Paul Simon — Surprise
(Warner Bros 49982-2, 2006, CD)
by Jeff Melton, Published 2007-03-01It should come as no big shock that singer-songwriter Paul Simon would be seeking a new sonic vehicle for his well-established career. Given the international success of Graceland it's clear that Simon can distill varying influences into his songs and deliver on high quality efforts that continue to distinguish his career. Enlisting audio sculptor Brian Eno to further extend his lyrical reach has given the composer an edgy outlook that fits the times. Starting out with the riffing guitars on "How Can You Live in the Northeast?" Eno is fully engaged, providing suitable backwards guitar loops to a CD brimming with adventure. In contrast, "Outrageous" is a funky ode to growing older that works as a well crafted dance track due to the rock solid drumming of Robin Dimagio. Jazz luminaries Bill Frisell and Herbie Hancock also make memorable cameos on "Everything About It Is a Love Song" and "War Time Prayers," Frisell's airy leads fluttering over Steve Gadd's incendiary drumming on the former piece; on the latter, Hancock's piano graces an ambient song showcasing Simon's lyrics imparting family hardships. For a 60s artist to create such a vital recording is a testament to close collaboration with Eno. Overall the sound quality on the disc is first rate and a credit to the engineering team for the multiple sessions.
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