Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Late Night Listening: Hearts and Bones

Hearts and Bones comes along more than a decade after Paul Simon began his solo career, but it's still my favorite of all his solo albums. Reportedly, a lot of what's on this album was originally planned for a reunited Simon & Garfunkel album; when that plan went south, Garfunkel's tracks for some of these song were wiped and it became a Paul Simon album instead. Can't verify if it's true, but it might explain why it's so very good: I think Paul Simon the songwriter rose to the challenge of creating something great for a Simon & Garfunkel reunion.

My favorite tracks here are "Train in the Distance," one of the most poignant tales of faded love and separation ever recorded; "Think Too Much," which is here twice, but it's the second version with its distinctive harmonies that always gives me a musical thrill (my knowledge of harmony isn't sophisticated enough to say why the harmony on the "maybe I think too much" line is so irresistibly delightful, but I wish that someone with a more learned ear could explain it to me—are you listening, Janice Gelb?); and "The Late Great Johnny Ace," a touching, introspective  song of loss inspired by the death of John Lennon.

With most albums, I have a favorite side, but with this album, it's a win-win, whichever side I play. Alternating between solemn and effervescent, silly and somber, bittersweet and bouncy, this is Paul Simon at his very best.

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