's musical offering is intruiging in that, without really saying anything (the lyrics are totally abstract), the songs say a lot. The sonic soundscapes Brian Eno has provided have worked delightfully. Simon's voice is in TOP form and it is remarkable how well it has held up over the decades. Listen to a Simon and Garfunkel album, a 70s offering and 'Surprise' and vocally there is NO difference.
At the end of the day, if you like good lyrics, a modern rythmnic and melodic offering, you don't have to look too far than "Surprise". At the risk of meandering some more, highlights on the album are:
"Sure Don't Feel Like Love" - Paul Simon doing a R&B performance. Listen to the words though. Amazing content!
"Wartime Prayers" - No Neil Young or Bob Dylan but just as powerful. Paul Simon's distanced observation about the destruction and pain of wars is remarkable.
"Outrageous" - Upbeat, up tempo song that should have been released as a single in the UK. Listen to the words. "I'm an ordinary player in the key of C, broken by my pride and my vanity" - just delightful.
"Another Galaxy" - The B Side to "Father and Daughter" and the best song on the album.
"Father and Daughter" - For all the daddys out there. Really nice tone and lyrics.
Highly recommended. Possibly the best album of 2006 to date. Should be nominated and win a Grammy for sure.
on 3 February 2007
I reckon this is the best thing Paul Simon has ever done, and I incldue Graceland and Bridge. Like the last reviewer, I'm a bit of a traditionalist and sometimes hanker after the old accoustic, melodic Paul Simon. I was very apprehensive about the electronic influence of Brian Eno - but I think it works perfectly on this. I don't think there is a weak song on the whole album. Normally I play albums I like so much that I eventually get temporarily sick of them no matter how good they are - it hasn't happened yet with Surprise, and it should have done by now!
on 13 June 2006
What a tremendous musical comeback by Paul Simon!
Surprise is a serious masterstroke by a musical genius. Paul's decision to team up with Brian Eno not only shows his willingness to evolve but displays the underlying creativity and variety that drives his music.
I refuse to accept that this music is not melodic; it is edgy, sure, but has enough catchiness to make you keeep thinking about it over and over. And the lyrics...oh the lyrics...masterful. Lyrically every song on this album is a highlight!
Highlights galore on this real gem. Highly recommended.