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Bentley's Bandstand: Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What

Posted By Karen Young On April 20, 2011 @ 11:37 pm In Arts & Culture,Music | No Comments

BY BILL BENTLEY

Paul Simon, So Beautiful Or So What, Hear Music

By now, Paul Simon has proven everything one person needs to prove. He has written songs that will live forever, made recordings likely never to be equaled, and shown a creativity that is like a lighthouse for other artists. Even better, though, is his constant push forward in making music that goes all the way to the center of life. Like most singer-songwriters who have been working for almost half a century, there are no givens. Sometimes you find greatness and other times it remains a pursuit. But on So Beautiful Or So What, Paul Simon shows why he may be our most prized popular artist. These ten songs are equal to anything he’s ever done, and Simon shows no signs of relenting now. The challenge of excellence burns as bright as it ever did for him, and we are the lucky receivers of his quest.

For starters, the sound of the players on the new album is a continuing joy. Paul Simon always goes for the slightly unexpected, and by just rearranging a few pieces of an instrumental puzzle can make the world sound brand new. Whether he’s locked in the deepest questions of life on earth or what may possibly come after, musically the notes promise an unending inspiration. The New Yorker is in love with how instruments fit together, whatever part of the world they’re from, and there is a subtle uniqueness how Simon puts those pieces together. By now, he’s pretty much living in his own creation and is clearly enjoying the view. If he needs to use a sermon from 1941 by Rev. J.M. Gates, well, why not go and get it. The great thing about music is how everyone is in it together. It’s like a continuum without end, and someone like Paul Simon has never come to a wall he can’t go over. Even in his early Simon & Garfunkel days, there was always a sense of discovery underneath the irresistible voices that pulled us in. That doesn’t change.

The questions Paul Simon has often addressed, starting with love and ending in death, are still the same. His songs approach them from endless angles and in various states of mind with respect and originality. Song for song, no one has ever done it with more understanding and power. The mission has stayed the same. Paul Simon sounds like he’s still trying to figure out why we are the way we are, and when he does he’ll be the first to let us know. Whether it’s “The Afterlife,” “Love is the Eternal LIght” or “Questions for the Angels,” what Simon says was, is and always will be music to our ears. So beautiful.

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