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Archive for October 15th, 2013

Review: Paul Simon, “The Complete Albums Collection” and “Over the Bridge of Time”

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Paul Simon Complete coverI. Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

More than 45 years ago, Paul Simon dramatized a journey “to look for America” in the song boldly and simply called “America.”  Over 3-1/2 gorgeously elegiac minutes beginning with hymn-like vocalizing, Simon abandoned conventional song structure and rhyme to portray two young people searching for the heart of this promised land.  The conversational lyric is both deceptively simple and densely packed.  Optimism (“Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together/I’ve got some real estate here in my bag”) cedes to weariness (“’Kathy,’ I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,’ Michigan seems like a dream to me now/It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw/I’ve come to look for America…’”), and humor is tempered with a darkness bubbling just under the surface: “Laughing on the bus/Playing games with the faces/She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy/I said, ‘Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera…’”  But with the climactic, shattering proclamation that “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why” Simon expands his purview from two-character intimacy to something far more universal.   “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike/They’ve all come to look for America,” he and Art Garfunkel repeat with a probing urgency.  What does America mean to those masses?  Would Paul and Kathy – and their generation – ever find it?  Could the dreams implicit in the country’s promise ever be fulfilled?

When a landmark album arrived almost two decades later, one could have wondered: had Paul Simon finally found America?  On the title track of 1986’s Graceland, the singer-narrator makes a pilgrimage to the home of Elvis Presley, where he and his son “will be received.”  But he’s also travelling in search of a state of grace.  On “Graceland,” memory, history, fantasy and reality all melded into a whole both earthy and spiritual.  The song encapsulated Paul Simon’s art: looking inward and outward, forward and back, for America.  Paul Simon’s America isn’t just the New Jersey Turnpike or Memphis, Tennessee, but Bleecker Street and Corona, Queens, the Mardi Gras and Puerto Rico.  He’s cast his net wider, too, to Brazil and Africa.  But wherever he’s sojourned in song, bringing new characters to life, it’s been with an intellect’s curiosity, a poet’s sensibility and a rock-and-roller’s attitude.  Those travels are well-documented in a new box set from Legacy Recordings.  The 15-CD Paul Simon – The Complete Albums Collection collects in one package Simon’s twelve studio albums and two live concert recordings, and it’s the most comprehensive look at the artist’s ouevre yet.  It’s joined by a 20-track anthology, Over the Bridge of Time: A Paul Simon Retrospective.  For the first time on a single disc compilation, Bridge draws on Simon’s solo material as well as that of Simon and Garfunkel.

Both releases trace Simon’s musical evolution.  From heroes like Little Anthony and the Imperials and the Everly Brothers, he gleaned how to merge his own voice with that of partner and pal Art Garfunkel into a powerful whole.  But where did he learn the tools to become one of the sixties’ most literate and mature tunesmiths? Simon’s songs eloquently mused on the dissatisfaction of his generation, and though some accused the young man of being “too serious,” he frequently utilized a wicked sense of humor to skewer those persons and institutions he felt deserving. He tapped into something even greater with 1970’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and followed Simon and Garfunkel’s break-up album of the same name with a solo work that brought the focus back to the personal. Since then, the singer and songwriter has never stopped pushing his own envelope to create new ways to synthesize sounds from around the country and the world – even if the songs always end up sounding, thankfully, like “Paul Simon songs.”

Join us after the jump for a closer look, won’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2013 at 10:31

Release Round-Up: Week of October 15

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Unplugged ExpandedEric Clapton, Unplugged: Expanded and Remastered Edition (Reprise/Rhino)

The guitar god’s ’90s comeback was done on an acoustic. The Grammy-winning, best-selling album and the acclaimed episode of MTV Unplugged from which it was taken are paired up and considerably expanded, more than two decades later. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

King Crimson, The Road to Red (Panegyric)

Holy crumbs, this 21CD/1DVD/2BD set is a massive tribute to King Crimson’s Red album, including new stereo and surround mixes of the album and 16 soundboard-quality live sets in a box that puts the deluxe edition concept in its place. (Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.)

Paul Simon Complete packshotPaul Simon, The Complete Albums Collection / Over the Bridge of Time: A Retrospective (1964-2011) (Legacy)

American tunes shine on both this exhaustive box set of Simon’s solo career, featuring expanded editions of all of his studio albums (including the U.K.-only The Paul Simon Song Book from 1964 and both Rhino and Legacy-era bonus tracks on Graceland), as well as the double-live Paul Simon’s Concert in the Park and 2011’s acclaimed So Beautiful or So What. A single-disc compilation boils his career down to its basest elements, from Simon & Garfunkel to the present.

The Complete Albums CollectionAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Over the Bridge of TimeAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

James Booker - ClassifiedJames Booker, Classified: Remixed and Expanded (Rounder)

One of only two releases in the short but incredible lifetime of this New Orleans pianist, the man who mentored Dr. John and Harry Connick, Jr. is the focus of a new documentary – and this, his last proper studio album, is greatly expanded and remixed for a new generation to enjoy.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Ring Ring DeluxeABBA, Ring Ring: Deluxe Edition (Polydor/Universal U.K.)

The legendary dance quartet’s first album gets expanded with a DVD of rare performances and a host of even rarer pre-ABBA songs. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

ZTT Organization of PopVarious Artists, The Organization of Pop: Music from the First Thirty Years of ZTT Records (ZTT/Razor & Tie)

A double-disc compilation – the first in ZTT’s new U.S. distribution deal with Razor & Tie – featuring hits from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Buggles, The Art of Noise, Seal and more. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Al Hirt - Sound of ChristmasAl Hirt, The Sound of Christmas (Friday Music/Relayer)

The trumpet virtuoso’s 1965 holiday album, expanded and remastered by Friday Music, its first time on CD in over two decades. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Taylor Dayne PlaylistBasia / Deborah Cox / Taylor Dayne / Exposé / Lita Ford / The Jeff Healey Band / The Jimi Hendrix Experience / Incubus / MercyMe / Mobb Deep / The Alan Parsons Project / The Partridge FamilyPlaylist: The Very Best Of (Legacy)

Another wave of the ol’ reliable series from Legacy. Key points: rare original single mixes abound on Basia, Deborah Cox, Taylor Dayne and Exposé’s volumes; Hendrix’s is a converted version of the famed Smash Hits compilation, and Partridge fans will enjoy the first-ever release of “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” in stereo. All Amazon U.S. links are posted above!

Deep Purple Rhino boxDeep Purple, The Complete Albums 1970-1976 (Warner Bros./Rhino)

This ten-disc set compiles all of the band’s original Mk. II, Mk. III and Mk. IV-era studio and live albums. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)