World Cafe

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Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What - Hear Music / Concord Music Group

Expectations aren't always easy to understand. Sure they're subjective, we all have our own. And after a while, you start wondering if you're setting the bar too high for certain things. When an artist like Paul Simon goes into the studio, what should we expect? Not every album is going to satisfy at the same level as say, Graceland right? Well, as we fast forward nearly 25 years again we realize why we hold this songwriter in such high regard. So Beautiful or So What is a stunning album, in the true sense of an album, and easily settles in as one of the year's best thus far.

Simon set the tone for So Beautiful or So What earlier this winter when he released the album's lead-off song, “Getting Ready for Christmas Day” (which sounds just as good in April as it did in December). Not only did this song prep us for the holidays, but it was also a little preview of what to expect from this new collection. For the first time in his career, Simon uses a sample in his music singing almost seamlessly with a sermon recorded in 1941 with by Rev. J.M. Gates. Follow that with the first single from the album “The Afterlife” and the vision of So Beautiful or So What starts to become a bit clearer. There is a big emphasis on the depth of these songs. Yes tied to that is Simon’s uncanny ability to offer up adventurous guitar lines and those playful, world beat rhythms. And he does so brilliantly on So Beautiful or So What. But strip away to Simon and his guitar and you'll discover the ambition of the album.

Simon sounds timeless on So Beautiful or So What. Songs like “Dazzling Blue” and “Love Is Eternal Sacred Light” bring to mind his classic works and hold their own amongst them. If it's been a while since you've used the ‘repeat’ button on your CD player or stereo, well this is the album you've been waiting for. So whatever your expectations may have been for this latest collection, it's fair to say they'll be met.

Buy So Beautiful or So What (CD/DVD Deluxe), XPN's Featured Album of the Week from Your purchase that starts here, benefits WXPN.