|Stranger To Stranger (DELUXE: June 3, 2016)|
Paul Simon — Stranger To Stranger (DELUXE: June 3, 2016) ♣ ‘The idea is not to just make another album,’ Simon explains. ‘The idea is to make something that s really worth a listen.’ — Paul Simon
♣ Full of thrilling, imaginative textures, Stranger to Stranger conjures a vivid and vital new context to Simon’s well–established virtuosity as a singer and songwriter.
Birth name: Paul Frederic Simon
Born: October 13, 1941, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Origin: Queens, New York City, U.S.
Notable instruments: Martin OM42PS (Paul Simon) and PS2, Yamaha PS Signature Models
Album release: June 3, 2016
Studio: 2011 — April 2016, Various
Record Label: Concord Records
01 The Werewolf 3:26
02 Wristband 3:18
03 The Clock 1:03
04 Street Angel 2:12
05 Stranger to Stranger 4:36
06 In a Parade 2:22
07 Proof of Love 5:44
08 In the Garden of Edie 1:49
09 The Riverbank 4:12
10 Cool Papa Bell 4:03
11 Insomniac’s Lullaby 4:34
12 Horace and Pete 2:30
13 Duncan (Live from A Prairie Home Companion) 4:43
14 Wristband (Live from A Prairie Home Companion) 3:29
15 Guitar Piece 3 (instrumental) 1:08
16 New York Is My Home 4:30
♣ All songs written and composed by Paul Simon.
♣ Paul Simon and his younger brother, Eddie Simon, founded the Guitar Study Center in New York City. The Guitar Study Center later became part of The New School in New York City.
♣ Producer: Andy Smith Roy Halee
BY RYAN BRAY ON JUNE 02, 2016, 6:01AM / SCORE: B
In a year marked by loss, the legend’s latest is a glaring bright spot for classic rock fans.
♣ “The werewolf’s coming,” Paul Simon cautions at the start of his 13th solo outing, Stranger To Stranger. That’s a menacing lyric coming from a guy who, at 74, undoubtably has a first–class window seat on the pop music gravy train. He helped ease fans through the tumult of the ’60s alongside Art Garfunkel. In ’80s, he did the seemingly unthinkable by turning African rhythm and world music influences into an outside–the–box mainstream smash. So what gives? What could possibly be eating at the timeless pop music icon this late into his historic career?
♣ Nothing really, other than an innate need to continue to earn his keep. That might sound bizarre coming from someone who has said and done more in his career than most artists could ever hope to. But as Simon told Rolling Stone back in April, your past successes sometimes create more pressure to keep things fresh. “To get people to listen with open ears, you have to really make something that is interesting because people are prepared for it not to be interesting,” he said.
♣ That’s a pretty tall order for someone with 50 years worth of tunes in his back pocket. But Stranger To Stranger sounds like the singer came into it energized by the challenge. Lyrically, Simon is shouldering a substantial chip. “The Werewolf” works as a metaphor for all of the social ills he perceives: murder, greed, politics, and people’s overall self–serving bad behavior. The song is soaked with Simon’s sour disposition, even as he sings over the kind of charming afro–pop that feels as warm today as it did on Graceland 30 years earlier. Still, some lines nail his overarching grievances dead to the wall: “Most obits are mixed reviews/ Life is a lottery a lot of people lose/ And the winners, the grinners with money–colored eyes/ Eat all the nuggets and they all got extra fries.”
♣ Simon is in scrappy, fighting form here, and he’s clearly got no shortage of targets. Everything is ripe for skewering on Stranger To Stranger, from small issues like macho doormen (“Wristband”) to organized religion. “God goes fishing, and we are the fishes,” he sings on the funky “Street Angel”. “He baits his line with prayers and wishes.”
♣ Lyrically Simon’s locked and loaded, but the singer doesn’t exhaust all of his creative touches on wordplay and symbolism. With the help of longtime friend/producer Roy Halee behind the boards, Simon again proves himself to be among the most sonically adventurous elder statesmen in pop music. Danceable pop drives the bus on cuts like “In a Parade” and “Street Angel”, which with its colorful effects and scratches sounds like a Graceland cut updated for 2016. When he’s not using studio trickery, his technical proficiency rains all over the folky, atmospheric “Proof of Love”. But Stranger To Stranger isn’t a front–to–back document of cranky artistry. There are also a few short instrumental interludes, including “In the Garden of Edie”, written in tribute to Simon’s wife, Edie Brickell.
♣ Stepping outside the bounds of the record itself for a moment, it’s hard to fully appreciate Simon’s latest without putting it in the context of the current classic rock landscape. 2016 has been an unusually cruel year thus far. With Bowie, Glenn Frey, and Prince having left us in quick succession, we’ve been left with the somber reminder of how impermanent our heroes are. Stranger To Stranger is poof positive that Simon isn’t simply still here, but he’s kicking with gusto. In a year where good news has been fleeting for classic rock fans, Simon’s latest is worth grabbing onto with both hands.
