Paul Simon will promote (and perform?) “Getting Ready for Christmas Day” on the Colbert Report this coming Thursday, December 16th, at 11:30 on Comedy Central. Simon performed “American Tune” on Colbert in 2008.
The song is about what you would expect from a Paul Simon Christmas tune: straight-up, catchy drums; bouncy acoustic guitars with effects; a sample of a 1941 record of the same title by the Reverend J.M. Gates; a thoughtful lyric about a nephew serving in Iraq (I think Paul once mentioned that his wife, Edie Brickell, actually had a nephew at war). To us, it sounds like “Getting Ready” grew out of the same funk that brought us the underrated “Once Upon a Time there was an Ocean,” from Surprise. It has the same melodic rhythm guitar style, and the arpeggios towards the end remind me of the Church scene in Once Upon a Time (fitting for a Christmas song, no?).
All in all, a great tune that doesn’t rely on holiday clichés. Can’t wait for March!
Last week we reported that Paul Simon has brought his solo catalogue back to Sony Records, with the company’s Legacy Recordings label planning to issue new remasters and, hopefully, some long-overdue DVDs (cough, Concert in the Park, cough).
Given that we’ve been expecting this news since the spring, it seems natural to expect Simon to release his new album, So Beautiful or So What on a Sony label as well. Yet we have a hunch that Simon has decided to go with Concord Records, an independent company that added Paul McCartney to its roster in April. We have two reasons to suspect that Simon might be signing up with one of Concord’s labels (which include Stax, Concord Jazz and, among others, Hear Music, the result of a joint venture with Starbucks that seems to be connected to Simon’s upcoming Christmas song, “Getting Ready for Christmas Day”):
First, a note on the website of Sterling Sound (Flash website – no direct link), reveals that the album was mastered by Greg Calbi in August at their New York studios. Clabi engineered Graceland, Hearts and Bones, The Rhythm of the Saints and the 2004 Warner remasters. According to the note, the album attached to So Beautiful is Concord.
Second, this morning Concord’s Twitter account retweeted Robert Hilburn’s tweet about So Beautiful. It would be odd for a record label to promote – even via Twitter – an artist it doesn’t represent. Most of the company’s tweets are about label members McCartney and Elvis Costello.
While it would be weird for Simon to have his catalogue with Sony and his new material with Concord, it’s not unheard of. Note that the Sony release didn’t mention anything about new material from Paul Simon. We wouldn’t be surprised to see So Beautiful on a Sony label, but we have a hunch Concord might provide the kind of grassroots, independent release Simon is looking for (as opposed to the kind of machine release he might want for his back catalogue).
Second update: American Songwriter has the press release here.
Update: And just like that, Paul’s site (formerly hosted by Warner Brothers) has flipped over to Sony, leaving the news item below gone forever. I’ll try to find a cached version of it, though presumably the press release will turn up eventually.
Legacy Recordings, a branch of Sony, will issue “upgraded and remastered” editions of Paul’s solo catologue:
The albums reissued in 2004 by Warner Bros will be restruck from the 2004 masters with newly added bonus tracks.
Additionally, reference is made to a DVD release of the 1991 Concert in the Park, which has only been released on VHS and Laserdisc.
Presumably Sony (though probably not on the Legacy label) will also issue Simon’s upcoming album, So Beautiful or What, apparently due in March 2011. No word yet on when the Legacy reissues will hit the shelves, though Legacy has already issued The Essential Paul Simon.
“new Paul Simon record is tropical acousticwave delicious. serious.”
Following a reply (“There’s a new Paul Simon record? Today just got great.”) from New York music journalist Chris Barth, Warren replied, “yes, coming in March. he drops a “Xmas” song in a week or so. new label also. sounded really good.”
This might be the video of the year: Paul Simon checks in on a performance of “Scarborough Fair” by Tracy Morgan and Chris Rock, from Comedy Central’s “Night of Too Many Stars.” Predictably, the clip ends with Simon showing off his rap skills, doing a little bit of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.”
Paul Simon has published a review of Stephen Sondheim’s new collection of lyrics and stories, Finishing the Hat, in the New York Times. The Times reveals, in its quiet way, the title of Simon’s next album and its expected arrival.
Some notes of interest from the captivating review:
Sondheim quotes the composer-lyricist Craig Carnelia: “True rhyming is a necessity in the theater, as a guide for the ear to know what it has just heard.” I have a similar thought regarding attention span and a listener’s need for time to digest a complicated line or visualize an unusual image. I try to leave a space after a difficult line — either silence or a lyrical cliché that gives the ear a chance to “catch up” with the song before the next thought arrives and the listener is lost.
