All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Sunday, 18 June 2006

Waiting For Paul

It’s not easy being a fan of Paul Simon. When you consider that we’ve had to wait six years since his last offering, You’re The One and eleven years before that one (Rhythm Of The Saints)…we are certainly a patient lot. I could include Songs From The Capeman, but I’m referring to his proper studio albums.

Yes you can argue that we’ve had the Simon and Garfunkel set two years ago, but that doesn’t really count. For puritans like me, Paul Simon has released just three albums in seventeen years.

The good news however, is that the wait (since the year 2000) has been worthwhile. I can report that I’ve got his new album, Surprise and it is superb.

The release has featured in the media quite a bit, not least because it is produced by rock veteran Brain Eno. Now I must confess that I know very little about the said gentleman, except that he’s some sort of legend whose big thing is electronic music. I may not know Mr Eno’s oeuvre, but Paul Simon’s entire catalogue (give or take some bootlegs) sits very proudly in my CD collection.

In other words, it’s his work that interests me.

Surprise reminds us why Paul Simon is so special. His beautifully crafted lyrics roll out like “endless rain inside a letterbox”.

Here are some choice excerpts

In “Outrageous” he repeatedly asks:

“Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?”

and finally provides the answer with the profound:

“G-d will”

He refers to the tragedy of New Orleans being wrecked by Hurricane Katrina in “How Can You Live In The Northeast?”, with the still unanswered question:

“How can you build on the banks of a river when the flood waters pour from the mouth?!


His paean on the horrors of war, Wartime Prayers contains the following heartbreaking observation about how individuals are affected by the war (presumably in Iraq):

“A mother murmurs in twilight sleepAnd draws her babies closer.With hush-a-byes for sleepy eyes,And kisses on the shoulder.To drive away despair.”

To give away any more lyrics would be robbing you of the opportunity to listen to one of the great recordings of the early twenty first century. Please do yourself a favour and beg or borrow a copy of this wonderful CD. You may not get it the first time round, but do give it time and listen again and again. It’s a grower if ever there was one - the music, rhythms and lyrics are first class.

Welcome back Paul. You’ve kept us waiting for six years and although we’ve salivated intensely for your next offerings, it’s certainly been worth the effort. We know that you are a perfectionist and will settle for nothing but best…

…but please bring out another release before 2012!


Teacher’s Rating:  ***** (full marks)

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