So Beautiful or So What [CD+DVD]

So Beautiful or So What [CD+DVD]

by Paul Simon
     
 

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Touted as Paul Simon's return to traditional songwriting -- Simon writing alone with a guitar and a pen instead of constructing songs around rhythmic loops the way he's done since Graceland -- So Beautiful or So What doesn't feel like a return to the '70s. From the moment the record kicks in with the heavy blues stomp and samples of "Getting ReadySee more details below

Overview

Touted as Paul Simon's return to traditional songwriting -- Simon writing alone with a guitar and a pen instead of constructing songs around rhythmic loops the way he's done since Graceland -- So Beautiful or So What doesn't feel like a return to the '70s. From the moment the record kicks in with the heavy blues stomp and samples of "Getting Ready for Christmas Day," it's evident that while Simon may have changed his style of composing, he's not abandoning his method of record-making, which is distinctly engaged with the present. When Bob Dylan sings about Alicia Keys he does so with an old-fashioned swing, but when Simon writes a verse about Jay-Z he does it within the context of an album anchored in polyrhythms, chattering guitars, and digital loops, where the handful of delicate acoustic numbers function as a counterpoint to the clean bustle of the rest of the record. Certainly, So Beautiful or So What isn't as reliant on soundscapes as its Brian Eno-produced predecessor, but it is no rejection of texture, just as it is in no way a repudiation of the musical sensibility of Graceland, whose rhythms are as firmly felt here as on any record he's made since. Rather, So Beautiful elegantly touches upon each of Simon's solo signatures within a compact 38 minutes, its brevity indicating the precision of Simon's focus. There are no wasted sounds or words here, and if he offers some of his simplest, prettiest tunes in years ("Love & Hard Times," "Amulet") and spends a considerable chunk of the record dwelling on spiritual matters, the album is neither steeped in nostalgia nor haunted by death. Paul Simon is remarkably clear-eyed in assessing the modern world and his place in it, not shying away from contemporary sounds -- if anything, the production is occasionally a tad too brittle, like so many digital-age recordings -- but not chasing after youth either. He's merely living in his time and reporting, returning with an album that's vivid, vibrant, and current in a way none of his peers have managed to achieve. [The Deluxe Limited Edition included a bonus DVD with making-of-the-album footage, a music video for "Getting Ready for Christmas Day," and a live recording of the album.]

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Editorial Reviews

Rolling Stone - Will Hermes
Simon's first album in five years is full of heavy business: life's meaning, beauty, brutality and brevity.... But the songs rarely feel heavy. Instead, they combine the freewheeling folk of 1972's Paul Simon with the brilliant studio sculpting of Graceland. It's his best album since 1990's The Rhythm of the Saints, and it also sums up much of what makes Simon great.
National Public Radio
So Beautiful or So What balances great poetry and pop. Paul Simon is a national treasure.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/12/2011
Label:
Hear Music
UPC:
0888072328365
catalogNumber:
32836

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Paul Simon   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Percussion,Glockenspiel,Electric Guitar,Vocals,12-string Guitar,Bells,Guitar (Nylon String)
Doyle Lawson   Background Vocals
Michael White   Clarinet
Edie Brickell   Harmony
David Finck   Bass
Skip La Plante   Gong,Wind Chimes
Jeanne LeBlanc   Celli
Richard Locker   Celli
Lois Martin   Viola
Vincent Nguini   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Rhythm Guitar
Steve Shehan   Bass,Saz,Conga,Stick,Djembe,talking drum,Angklung,Crotale,Brushes,Resonator,Glass Harp
Sonny Terry   Harmonica,Soloist
Sara Cutler   Flute,Harp
Nancy Zeltsman   Marimbas
Mick Rossi   Piano
Charles Pillow   Clarinet
Gabe Witcher   Fiddle
Etienne Stadwijk   Celeste
Karaikudi R. Mani   Ensemble
Yacouba Sissoko   Kora
Desiree Elsevier   Viola
Vincent Lionti   Viola
Jim Oblon   Percussion,Drums
V.B. Madhusudhanan   Tabla
Mary Abt   Clarinet
Lulu Simon   Harmony
Joshua Swift   Dobro

Technical Credits

Elvis Costello   Liner Notes
Paul Simon   Composer,Producer,Whistle
Gil Goldstein   Arranger
Greg Calbi   Mastering
Phil Ramone   Producer
Andy Smith   Engineer
Geoff Gans   Art Direction
Reverend J.M. Gates   Engineer
Eddie Simon   Management
Jeff Kramer   Management
Sven Geier   Cover Image
Chris Bear   Introduction

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