As I mentioned in an earlier post, Paul Simon is one of my top three favorite songwriters – not to mention performers – ever. I haven’t yet written nearly enough about him but that long-overdue Simon and Garfunkel series (at least) will happen sometime later this year.
In June of 2016, Simon released his thirteenth studio album, Stranger to Stranger. To give you the quick “executive summary,” I like but don’t love it. After three listenings online, there’s nothing compelling me to feel that I need to run out and buy it. (I should note here that critical reviews of this album have been fairly positive. So if you’re a Simon fan you might want to check this CD out for yourself.)
That’s not to say there aren’t good songs – there are. Just not, for me, enough of ’em. And although Simon is utilizing the services of “Italian electronic artist Clap! Clap!,” I’m not blown away by the results.
I don’t review a whole lot of albums but on the occasion that I do, I like to give a sense of what the album sounds like, good or bad. In this song, “Street Angel,” Simon is kind of talk-singing it. It’s a kind of coy style he sometimes adopts that I’ve never really been crazy about:
Better I think is the song “Stranger to Stranger.” Classic Simon, a love song that is at the same time, bittersweet:
Stranger to stranger
If we met for the first time
Could you imagine us
Falling in love again
Words and melody
So the old story goes
Fall from summer trees
When the wind blows
Before baseball was integrated in the United States in 1947 – roughly 80 years after it should have been – they used to have something called the Negro League. Apparently, there was a player named James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell who was an amazingly fast player.
I never heard of the guy but Simon – a big baseball fan – did and wrote a song about him. It’s fun to listen to Simon sing “Cool Papa Bell” if only to hear him use the word “motherfucker” in a song for, I think, the first time:
So, you know, not a bad album, not great by Simon standards. Maybe it would grow on me given enough time. There are some good songs that maybe I’d consider buying. But I don’t feel the need to add the entire album to my collection. And Simon isn’t really breaking any new ground here. Even though they’re new songs, I kinda feel like I’ve heard it all before. And better. 2.5 stars (out of 4).