“In The Blue Light:” old songs, new vibe

Simon's newest album brings him back to his roots and features a multitude of amazing musicians.


Creative Commons

In the Blue Light album cover.

Xander Donahue, Staff Writer

World-renowned singer-songwriter Paul Simon is once again at the vanguard of innovative and original music. But this time around it’s a little different.

Simon’s new LP “In The Blue Light” is a collection of reworks, rewrites and rearrangements of the songs he thought needed an update. The album as a whole flows together beautifully and creates an amazing atmospheric tone that every Simon fan loves.

One of the best parts of this album is its diversity. Even though most of the songs have a nice, relaxing vibe, they each have their own distinct feel. What makes every track different from their originals is the new layers of instruments and the style in which they are played. Synths are replaced with pianos, background vocals with brass, and sometimes entirely new sections filled with a plethora of different sounds are fabricated to add to the overall feel of each individual track. Simon explains why he decided to change a collection of songs in a video he released shortly before he made his collection public.

¨The idea was to take songs that I thought were really good songs but that didn’t get that much attention when they first came out,¨ said Simon. ¨It was very easy because the musicianship is extraordinary. When they play it’s so good”.

The album opens with an alluring, bluesy rendition of  “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor.” The track begins with a piano and an ambient guitar playing in usion, but quickly crescendos into a slow and groovy shuffle. This piece sets the stage perfectly for what is to come. It feels new and hip, but still maintains that good ol’ Paul Simon feel we’ve all grown to love. The track also features a more jazz- focused inflection with its slow walking bass line, a steady shuffle provided by the drums and an improvised piano line that flows over the top of the piece.

What may surprise some people is that a very large part of the LP is centered around jazz. It is still classified as a rock album, but improvisation and blues play a substantial part in nearly every song. The piece that reflects this the most is “Pigs, Sheep and Wolves.” The bright track features world-renowned trumpet player Wynton Marsalis and a quaint jazz band, complete with a clarinet, saxophone and a trombone.

The brisk New Orleans style of playing offers a brief change from the other repertoire on the album before quietly slipping back into the silky smooth style that the rest of the tracks adopt. The next track, “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War,” may be the most beautiful and well crafted piece out of the ten remastered works. yMusic, a sextet chamber ensemble, starts the piece with a quiet and intriguing melodic line. Everything proceeding this song suddenly disappears as the yMusic ensemble’s  graceful introduction slowly builds into a wonderful symphony of captivating vocals and a variety of both string and wind instruments. As the album begins to wind down, each piece becomes calmer.

Even as the energy slowly fades away, Simon’s pleasant, tepid voice remains as passionate and vibrant as ever. In its entirety, this collection of songs is the best Simon has to offer. It has a classic, yet developed sound, a variety of different ideas and motifs and a unique way of intertwining everything into one perfect masterwork. No collection of songs will ever come close to replicating the beautiful piece of art Simon created with his fellow musicians. It is the kind of album that transcends any kind of scale or rating. No amount of stars or any series of numbers can truly characterize how absolutely excellent “In The Blue Light¨ really is. If you’re somebody who loves music, I guarantee you will enjoy some, if not every part of this wonderful musical experience.