So Beautiful Or So What

Based on my last blog entry, it's obvious to see that I recently bought Bruce Springsteen's new album, Wrecking Ball. But what isn't obvious to see is that at the same time I also bought Paul Simon's most recent album, So Beautiful Or So What. I was at Darkside Records on Main St. in Poughkeepsie for (believe it or not) the first time, and I stumbled across a used copy. And since I've had numerous people tell me how great it is, I decided to give it a shot.

I'm a big Paul Simon fan. I grew up listening to his music thanks to my dad, and it seems like every time I go into the city I need to listen to him. Unlike any other artist - to me, anyway - his music and voice just feel like New York City. I remember being in the city for a wedding back in January 2010, and on my commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan I listened to Paul Simon's Concert In The Park, and it was damn near magical. But I digress.

So Beatutiful Or So What can almost be described as simply classic Paul Simon, in that it's really good and often times unpredictable. For someone who has been such an influential and important presence in American music for almost 50 years, Simon has never really dominated the charts with hits. Sure, there's "Kodachrome," "Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "You Can Call Me Al," and the like, but the songs of his that I love the most do not follow the beaten path. Songs like "Duncan," "Something So Right," "Train In The Distance," "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes," "The Boy In The Bubble," and "The Obvious Child" are really what make me love Paul Simon. It's always familiar, yet different.

And that's how I hear So Beautiful Or So What. It's familiar, yet different, with nothing on it that you would expect to hear on the radio. And even at his age, the lyrics that Paul Simon produces are just gorgeous. That's really the only way to describe them. I always consider a well-written lyric to be one in which you can't even imagine any of the words being changed. "I've got a nephew in Iraq - it's his third time back, but it's ending up the way it began/With the luck of a beginner he'll be eatin' turkey dinner on a mountain top in Pakistan." Boom. "I'm going to tell my kids a bedtime story/A play without a plot/Will it have a happy ending?/Maybe yeah, maybe not/I tell them life is what you make of it/So beautiful or so what." Boom. He sets the bar over and over again.

My current favorite cuts are "Getting Ready For Christmas Day," "The Afterlife," and "So Beautiful Or So What." Have you heard the album? What do you think?

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