Paul Simon plays a lovely version of the title track from his forgotten 1983 album Hearts And Bones. This clip is from July 1991 in Spain, and features handy Spanish subtitles. Corazones y huesos…
Posts Tagged ‘Paul Simon’
You don’t have to like Joni Mitchell to dig those Burundi drums, doing their thing a full decade before Paul Simon got to Africa. Joni gets philosophical, floats like a ghost through buildings and over the big city, observes drug runners, bitchy gossips and jaded businessmen, all while seeking the edge of civilization. What she finds is a universal savage, licking its lips with a forked tongue and waiting for fresh meat. Poisonous snakes are poised to strike, flowers adorn caskets, and nature is within. It always wins in the end…
Listen: The Jungle Line
[Today: Between heaven and earth…]
With nearly three million people, São Salvador da Baía de Todos os Santos (“Holy Savior of All Saints’ Bay”) is the third largest city in Brazil. This coastal metropolis is the birthplace of Candomblé, a combination of Catholic and African religions that recognizes a plethora of saints, and holds that nature has a soul. Its practitioners are known as “povo de santo” (people of the saint), and the drumbeat of their religion is one of the engines that powers Paul Simon’s 1990 album Rhythm Of The Saints.
Graceland, released four years earlier, gets all the props, but Rhythm Of The Saints is more mature, spiritual, and flat-out enjoyable. Graceland focused on the various rhythms of Africa, but here Simon incorporates both West African and Brazilian sounds and players, and driving percussion throughout. If Graceland is painted in bright, vivid colors that often verge on cartoonish (think ‘You Can Call Me Al’), here Simon uses an impressionist touch with his lyrics, turning scattered details (like Bougainvillea and black lizard boots) and obscure scenes into a mood of spiritual yearning and somber reflection.
Much like the Povo de Santo, who combined the earthen and the saintly, the characters on this album soak in the beauty of the world, even as they’re grounded by their own human limitations. Whether it’s Sonny in ‘The Obvious Child’, the family of musicians in ‘The Coast’ or the Ukrainian in ‘Can’t Run But’, everyone here is surrounded by maroon light, the half moon floating through the clouds, falling stars, and other spectacular exhibits of natural wonder – even as they plumb their own souls for some meaning.
“Some people say the sky is just the sky,” sings Simon, but for the characters on Rhythm Of The Saints, the sky is a place to keep their hopes and dreams safe, while the beat goes on.
Listen: Obvious Child
Listen: Born At The Right Time
“I’m more in love with Rock-n-Roll today than other things. It grows, you know?” – Bon Scott
AC/DC | Live From The Atlantic Studios
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Buffalo Soldier [12″ single]
Jorge Ben | Ben
The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Live At Winterland
Paul McCartney | McCartney
Freddie Hubbard | Breaking Point
The Kinks | The Great Lost Kinks Album
The Police | Outlandos d’Amour
Iron And Wine | The Shepherd’s Dog
The Rolling Stones | Emotional Rescue
Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin II
Paul Simon | Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-1986
The Meters | Fire On The Bayou
My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves
Gary Higgins | Red Hash
Traffic | Welcome To The Canteen
Eric B. & Rakim | Don’t Sweat The Technique
Bruce Springsteen | We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Os Mutantes | A Divina Comedia Ou
John Prine | The Missing Years
Thin Lizzy | Johnny The Fox
James Luther Dickinson | Free Beer Tomorrow
Radio Birdman | The Essential Radio Birdman
Temple Of The Dog | Temple Of The Dog
Liz Phair | Exile In Guyville
The Juan MacLean | Less Than Human
G. Love And Special Sauce | The Best Of…
Various Artists | The Sun Records Collection
Steel Pulse | True Democracy
Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time
Easy Star All-Stars | Dub Side Of The Moon
It was so hot this weekend in the Bay Area that The P and I just sat in front of the turntable and a fan, and melted into puddles. Here’s some of what we melted to…
Front 242 | Front By Front
Grootna | Grootna
Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen | Lost In The Ozone
Various Artists | Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980
Various Artists | Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus Soundtrack
Roots Manuva | Run Come Save Me
Eddie Vedder | Into The Wild
Massive Attack | Protection
Spank Rock | Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo
Atmosphere | Seven’s Travels
My Morning Jacket | Z
Fred Neil | Bleecker & MacDougal
M. Ward | Hold Time
Santana | Abraxas
Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time
The Clash | Sandinista!
Fleetwood Mac | Then Play On
Nina Simone | The Best Of Nina Simone
The Beach Boys | The Beach Boys Today!
