Website: Paul Simon
The Inside Pulse:
Considering his long career, Surprise may be Paul Simon’s most aptly titled album yet. Gone are the African and Brazilian-inflected polyrhythms, the tribal beats and tributes to other cultures. In their place are the sonic landscapes of Brian Eno who, with his work with Talking Heads in the 80s and, like Paul Simon, helped to usher “world” music into the western musical mindset.
On Surprise the meeting of the minds finally happens. Considering Simon’s noted perfectionism and Eno’s well-documented liberal use of the erase button, this “what if?” pairing may sound like a disaster on paper. Surprisingly, it works so well, you’re left to wonder why it hadn’t happened a decade or two before.
Positives: Simon’s spoken-word lyrical flow sounds natural on songs such as “Wartime Prayers” and “How Can You Live in the Northeast?”. The two dabble in electronic funk on “Outrageous,” the first single. Simon’s semi-sarcastic chorus of “Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?” ties together themes of aging and hopelessness, answering his question with “God will”, wrapping up the song exquisitely in the way that only Paul Simon knows how. He closes the album with “Father and Daughter” which originally appeared on the Wild Thornberry’s Soundtrack. The inclusion of this song is very welcome for those of us who didn’t want to splurge on some Nick-tunes.
Negatives: As with most Simon albums, they tend to get a little long in the tooth. While a fantastic self-editor, Simon albums are usually one song too long. Which one is up to the listener.
Cross-breed: Paul Simon with Brian Eno. Come on, what do you expect?
Reason To Buy: This guy averages 3 albums per 20 years, and he’s a songwriting genius. The overwhelming quality of Simon’s oeuvre speaks volumes.