Si­mon re-records, reimag­ines and re­vis­its mu­si­cal odd­i­ties

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - DAVID BAUDER

Weeks from the end of his farewell con­cert tour, Paul Si­mon has re­leased a disc that feels like a vale­dic­tory it­self.

The con­cept of “In the Blue Light” is in­trigu­ing, with Si­mon re-record­ing and reimag­in­ing 10 songs he orig­i­nally re­leased be­tween 1973 and 2011. None were hits; they’re songs he felt were over­looked as odd­i­ties, or that he didn’t get quite right the first time. While some of this ma­te­rial was ob­scure for good rea­son, most of the sec­ond looks re­ward lis­ten­ers.

The re­vis­its speak to the mu­si­cal ad­ven­tur­ous­ness that has marked Si­mon’s later years. Many of the orig­i­nals were at least grounded in the folk-rock style he was pri­mar­ily known for. Now Si­mon moves beyond: Wyn­ton Marsalis’s trum­pet re­places the acous­tic gui­tar on “How the Heart Ap­proaches What it Yearns,” and the 1970s elec­tric pi­ano gives way to Sul­li­van Fort­ner’s real thing on “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy.” The jaun­ti­ness of “One Man’s Ceil­ing Is An­other Man’s Floor” is smoothed into a lop­ing, jazz feel. With Dix­ieland jazz, Span­ish-style gui­tar and or­ches­tral ar­range­ments, the mu­sic is worldly and com­plex. He’s not kick­ing down the cob­ble­stones.

Si­mon rewrites some lyrics, some to sub­tly mod­ern­ize. Most af­fect­ing is a rewrit­ten con­clu­sion to 2000’s “Love,” which is both more spe­cific and more universal than the orig­i­nal.

Si­mon’s age (he’s 76) gives the ma­te­rial a grace not al­ways present the first time. A song like “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy” now feels lived in, not ob­served by a young re­porter.

“Dar­ling Lor­raine,” the fourth song re­vamped from 2000’s “You’re the One” disc, is the new al­bum’s cen­tre­piece, in large part be­cause you can feel the ten­der­ness, com­edy and sad­ness more acutely through Si­mon’s weath­ered voice.

The idea here is so in­ter­est­ing that you’d love to see other artists try it, if only to know the over­looked songs that have stuck with them.

“In the Blue Light” is nei­ther nos­tal­gia nor a res­cue mis­sion. It’s a chal­leng­ing new work.

Paul Si­mon, “In the Blue Light” (Legacy)

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