Various Artists | Ghana Soundz
Pink Floyd | Animals
Otis Redding | In Person At The Whisky A Go Go
Gary Higgins | Red Hash
Paul Simon | The Rhythm Of The Saints
Jimmy Forrest | Out Of The Forrest
John Fahey | The Best Of John Fahey 1959-1977
Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album, Bridge Over Troubled Water is widely considered to be their masterpiece: Rolling Stone picked it as the 51st greatest album of all-time, and AllMusic.com rewarded it with a five-star review. And yet, I can’t help feeling a little bored when the needle hits this album. Let’s investigate…
THUMBS UP: Simon & Garfunkel’s harmonic folk-rock was a big part of the soundtrack of the sixties. Not all of their material has aged well, but brilliant songwriting never goes out of style, and Paul Simon is one of the best in the business. ‘The Boxer’ is one of the finest character portraits to be found in song – a haunting take on a lonely profession. When Simon sings “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear/And disregards the rest” he gets as close to Tao/existential wisdom as any 60s rocker ever did. ‘Cecilia’ is a great tune, and certainly one of the catchiest songs ever written about heartbreak and infidelity. This was the duo’s last album together before Simon split for a wildly successful solo career, and because it was released in 1970, it’s one of the albums that have come to represent the closing of the sixties. But with or without that subtext, it’s well worth the $1 that I paid for it.
THUMBS DOWN: Bridge Over Troubled Water is a fine album, on balance. The title track, however, is the ‘You Light Up My Life‘ of the 60s – a cloying ballad that was massively successful in its time, but now has the power to drive men mad. ‘Baby Driver’ sounds like a parody of Simon & Garfunkel, and for every undeniable highlight here there’s a puzzler like their head-scratching cover of ‘Bye Bye Love’. Yawns will be stifled during ‘A Song For The Asking’, which has to rate as one of the most appropriately titled filler songs of all-time. But beyond nit-picking individual tunes, the biggest problem with this album can be summed up in four words: Paul Simon’s solo career. Simon continued to grow as a songwriter after he left Garfunkel behind, and consequently his solo albums are more adventurous and interesting than most of the S&G catalog. Why come here when you can go there?
[Calling all Art Garfunkel fans… calling all Art Garfunkel fans…]
[Today: A man and the blues…]
Jackson C. Frank’s life was filled with suffering and his music was forged by misery. When he was 11 years old a boiler fire ripped through his school, killing 18 of his classmates and leaving him with third-degree burns. During his seven month recovery he learned how to play guitar – eventually becoming good enough to make a career in music seem plausible.
On his 21st birthday, he received a $100,000 insurance settlement related to the school fire. This was an enormous amount of money at the time, and it enabled Frank to dispense with work and follow his musical aspirations full-time. In 1965 he hopped a ship bound for England, and en route wrote his first song – the amazing ‘Blues Run The Game’ (“Catch a boat for England baby, maybe to Spain…”). Once in England, he bought himself a Bentley and an Aston-Martin, and fell in with the burgeoning UK folk crowd, befriending Al Stewart, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and dating an attractive young folkie named Sandy Denny.
Frank wisely jumped all over Paul Simon’s offer to produce his debut. The entire album was knocked out in a single three hour session in the summer of 1965 that saw Frank singing behind sound screens in the studio to help alleviate his acute stage fright. The album – an otherworldly mixture of folk, blues, and 100-proof sorrow – was a minor sensation in folk circles, but serious writer’s block prevented Frank from recording a follow-up.
As his insurance money began to dwindle, he moved back to the states, married a former fashion model, settled in Woodstock, NY, and edited a local newspaper for a time. But the death of his infant son in the early-70’s sent Frank into a spiral of deep depression, and he spent the rest of his life in and out of a variety of institutions. Jackson Carey Frank died of cardiac arrest on March 3rd, 1999. He was 56 years old.
Listen: Blues Run The Game
Listen: My Name Is Carnival
Who knows why these things happen? Some albums just can’t catch a break, and for a variety of reasons, don’t get the amount of critical or popular respect that they deserve. Here are ten that I think are worth a second listen and some serious reappraisal. Once again, I’m keeping this list to artists that are generally well-known enough that your mom might recognize the names…
Beck * Mutations
Why it gets shorted: It came right after Odelay, which is pretty much Beck’s benchmark album. The introspective, dour songs prefaced the gloom and doom of 2002’s Sea Change.
What’s great about it: A very strong crop of songs that are effectively avant garde and poetic. It’s the aural equivalent of listening to a Salvador Dali painting.
Better than: Everything he’s done except Odelay, Guero, and The Information.