I saw “West Side Story” when I was 16 years old, and I have two vivid memories of the show. One, I didn’t believe for a minute that the dancers were anything like the teenage hoods I knew from the street corner, and secondly, I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the song “Maria.” It was a perfect love song. Sondheim was less enamored with the lyric he wrote for Bernstein. He describes it as having a kind of “overall wetness” — “a wetness, I regret to say, which persists throughout all the romantic lyrics in the show.” Sondheim’s rule, taught to him by his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, is that the book and composer are better served by lyrics that are “plainer and flatter.” It is the music that is meant to lift words to the level of poetry.
Sondheim’s regret about “Maria” reminded me of my own reluctance to add a third verse to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I thought of the song as a simple two-verse hymn, but our producer argued that the song wanted to be bigger and more dramatic. I reluctantly agreed and wrote the “Sail on silvergirl” verse there in the recording studio. I never felt it truly belonged. Audiences disagreed with both Sondheim and me. “Maria” is beloved, and “Sail on silvergirl” is the well-known and highly anticipated third verse of “Bridge.” Sometimes it’s good to be “wet.”
“Company,” one of my favorite Sondheim musicals, is often cited as another example of his cerebral, cold writing. The plot is a bitter examination of the “joy” of marriage and the existential loneliness of its unmarried protagonist, Bobby. Some have speculated that Bobby is an autobiographical stand-in for Sondheim, although he dismisses this as the trap of attributing the character of the art to the character of the artist. It’s harder to read autobiography into the words of a composer who writes for theater than it is for a pop music counterpart. A song from “the heart” of a character has to be truthful, but if it isn’t, it’s not the author’s lie — it’s the character’s. But if a pop singer or songwriter writes a love song, a song of regret or even a bit of inscrutable doggerel like “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” it’s autobiography. The lyricist in a musical is writing the art of the character. Both are pathways to a truth, but there is a profound difference in process.
In his youth, Simon said in an e-mail, he basically listened only to R & B, doo-wop and rockabilly. “The first musical I remember seeing was a show called ‘Fanny,’ whose title deeply embarrassed me. I don’t remember anything else about it. I also saw ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ which I felt was condescending toward my age group.” A dozen years ago, Simon’s own musical, “The Capeman,” opened on Broadway, and in August the Public Theater staged it at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. “The summer ‘Capeman’ revival at the Delacorte was a totally enjoyable experience,” he said. “Of course, the whole atmosphere at the Public was so much more relaxed and assured than the original, which had complicated artistic differences and a ‘controversial’ subject matter. Attitudes have changed a lot since 1998.”
Here’s what we know about the next Paul Simon record:
According to Rolling Stone, it’s done – and it’s great. RS published a small blurb in its current edition (with Barack Obama on the cover):
Remember how awesome it was to realize that Dylan was back – and possibly better than ever? At 69, Paul Simon is poised for a Time Out of Mind – style return with his new disc, which he previewed at RS HQ recently. Simon described it as his “best since Graceland,” and we totally agree. We bet his new legion of hipster acolytes (Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear) will, too.
The music should be typically eclectic. Like us, you’ve probably never heard of Karaikudi Mani. According to the The Hindu, the master miridangist recently recorded with Simon, introduced by You’re The One and Surprise percussionist Jamey Haddad:
“Nowadays, of course the sitar and the tabla are well known in music circuits worldwide. I took up the challenge of popularising the mridangam,” says Kaaraikkudi Mani whose album recording with vocalist Paul Simon, of the famed Simon and Garfunkel duo, along with drummer Jamie Haddad is set for release soon.
This, incidentally is Simon’s first recording with an Indian musician after doing so with Pandit Ravishankar in the 1960s.
Eclectic doesn’t just mean Indian – it means Indian plus Americana. As we reported in June, Paul Simon spent some studio time with bluegrass legends Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, who provided bluegrass instrumentation and vocals to an “afro-cuban” track.
Further, it’s looking increasingly likely that the new album will be out on a Sony/Columbia record label, as Paul’s catalogue appears to have shifted back from Warner Brothers.
Last, don’t be surprised if recent Simon songs that have not yet found broad release (“Love and Hard Times,” “Questions for the Angels”) show up on the record, perhaps with more instrumentation than fans have been used to.
We also hear from our friends at the indispensable Dreamer of Music that the new record will feature the work of sax virtuoso Andy Snitzer and master percussionist Steve Shehan, longtime Simon collaborators.
Based on the rate that information is trickling out – and thinking back to the release of Surprise - it wouldn’t surprise us if all that was left was the selection of a title, the approval of artwork, the pressing of CDs and encoding of MP3s and the writing of press releases. Here’s hoping for new Paul Simon music in 2010!