- 30 Sep 18
If It Ain"t Baroque, Don't Fix It
Paul Simon can of course do whatever he pleases, but this is a quare bag of fish. Re-recordings of “songs that were odd enough to be overlooked the first time around.” - i.e. material that the less obsessed fan might have missed. Nothing, then, from big splashers like Graceland but four songs from 2000’s slightly-less-loved You’re The One. The rest stretch from 1973’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon up to 2011’s So Beautiful Or So What. Simon might contest that the originals missed something - according to the man himself "re-doing arrangements, harmonic structures, and lyrics that didn’t make their meaning clear, gave me time to clarify in my own head what I wanted to say, or realise what I was thinking and make it more easily understood" - but some lose out in the rejigging.
The oldest songs – ‘One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor’ and ‘Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy’ - sound slightly deflated, adjusted to appeal to the more jazz-inclined. He hasn’t quite descended to Sting’s be-bop basement of doom, but the edges have been planed off. ‘How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns’, originally from One Trick Pony, suffers a similar fate, boasting trumpet where guitar was once sufficient, while ‘Pigs, Sheep and Wolves’ is given a New Orleans injection, but, regardless of how he polishes it, it’s a long way from his best song.
Those lucky enough to catch the farewell tour have already seen him perform with the small string ensemble yMusic, and their modern classical rearrangements of ‘Can’t Run But’ and, most especially, the beautiful ‘René and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War’ are the most successful transformations, although you really can’t go wrong with songs as untouchable as ‘The Teacher’ – which now sounds like a lost Leonard Cohen cut – ‘Love’, and ‘Questions For The Angels’.
Simon, as a songwriter, has precious few peers, so any recording of his is time well spent. If you’re coming at this having heard few of these songs before, then it’s heartily recommended, but for long time Simon fanciers, the originals shade it.