Paul Simon – “So Beautiful Or So What” tracklist and notes

Paul Simon will releases his next record, So Beautiful Or So What, on April 12, 2011, according to Concord Music, which will release the album on its Hear Music label. According to the label’s website, So Beautiful will include 10 songs, kicking off with “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” Simon’s current single (available as an MP3 and in two video formats for free at his own website).

Below is the tracklist (with running times) for the album:

1. Getting Ready For Christmas Day (4:06)
2. The Afterlife (3:40)
3. Dazzling Blue (4:32)
4. Rewrite (3:49)
5. Love and Hard Times (4:09)
6. Love Is Eternal Sacred Light (4:02)
7. Amulet (1:36)
8. Questions for the Angels (3:49)
9. Love and Blessings (4:18)
10. So Beautiful Or So What (4:07)

“Getting Ready” isn’t the only song that might sound familiar to fan’s of Simon’s recent work. The lyrics to “Love and Hard Times” and “Rewrite” were included in Lyrics 1964-2008, the hardcover book Simon put out two years ago. While “Rewrite” has never been performed publicly (as far as we know), “Love and Hard Times” has made its way into some of Simon’s performances in recent years, beginning with a stop at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2008, then during a Q&A at Barnes and Noble to promote book in November of that year, and then at the Beacon Theater re-opening Simon did in February 2009. In July 2009, Simon released a version of “Questions for the Angels” on iTunes to coincide with a compilation album released through Starbucks, though that version of the song no longer appears to be available. Presumably the track on the new album will be different than the cut already released. Finally, “Amulet” is an instrumental guitar melody Simon wrote for Luciana Souza, the Brazilian jazz singer who improvised vocals over it on her recent album, Tide. Souza performed with Simon at his 2008 Brooklyn Academy of Music concerts, and joined him at the Beacon Theater as well.

According to an interview in the current edition of Rolling Stone magazine, Simon discussed the songwriting process that led to the new album. Discussing a particular passage from his last album, Surprise, Simon said, “That’s the part I liked the best out of all of it. So maybe I’ll go and do a thing I haven’t done in 20-odd years, which is sit in a room and write.” (One wonders what passage Simon was referring to – perhaps the opening chords of “Another Galaxy”?) Instead of working first with drums, Simon began to craft songs around harmony and structure on his guitar, which reminded him of his approach to 1975′s Still Crazy After All These Years. He then assembled a group of familiar, world-class musicians, including longtime Simon band guitarist Vincent Nguini and You’re The One percussionist Steve Shehan. The record also features familial backing vocals from Simon’s wife, Edie Brickell, and his daughter, Lulu, as well as a sample of a Sonny Terry harmonica, some electronic drum parts from Grizzly Bear’s Chris Bear and the bluegrass playing of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.

While Simon told Rolling Stone he’d like to perform with Art Garfunkel again, his immediate plans are to support the release of So Beautiful with a solo tour that, like the concerts around the release of You’re The One, would feature deep cuts from his catalogue like “Peace Like a River” and “Crazy Love (Vol. II).” Simon claims that his current approach to music-making is basically indie (Simon financed the sessions himself and then shopped around for a record label), which suits him just fine. “I’m focused on this album and this band,” he said. “It’s my kind of rock & roll.”

The December 23/January 6 edition of Rolling Stone is on newsstands; John Lennon is on the cover.