♣ Essential Tracks: “The Werewolf”, “Street Angel”, and “Proof of Love”
BY ANDY GREENE April 7, 2016
• Paul Simon spent the past five years painstakingly crafting his new album Stranger to Stranger (out June 3rd), knowing he’d have to create something extraordinary if he wanted it to stand up to the best work from his past. “There are a lot of preconceptions [about my new work] because I have been familiar to the public for 50 years,” he says. “They go, ‘Is it going to be Graceland? Is it going to be ‘Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard?’ Simon and Garfunkel? The Capeman?’ To get people to listen with open ears, you have to really make something that is interesting because people are prepared for it not to be interesting.”
• The end result is Stranger to Stranger, an experimental album heavy on echo and rhythm that fuses electronic beats with African woodwind instruments, Peruvian drums, a gospel music quartet, horns and synthesizers. “I don’t set out to make each album different than the last one,” he says. “It’s just my natural inclination.”
• Italian electronic dance music artist Clap! Clap! provides beats on the tracks “The Werewolf,” “Street Angel” and "Wristband,” the latter of which is now streaming. They met up in in 2015 when Simon’s world tour touched down in Milan, Italy. “My 23–year–old son Adrian is a composer and he told me about him,” says Simon. “He takes African sound samples and puts digital dance grooves behind it. His newest album is a masterpiece. He makes music sound new and old at the same time.”
• Most of the album was recorded at Simon’s home studio in Connecticut, with Clap! Clap! and Simon communicating via e–mail. But in 2013, the sessions briefly moved to Montclair State University where unique, custom–made instruments, such as the Cloud–Chamber Bowls and the Chromelodeon, created by the mid–20 century music theorist Harry Partch, are stored. “Parch said there were 43 tones to an octave and not 12,” says Simon. “He had a totally different approach to what music is and had to build his own instruments so he could compose on a microtonal scale. That microtonal thinking pervades this album.”
• The subject matter of the songs ranges from the ridiculous to the tragic. “Wristband” tells the hysterical tale of a rock star prevented from entering his own concert because he doesn't have the proper wristband. “It’s not a true story,” says Simon. “But I know plenty of people with this story and there have been times where I’ve been stopped backstage and asked to see a pass.” “The Riverbank” was inspired by a visit to wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital and the funeral of a teacher Simon knew that was murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. On a brighter note, “In The Garden of Edie” is a tribute to his wife Edie Brickell.
• Opening track “The Werewolf” got its title when Simon and his band blended the sound of the Peruvian percussion instrument Cajón with hand claps and the one–string Indian instrument gopichand. When he slowed the tempo way down, it sounded like someone was saying “the werewolf.” Simon turned that into a song about a mythical werewolf as an angel of death coming to eventually kill us all. “The fact is most obits are mixed reviews,” he sings. “Life is a lottery/A lot of people lose.”
• For the first time in his career, Simon introduces characters in songs that appear on different tracks later on the album. For example, the central charter from “Street Angel” pops up again in “In A Parade.” “The idea of finishing one song and having the character appear in another song appeals to me,” he says. “I don’t see why characters shouldn't appear more than once.”
• Two instrumental guitar tracks, “The Clock” and “In The Garden of Edie,” were originally written for John Patrick Shanley’s play Prodigal Son, which ran at New York’s City Center last year. “I decided to insert them in the album just to give a little space after songs,” says Simon. “It lets the mind stop hearing words for a while.”
• The album is co–produced by 81–year–old Roy Halee, whose working relationship with Simon goes back to the original Simon and Garfunkel demos in 1964. They went on to collaborate on all five Simon and Garfunkel albums along with Simon’s self–titled solo debut, Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints. “He retired, but I always liked working with him more than anyone else,” says Simon. “He has great ears. He didn’t know anything about ProTools, so our engineer Andy Smith helped with that. But nothing compares with his knowledge of how to create echo.”
• Simon has no plans beyond his summer tour in support of Stranger to Stranger, though he does hope to revisit a duets album he began with Brickell a few years ago. • “We’re empty–nesters for the first time so we like to fantasize about where we’ll travel,” he says, “I do think about retirement. I want to see if I’ll get bored and what will happen with the bit of unborn creative impulses if I stop writing songs, which I’ve been doing since I was 12. But I just don’t know. Philip Glass is one of my role models and he just keeps going. He said to me, ‘If you don’t do it, who will write a Paul Simon song?’”
Studio solo albums
♠ The Paul Simon Songbook (1965)
♠ Paul Simon (1972)
♠ There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973)
♠ Still Crazy After All These Years (1975)
♠ Hearts and Bones (1983)
♠ Graceland (1986)
♠ The Rhythm of the Saints (1990)
♠ Songs from The Capeman (1997)
♠ You’re the One (2000)
♠ Surprise (2006)
♠ So Beautiful or So What (2011)
♠ Stranger to Stranger (2016)
♠ One–Trick Pony (1980) © Paul Simon gives us all the details on his new album, ‘Stranger to Stranger’ and releases the hysterical first single, Wristband. Photo credit: MYRNA SUAREZ
|Stranger To Stranger (DELUXE: June 3, 2016)|