Most of the record-company hype about Paul Simon's You're the One has focused on catchphrases like "most accessible and melodic album in more than a decade." And prerelease reviews have talked up the fact that Simon is moving away from the Third World musical influences that dominated Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints.
But if you were one of the few who actually listened to Simon's last release, Songs from the Capeman, the 1997 collection of tunes he wrote for the commercially disastrous Broadway play The Capeman, you know that -- like almost everything Simon has written over the past four-plus decades -- that music is melodic and clearly accessible. It's just typical-record company spin, primarily directed at reassuring critics and radio stations that You're the One is going to sell quite a few more copies than Songs from the Capeman.
And given that Simon is using many of the same musicians he's toured with over the past decade -- including African-born Vincent Nguini on guitar and Bakithi Kumato on bass -- the sound of You're the One really isn't that different.
But what's most interesting about You're the One is that Simon, who turned 59 a few weeks back, is writing songs with a definite focus on age and mortality, and how those factors affect his views on love and his desire to keep on creating powerful, moving pop music.
As usual, Simon's lyrics are well crafted and intricately bound to the music. And he still has the ability to create a memorable line. But Simon is no longer concerned with turning out hit singles, and the songs on You're the One aren't designed to fit that mold. Instead, Simon has created a recording that reveals its complexity and subtle facets only after repeated listenings.
And after several spins, songs like "Darling Lorraine," "Senorita with a Necklace of Tears," "Quiet," "The Teacher" and the title cut move quickly from the category of enjoyable tunes toward the rarefied atmosphere of potential classics. And in the long run (which is basically the underlying theme of this recording), these songs may end up having more staying power than many of Simon's catchier hits.