Paul Simon * Rhythm Of The Saints
Why it gets shorted: This album came after his landmark album (note a trend, besides me using adjectives that end in -mark?) Graceland. No real hit singles to hang your hat on here.
What’s great about it: On the whole, a much more satisfying realization of the sound of Simon’s infatuation with African music than this album’s more popular counterpart. It has held up extremely well over time, while the overplayed singles on Graceland seriously date that album. [PS – note the great ‘cut bin’ hole on the picture – which I pulled from Amazon.com!]
Better than: Everything else in his catalogue, in my opinion.
Public Enemy * Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black
Why it gets shorted: Yet again, it came right after their strongest work – It Takes A Nation Of Millions… and Fear Of A Black Planet. On balance, this album is angrier and more political than either of its more well-known brethren.
What’s great about it: A steady succession of hard-hitting songs about slave ships, liquor dealers and bringin’ noise make this – like Paul Simon’s Rhythym Of The Saints – the more perfect realization of the group’s vision than its more celebrated counterparts. And please note – this is the only blog on earth that dares to compare Paul Simon and Public Enemy.
Better than: Not better than their best work, but certainly as good as anything else they’ve done.
Steely Dan * Gaucho
Why it gets shorted: Perhaps I should have named this column “albums that came after artists’ best albums” – this one came after Aja, which people spend an unnecessary amount of time drooling over. Also, ‘Glamour Profession’ and the title track are pretty silly, unless you’re stoned.
What’s great about it: ‘Babylon Sisters’ is epic, for one thing. Also, this was the album when the ironic glint in the Dan’s eye dimmed a bit, and it was obvious that they were a group on the edge, and the party of the 70’s was over. Many critics damn this album for that reason, but that’s what makes it great to me. [In fact this was one of my staple albums from ’95 to ’97 and I practically wore out the grooves on my dollar vinyl copy.]
Better than: Again, not better than – but as good as – their best stuff.
Joni Mitchell * The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
Why it gets shorted: While this did come after her uber-celebrated Court & Spark, it was a huge left turn away from that sound. This was where Mitchell began losing traction with her audience, and she steadily retreated into ever more musically obtuse corners.
What’s great about it: ‘The Jungle Line’ is absolutely incredible. This lush, pounding song sampled African drums in 1975 (take that Paul Simon!) and is worth the price of admission alone. And give her credit, she could have spent 20 years cranking out Court & Spark clones, but decided to take some chances instead. And for major bonus points, this is reportedly Prince’s (the artist & symbol) favorite album of all-time.
Better than: Everything in her catalogue but Court & Spark.
Willie Nelson & Leon Russell * One For The Road
Why it gets shorted: Willie cranks out about two albums each year, so it’s pretty hard for any but his most devoted fans to even keep up with his current stuff – let alone go dipping 30 years into the past.
What’s great about it: Willie & Leon = two great voices that sound great together.
Better than: Anything he’s produced in the last two decades.
Little Feat * The Last Record Album
Why it gets shorted: The cover art on this album is a poor sister to some of Neon Park’s artwork that is so associated with the group. Also, there’s nothing here that has ever troubled any of their ‘greatest hits’ albums.
What’s great about it: This is the sound of Lowell George and company locked into a solid groove, start to finish. There’s nothing even remotely unlikable on this album.
Better than: Sailin’ Shoes, which seems strangely overrated to me.
Van Morrison * Into The Music
Why it gets shorted: Van was pretty uneven – to say the least – from the mid-seventies until the mid-eighties.
What’s great about it: A knockout set that finds Van The Man sounding loose, confident, and swinging. This is truly one of those ‘why don’t I listen to this more often?’ albums.
Better than: Anything else from his late-70’s/early-80’s period.
The Kinks * Muswell Hillbillies
Why it gets shorted: Not nearly as good as their mid-60’s work, but not nearly as bad as the 70’s work that this album generally gets lumped in with.
What’s great about it: Lots of great songs, and the ‘concept’ around this album was loose enough that it didn’t weigh the whole thing down like most of their 70’s output, such as Schoolboys In Disgrace and Soap Opera.
Better than: Anything that came after, if you get right down to it.
The Beach Boys * Surf’s Up
Why it gets shorted: This couldn’t be further from the sunshine and surfin’ good times that the 60’s Beach Boys represented.
What’s great about it: Exactly what repelled people from it back in the day. This is the sound of the sixties dying in a murky, oily mixture of pollution, police sirens, and indifference. ‘Feel Flows’ would have been the perfect song to play at midnight on December 31st, 1969.
Better than: Everything in their catalogue except Pet Sounds.