Paul Simon Reflects on Life and Death in Quietly Striking ‘Seven Psalms’

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All these decades, Paul Simon is still looking for angels in architecture. Maybe especially now; he is 81 years old and, like many of his contemporaries, ponders the problems of the end of life, both spiritual and physical. The observations on his quietly enchanting new album “Seven Psalms” reflect a kind of perfect maturity: There are no more stages of maturity in this life beyond which a difficult exit appears. “Psalms” is a collection of songs about the past, present and (perhaps) the future, and Simon briefly looks at some burnt bridges; when we look at how insignificant the current concerns that currently divide us seem in the face of mortality; and looking ahead to see… well, to see if it’s there spouse It is further because concerns about the hereafter remain uncertain in old age as well as in youth.

“Seven Psalms” is unlike any other Simon album in too many ways to be listed. At its most basic level, the extent to which the singer-songwriter wants you to experience it as a concept album is highlighted by the digital release of seven different songs – plus two unbilled reps – as one full-length track. Sorry, no mixing guys. (Prince once tried the album gamble with “Lovesexy” as a single, but even that recording was split into individual listenings in the streaming age. And, hey, original psalmist, biblical david break her did the album go to singles?)

It’s a strange but understandable move: No one will go to great lengths to get a track from an album immersed in The End of All Things to the radio, even in the adult alternative format, and the album as a whole really benefits from being understood. At 33 minutes it’s almost an EP by modern standards, but it feels more like three hours. This is meant in the most positive way possible, given how much meat Simon gives diners to chew on a one-course dinner.

The recording begins and ends with the bells. Can you guess who they rocked and stole for? Death is a constant theme here, but any explanation he has to make about death is posed as a series of questions in these sometimes elliptical, sometimes outspoken lyrics. Religion as myth or reality, especially in your mind. With a refrain that will be heard a few more times before the album ends, the opening song “The Lord” repeatedly listens directly to Lord-is-my-cobam, the most famous psalm in the Bible. – with some almost funny twists. He begins by noting that religion is less important to younger generations: “I was thinking of the great migration / they leave the herd at noon and at night,” he states at the beginning of the album. While unsure whether God is a compassionate savior or impartially dispensing justice or terror, Simon himself cannot be dissuaded from the faith as all these happily fleeing sheep: “God is my engineer / God is my record producer” “Covid virus is God” and “God is a cloud of smoke” alternates with. In “My Professional View”, Simon, a Jew, displays a half-Christian, half-cynical view of the figure of a heavenly Father: “All that really matters is / Is he transforming into us / Is he anointing and playing games with us / With his ideas” (Let’s bow down now and LOL. ) In “Your Forgiveness” he also ponders on reincarnation or pure dust: “I have reason to doubt / A white light eases the pain / Two billion heartbeats and out / Or does it all begin? Again?” Still agnostic after all these years.

But over the short course of the album, there are some things the singer is sure of – like her own regrets in “Trail of Volcanoes” (Simon’s back view doesn’t just have burning bridges). Or that you found true love in the sweetest trick on record. “Love Is Like a Braid” (“I’ve lived a life of pleasant pain / Until the real deal came”). That last sentiment may or may not be meant to refer to his wife, Edie Brickell, but it seems like a safe bet. Brickell soon reappears alive, singing not only harmonies but also duet pieces in the last two issues, “The Sacred Harp” and “Wait,” bringing such warmth after the cooler monologues that it leaves the impression that Simon may be a believer. . , finally. At least he’s someone enough to wrap things up with himself and Brickell singing a liturgical harmony on the closing “amen.”

“The Seven Psalms” is just as striking in its musical montage, but no one would accuse this complex listening of having excessive earworms. The majority of the instrumentation consists of Simon playing the acoustic guitar or other stringed instruments; intermittent bursts of exotic percussion or glockenspiel or bass harmonica keep everything a little tense and beautiful. It’s microphoned so closely that you can hear every movement of your arm against the guitar, as if your head is sitting on your lap next to the instrument. Although “My Professional Sight” is basically a blues number in disguise, sometimes the chords have a more classical or jazz-like feel than pop or even folk. The die-hard fan will take all this as a welcome parting and perhaps even hope that Simon will make another one in this distinctly sincere, uncompromising, somewhat deceitful vein.

Somehow that doesn’t sound very likely. “Seven Psalms” feels like a synopsis, something Simon felt compelled to do after he told himself he had finished making new albums (his last recording of new material came out in 2016). Many artists consciously do not have a chance to make a final recording; prime examples often cited are David Bowie’s “Blackstar” and Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker”. (There are reasonable doubts as to whether Bowie really thought of “Blackstar” as his swan song, but as a willful testament and testament, his legend will live on regardless.)

It seems that health isn’t an issue, and there’s no compelling reason not to think and hope that Simon will be able to record more after this, except that he thinks he’s retiring from recording before turning the studio lights back on. One. Let’s hope so; It’s better for him to continue making records half as rich as that for his recording career to go off on a perfect grade for its own sake. Still, there is no denying that the “Seven Psalms” has a feel that might have been designed as a real show-stopper. If collection spouse a limit to the new catalog of work, a testament to how curious and engaged an artist can be so late in his career. Even thinking about certainty, you hear throughout the recording that these are still days of miracles and miracles, according to Simon.

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