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Who’s Gonna Love You When Your Looks Are Gone?
The complex work of such a famous mind as Paul Simon remains a mystery as we embark on a journey through his latest album ‘Surprise.’ This amazing album needs to be put first and the myth needs to be dispelled. Ever since the sensation of ‘Graceland,’ back in 1986, we’ve been living in limbo, not far from the sensation of floating on a world tour so his next three albums (Concert In The Park Live; November 1991, Songs From The Capeman; November 1997 and You’re One, October 2000) just passed us by in silence. So why did this album ‘surprise’ us in 2006? What on earth made us so strong?
Can it be true that this young, silly, English teacher-like boy is turning sixty-five this October? It would be good. Simon is back, he charmed us with his dedication to modern music. He may, let’s face it, have been on stage with ease over the years and enlighten us with renditions of ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ and maybe ‘Mother and Son,’ both unique compositions in their own right, but it would be a smooth way to tread on a certain level in ‘the life of an artisan than embarking on the cold, unfriendly path of dipping old toes into the sea of youthful culture.
Therefore, we must embrace this man who has allowed us to engage in a long life campaign to awaken us politically and culturally, and bathe us in his spiritual ability to create such music to dream and expand our sometimes, narrow minds. .
This title, perhaps, says it all. What does it mean to us to hear someone say ‘I was shocked!’ We are in shock, shock and awe. Well, at this point, I have summed up the entire album in just a few words. ‘Graceland’ is not. ‘Bolt from the blue,’ that’s for sure.
The perfection and simplicity of the child’s face is visible to us, staring into us, from the cover of this white album. This picture, just brings questions in the mind of the audience; Is the child surprised? Is the birth of a child surprising? For me, the idea of rebirth comes to mind and it is this idea that stays with me throughout the album.
It would mean that the feeling we get after listening to this album is like that. Feeling reborn. Simon is definitely finding new footing in his journey through these songs. Or maybe, it’s just an easy feeling to step into a nice, new pair of shoes. Being loyal to Warner Bros again and making a solo album, he gives us a small group of songs; eleven in all, therefore, it is up to us to make up our minds if these shoes look good enough on him.
In the context of this world through the eyes of a wise, mature artist, the images on the cover of the brochure are simple, sensitive to strong, haunting words. We see a picture of a huge wave from the ocean that is about to submerge the beach resort. An American city was filled with smoke. A young boy’s ear, just after shooting the camera. One person is drinking another person and throwing a bucket of water at him. Family like Monkeys, hugging each other. A missile falling into the sea. Oriental baby face. Foxgloves grow on hillsides covered with ferns. A photo of a family, which fell on the sidewalk. A view of the Empire State Building in the swamp at night. A very small picture of the man himself, and finally, the happy face of a happy girl, playing. These pictures are fascinating and I’m trying to say, to remind us of events, which in today’s daily life, we seem to have forgotten.
Yet it is these images that, in a way, reflect the music within. Although it is a mistake to equate a song or a simple song to the tragedy of the World, it is the combination of music and images that we see, which creates the meaning of how the world is seen through the eyes of this person.
The album begins with a question. The song, ‘How Can You Be in the North East?,’ is filled with acoustic guitars and thrashing drums. These words are in Simon’s original style, at the same time he provokes the audience with question after question about religion and beliefs. Touching on every word that defines a person, this song can be seen as confusing, but there is a moral somewhere. The situation is frustrating through this process and the next one. We wonder, as listeners, where Simon thought he was going with this album. He seems to have a lot to say. We witness the sounds and discordant noises that we might hear from artists like Coldplay or David Gray. The theme is light and sad, but don’t let that put you off. Simon’s music creates messages for us, so we need to recognize and appreciate what this man is saying.
Simon, known for dipping his artistic toes into the sounds of the music world tickles our funny bones with ‘Outrageous,’ which, lyrically, briefly touches on the comedy ‘You Can Call Me Al,’ from ‘Graceland.’ ‘ They sing, ‘Who will love you when your appearance is gone?’ that will put a smile on every face. This topic is interesting and straight to the point. She is light, happy and welcomed by Simon. We embrace him with the fun, familiar voice that we already know as Paul Simon.
