Thursday, May 18, 2006


Paul Simon’s last couple of studio CDs…Songs from the Capeman and You’re the One…were decidedly uneven affairs…certainly not on a par with great Simon collections like Graceland and Still Crazy After All These Years. Surprise doesn’t belong in that lofty company either…but it is a step in the right direction.

Simon is in fine voice and some of the tunes…especially the gently-acerbic post 9-11 rumination “How Can You Live in the Northeast?”, the gospel-tinged “Wartime Prayers” (featuring piano by Herbie Hancock and backing vocals by the Jessy Dixon Singers), the jaunty and witty “Outrageous”, and the lilting parental ode “Fathers and Daughters” awkward.

And Simon’s distinctive style is cushioned here by lush electronica touches by Brian Eno (who is credited with creating the “sonic landscape” and with playing “electronics”.) Simon hasn’t turned in a Talking Heads album or anything like that…most of Eno’s touches are back in the mix beneath the guitars, drums, and basses…but there is a pleasing lushness to the proceedings.

Surprise is not a great album but it is a good one and for longtime Simon fans like myself it’s a nice little addition to his catalog…one that will probably grow more even pleasing with repeated listenings.

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