Review for In The Blue Light
With Paul Simon retiring this year from live performances I made a point of going to see him and I did not regret it. One of the highlights from the evening was his performance of Rene and Georgette Magritte with their Dog after the War. This was performed with the instrumental ensemble ymusic, who I had never heard of, but after listening to this album I may need to seek out more.
Now this ten track album is a reimagining of some lesser known Paul Simon songs. This could almost be an understatement, as apart from ‘Rene’ I don’t think I have ever seen any of these songs on any of his previous Hits compilations and most are a little too obscure even for the hardcore Paul Simon fans. This is where I have my first hurdle stumble. I will start by saying, the music on this album is amazing and the feel he is able to create with these songs makes me appreciate them a lot more than when they were first release. In this sense, the album is a success, but for me there are so many songs on this album that are probably ‘lesser known’ for a reason. For what Simon wanted to achieve, I felt the song choices are little odd to say the least.
Four of the songs are from You’re the One and then one each from There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Still Crazy After All These Years, One-Trick Pony, Hearts and Bones, The Rhythm of the Saints and So Beautiful or So What. As you can see, Simon leant heavily on the 2000 Grammy-nominated You’re the One, but with doing so many songs from that album he may as well have just done a reworking of it and got it over and done with. Because of focusing (a little too much for my liking) on that one album it made the other tracks seem a little odd. These four are great renditions and it is difficult to not be tempted to play them and the original back to back to see what changes are being made, some are subtle, some are massive changes, but I do feel that focusing almost half of the album on one album negates what the album should be.
Personally, I would have preferred him to have taken one song from each of his albums to give the album more of a theme or form. I would love to have heard a reimagining of Duncan from Paul Simon or Homeless from Graceland. There are rumours that more songs were created and I do hope a ‘Special Edition’ is released with these. Rumour is he did record a new version of ‘The Sound of Silence’ which is how he ended all of his shows and that would be amazing to hear.
Of the songs, all are beautiful reworked with Can’t Run But as amazing as always. This was also included in his recent Farewell tour and was amazing to hear live. The highlight (and influence behind the title) is How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns. This comes from his 1980 One-Trick Pony album and is such a wonderful rendition that it is odd that the song was not also included as part of his live show.
In the Blue Light is a wonderful experiment from a master of song-writing and one that I wish he would have applied for new songs. In a way it shows just how successful the album is as it leaves me wanting more. I want to know what Slip Slidin’ Away would sound like or The Boy and The Bubble or a multitude of other songs Paul Simon has written. If this became like Johnny Cash’s American albums and he released one every year or so I would be happy with that. If this is his final album it is wonderful swansong to his career and if it points people in the direction of his back catalogue, then there is a wealth of amazing work for them to discover or rediscover.