Paul Simon, who was one half of the melodic duo Simon and Garfunkel before breaking out on his own, has released his thirteenth album, Stranger To Stranger on June 3.
Simon’s known for his excellent song writing skills, having produced many number ones, such as “The Sound of Silence”, “Mrs Robinson”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, which are recognised all over the world. Not only is he a singer/songwriter, he has also written and starred in the film One-Trick Pony in 1980 and co-written the Broadway musical, The Capeman, so across the board, Simon is full of talent.
Stranger To Stranger is an 11-track album produced by Concord Records and has been long awaited, as Simon was writing it across several years to perfect the sequel to his twelfth album So Beautiful So What. Simon collaborated with artist Clap! Clap! on three of the featured songs “The Werewolf”, “Street Angel” and “Wristband”.
There is no questioning of Simon’s vocals as they are immediately placed, however the sound of the album is experimental and so sets itself aside from Simon’s previous works. Rattles, drums and woodwind instruments are frequently used to create ethnic sounding, almost African beats.
“Proof Of Love” has a darker, deeper atmosphere to it, so you can automatically guess the title of the song matches the theme of the song, love. Simon’s vocals are simply beautiful, “I trade my tears to ask the Lord for proof of love” and his harmonies and soft, warming tones create a wonderful song. The track features bells and a folk-y sounding acoustic guitar, which sounds more like a modern day Simon song than some of the other featured tracks.
The chorus includes backing vocals that match and compliment Simon’s raising and sweeping range in his voice. It is haunting, as Simon seems to need a higher approval of his love for whom he is singing for, so he looks to nature for the support he feels he is missing. It is easily one of the greatest expressions of Simon’s lyrical and vocal ability on the album.
“The Clock” is possibly the most eccentric track of the album, lasting only just over a minute. It acts as the interlude between the tracks to create a flow whilst listening, and it is certainly effective. Simon uses the sound of a clock ticking (or uses a wooden instrument to imitate the sound) and features it as the bassline for the track to set the pace for the accompanying instruments.
There are no vocals, as Simon lets the music speak for itself and does not overpower the senses of the listener. It feels like a lullaby, as though if you listen to it at night it will send you straight to sleep, or a hypnotist would use it as a pendulum. It fades in as a tick and fades out in the same way, to create a full circle and the use of the acoustic guitar and wind chime sounds provides a soft personality to the track. Simon is clearly allowing for some easy listening.
“Stranger To Stranger” is the title track of the album and it expresses a recent turmoil in a relationship between Simon and another individual. “This time could you imagine us falling in love again”, shows that Simon wishes he could start over again, go back to a time when there was raw and young love free from the impact of years and environment. There is a constant electronic underlay to the track, that even when Simon’s vocals gets softer, match his volume and compliment the journey of emotion in the track.
The trumpet that joins Simon halfway through the song creates a jazzy blues feel to the track and the sound shows the overpowering emotions that Simon is feeling, as you can imagine him standing in the moonlight expressing his love through the power of music. Simon simply wants to focus on his love rather than the different tangents and upsets that can affect a long-term relationship and he shows this through his greatest talent, music.
Simon has effortless talent, even when he is separated from the group that created and rocketed his career, he is able to produce successful albums and hold dear his loyal audience. Experimenting with music when your career has spanned a long period and a certain sound is matched to your character is always dangerous, but Simon’s risky move has paid off and he has surprised listeners everywhere with his ability to produce an album unlike any other. Simon’s lyrics and tones can reach your soul, and transport you back to the first time you ever heard his song and this is what makes him a constant success.
Paul Simon’s Stranger To Stranger is out now via Concord Music Group, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Libby Beacham