Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger (2016): Review

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Produced by Paul Simon and Roy Halee
Label – Concord

75 years certainly haven’t quelled Paul Simon’s sense of musical adventure. His recent albums have all been washed down with a splash of current technology, as the singer attempts to stay relevant in an increasingly volatile pop world, where reverence for previous genius is largely forgotten (until an untimely demise). Although less prolific, his work over the past decade seems to deliberately set a marked departure from the classic artistry of the last century, the acoustic picking and strumming replaced with a heavy emphasis on rhythms and limited organic instrumentation. Lyrically, there’s still a degree of the absurd, the black humour and wrestling with his inevitable check out, along with vivid snapshots of the ridiculous mundanity of later life. The foreboding doom that seeps through the grooves of “The Werewolf” set morose expressions of this mortal coil with “Most obits are mixed reviews, life is a lottery and a lotta people lose, The Werewolf is Coming”. The story of a rock star refused entry to his own show on “Wristband” feels like a story pulled directly from the latest Spinal Tap spin-off, and “Street Angel” sees Simon trading a geriatric rap over Cristiano Crisci’s restrained beats.
Whilst the album is instrumentally sparse, there are times when one feels that a reliance on Simon’s voice to drive the melody over thumping rhythm tracks can become flat, two dimensional, and wear thin after repeated listens. The second half of the record sees fuller arrangements, greater emotional commitment and the most potent tunes, particularly “Proof Of Love” and the gentle philosophical closer, “Insomniac’s Lullaby”.

Mainly consistent, and certainly better than his two previous records, it would be an injustice if “Stranger To Stranger” did nothing more than raise patronising eyebrows for a man still recording contemporary albums after three quarters of a century.

7/10

Track Rating
1 – The Werewolf (7)
2 – Wristband (6)
3 – The Clock (6)
4 – Street Angel (6)
5 – Stranger To Stranger (7)
6 – In A Parade (6)
7 – Proof Of Love (8)
8 – In The Garden Of Edie (7)
9 – The Riverbank (7)
10 – Cool Papa Bell (7)
11 – Insomniac’s Lullaby (8)

Paul Simon – Surprise (2006): Review

Paul Simon – So Beautiful, Or So What (2011): Review

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