Review by LarryG|
3 stars out of 4
Pushing 60 and in his fifth decade of recording, Paul Simon is
still making interesting music. You're The One combines Hearts and
Bones' introspection and Rhythm Of The Saints' exotic rhythms for a CD
devoted largely to quiet, thoughtful examinations of the mysteries and
delights of love. You're The One is nothing new but it has great
musicianship and concise, vivid writing.
You're The One starts with a statement of purpose. On That's Where
I Belong, Simon tells us he's still "bound to tell a story" in the
moment where, "in a burst of glory, sound becomes a song." He
expresses domestic happiness, finding in "every ending a beginning"
but also belongs in an alien world where "a spiny little island man
plays a jingling banjo" walking "to a river where the water meets the
sky." The music is ethereal, opening with a bamboo flute and carried
forward by evocative percussion and Vincent Nguini's delicate guitar.
Darling Lorraine is reminiscent of Rhythm Of The Saints, with a hint
of Hearts and Bones' sad "arc of a love affair." The sound starts
dreamily, as Simon sings about the exciting mystery of a
relationship's start, then has Proof's cheekiness as Simon's character
expresses shock then feigns indifference to Lorraine's threat to
leave. The song ends with sad restraint as he begs her to stay.
Senorita With A Necklace Of Tears, which could be called That's How I
Want It To Be, has Hearts and Bones' reflective feel but also is
quietly optimistic. Simon riffs on being born again, finding "a cure
for all the suffering that mankind must endure" and writing a song
that could repent the sins he's committed. Look At That has good
texture from steady percussion layered with chimes and guitar. Look At
That is a pleasantly meandering appreciation of life until it gets to
a good hook: "ask somebody to love you, takes a nerve."
You're The One is almost always interesting but it could have used
more of the feisty energy of the amusingly cranky Old, a fun, compact
rocker. Simon pays tribute to Peggy Sue in the lyrics and the song's
Bo Diddley beat, singing "Buddy Holly still goes on" but adding "his
catalog was sold" and also that "genocide still goes on." He resents
friends saying he's old. Then he argues the length of our lives is
irrelevant compared to how long God and the universe have been around.
He dismisses mundane squabbles with: "Disagreements? Work 'em out"
then abruptly and impudently ends the song, "take your clothes off,
Adam and Eve." Simon's 80's travels, besides leading to one excellent
and one very good record, introduced Simon to musicians who are
sometimes better than he deserves. They make the sound appealing even
when Simon's self analysis loses interest. Bakithi Kumalo's bass,
Nguini's guitar and percussion give the title track the light buoyancy
of Late In The Evening or You Can Call Me Al. Simon sings he'd do
anything to keep his love safe then makes himself crazy thinking she's
waiting for things to go wrong, blames her for making him cry then
realizes he makes her cry.
You're The One is weakest when Simon gets too serious. Nguini
and Kumalo's light touch is missing on The Teacher, a pedantic attempt
at myth making. Over good percussion, Simon sings about being in a
tribe, walking into the unknown and looking to a master for guidance.
Like on Rhythm Of The Saints, Simon's writing on You're The One is
stripped down and simplified, sometimes to the point there's not much
to it. Love is sweet but fairly pointless. But just when it seems
totally innocuous, the music brightens on a bridge where, with
Nguini's help, Simon's voice poignantly bends as he sings "we think
it's easy" but "we should be grateful" for love. Pigs, Sheep and
Wolves' fairy tale about a pig framing a wolf for murder is a well
meaning allegory condemning the death penalty but Simon's cutesy
delivery undermines its power. Hurricane Eye isn't particularly
meaningful but it's appealingly loose limbed. It starts with a banjo
and, with good percussion and guitar, easily flows into different
musical forms. You're The One ends strikingly with the stark Quiet.
It's a little like Bridge Over Troubled Water but instead of offering
to ease another's mind, Simon seeks release from his own stress.
You're The One doesn't have Hearts and Bones' depth and
emotional heft or Graceland's novelty and transcendence but it
combines an adult maturity with Simon's desire to still grow and try
new things. After the not bad, but commercially unsuccessful, doo wop
flavored Capeman experiment, Simon is back on comfortable ground.
You're The One could have used a little more juice but it's filled
with good, minimal, well made and very listenable songs.