Moving further in the sea of current sounds, Simon tries to play with the exciting modern styles of drums and vocals. A little appreciation is unknown here and the experimental playing with Prince’s idea of a loud voice, surprisingly, works as well. So, in a deep sense, we understand the need to come to the world gradually in ‘Wartime Prayers.’ Soothing and beautifully crafted around the acoustic guitar style and angelic voice that is Paul Simon. Accompanied by the warm, hair-raising vocals of the Jessy Dixon Singers, this song is as powerful as a Michael Jackson song. It runs up and down and along the edges of our music like waves on a silent sea. Simon is wrapping his arms around the world in this process. Alive we find him in this mood and through the calypso themes of ‘Beautiful,’ too. Simon still attracts us with strange, church like words. His voice, like Elvis, will, I don’t think, ever leave him.
This custom, coming together goes hand in hand with the next album. In all these songs, Simon is joined by the best musicians he could lay his hands on. There are a few here who also appeared on ‘Graceland.’ So it’s no surprise that in ‘Another Galaxy,’ we find these men delivering their amazing voices like dust in our ears.
This song has a bit of a country feel, almost like Dire Straits went country, yet this song will make you feel very relaxed. There is something distant that catches the ear more than anything else. This distant theme idea is also found in ‘Once Upon a Time in the Sea.’ These roles are also, so simple that they ignite our imaginations with global issues of Global Warming, War, pain, joy and beauty. All things appear, form the beginnings of a person today.
‘We’ll just skip the boring parts of the first, second and third chapter and get to where you can read my face and my history..’ and the opening lines of the heavy groove livened ‘That’s Me,’ Closed with a scratch The guitar string is heard first, this song is real, the history of ing’ including the first love of young people. He seems to be questioning himself throughout the album. He is about to beg to justify himself that ‘he is here.’ We wonder, if Simon has now reached the point of doing his job when he sees that he only focuses on his job. We all get a brief moment of introspection at some point in our lives, and I feel that this was Paul Simon’s moment.
Perhaps the song that makes the album stand out in the listener’s mind is ‘Father and Daughter,’ heavy on the bass, however, it’s a gentle, rocking piece with country vocals and foot-shaking themes. It’s as unassuming and unoffensive as any song can be. These are the things we love most about Simon; intense meditation back to reality. It’s as if Simon is realizing his ability to create music that loves, embraces and embraces love and life. Not only her, though, her influence on her thoughts and feelings has always led to her best work. This song could be another brush with reality. Used as the closing track of ‘The Wild Thornberries,’ (the video) it’s as fitting for a kid’s cartoon as it is for the end of an impressive, great album.
On further reflection, one might be disappointed to hear that this album is approaching. We are also allowed to wander into the mind of a unique and gifted artist who, today, is campaigning politically in Africa and other countries. Over the years, Simon has been an organization, music and politics. He has moved us and at the same time, he has given us sounds, ideas and music that we would have had, that we have never heard before. He is a legacy of how music should be written, produced and appreciated. Simple, comfortable and totally lovable.
So for those of you who are looking for an old man with wasted talent, no originals and no money…
I’ll let the inside cover of the brochure say it all…
How can you live in the North East?
Everything About It Is A Love Song,
Sure Don’t Feel Like Love,
I don’t believe it,
Once upon a time there was an ocean,
Father and Daughter.
Paul Simon – Lyrics / Music / Production
Sonic Space with added sound and music – Brian Eno
Bass – Pino Palladino/Abraham Laboriel/Alex Al
Drums – Steve Gadd/Robin Dimaggio
Harmonium – Gil Goldstein
Electric guitar – Bill Frisell
Fretless Bass – Leo Abrahams
Percussion – Jamey Haddad
Warner Bros. 2006
©Michelle Hatcher ‘sam1942’ 2006
Ciao/dooyoo and elsewhere
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