Friday, January 6, 2023

Paul Simon 19: In The Blue Light

Even though he wasn’t exactly a road warrior, it was surprising to hear Paul Simon announce a farewell tour in 2018. Shortly afterward, he surprised us further with an album made up entirely of remakes of songs from his catalog. To his credit, In The Blue Light isn’t merely a reclaiming of songs in publishing limbo, nor is it the “let’s orchestrate them!” gambit. Rather, he’s taken songs he felt were “underappreciated” over the years, not least by himself, and given them “fresh perspectives”.
That’s all fine and well, but it’s still an album of remakes. “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” becomes a big band slow blues, whereas “Love” (one of four songs from You’re The One) isn’t all that different, except that now it has Bill Frisell. “Can’t Run But” does get an orchestral treatment from the yMusic ensemble, who we first heard on a Ben Folds album. “How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns” goes for late-night jazz, with help from Wynton Marsalis, who infuses “Pigs, Sheep And Wolves” with New Orleans gumbo.
The yMusic folks return on “Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War”, downplaying the doo-wop references on the original but still lovely. “The Teacher” works better in this context, particularly with the focus on Spanish guitars and brief saxophone solos, but he still chooses to “act out” the emotions in “Darling Lorraine” rather than let the words and music carry them. That lengthy tune makes the moody jazz of “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy” stand out that much more. It’s an especially nice lead-in to the very soft take on “Questions For The Angels”.
Throughout In The Blue Light his voice is tired, but he works with its limitations. Having different players on each track also gives the listener time to be immersed in each, rather than have them be lost in the sequence. It’s a nice album for easy listening.

Paul Simon In The Blue Light (2018)—3

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