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News Headlines - 1 September 2009

News:Pianist, "Bridge" Arranger Larry Knechtel Dies At Age 69

Award-winning pianist Larry Knechtel, who won a Grammy for his arrangement of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and played piano on said track, died on August 23 at his home in Yakima, Washington. Read more about this here. (1 September 2009)

News:New Garfunkel Album Due January 30

Art Garfunkel is releasing a new album for 2007! Some Enchanted Evening finds Garfunkel putting his touch on great American torch songs - it should be a fitting match of song and singer. You can pre-order Art Garfunkel's new album, Some Enchanted Evening, by clicking on this link. (19 January 2007)

News: Saxophonist Michael Brecker Dies At Age 57

Some sad news from NYC tonight: Michael Brecker, who played the signature sax solo on "Still Crazy After All These Years," has died at the age of 57. You can read the New York Newsday obit here. Brecker died of leukemia. Brecker was one of the most influential tenor saxophonists of the past 30 years, and he kept working throughout his cancer. In fact, he just finished his final album a fortnight ago.

You can read more about Michael Brecker on his website or at the Wikipedia. Just looking at the list of artists with whom Brecker has worked over the past three decades areads like a who's who of modern pop, rock and jazz - his sax sound defined "sax" for many, many music listeners of recent generations.

Rest in peace, Michael. (13 January 2007)

Review: Paul Simon Live @ Merriweather Post Pavilion

Originally posted on my blog at

Paul Simon - photo by Paul FournierWednesday evening (July 12) was looking like it could be either stormy or wonderful: roaming thunderstorms covered the greater-DC area, and we drive north to Merriweather Post Pavilion through occasionally substantial rain.

Fortunately, by the time we arrived at the venue, the rain had stopped and we lucked into a great parking spot. The opening act, The Jerry Douglas Band, had already started, and provided a wonderful backing track as sprite and I walked to the entrance. We staked our spot about 2/3 of the way up the grassy lawn and waited for Paul Simon to take the stage.

Simon recently turned 64, and his new album Surprise features arrangements that are challenging to translate to the stage. Furthermore, it's the 20th anniversary of Simon's epic Graceland album, so there were plenty of tough hills for the show to climb.

And Simon climbed them like a happy, comfortable, experienced mountaineer: he was at ease, in tune with his band, and simply happy to be playing his songs in front of a receptive audience.

He opened with "Gumboots," one of the more obscure tracks from Graceland, which segued seamlessly into "The Boy In The Bubble." From there, he ran straight into "Outrageous," which works better in a live setting than it does on Surprise.

The audience really got into the act a bit more when Simon whipped out "Slip Sliding Away," then was challenged by Simon as he punched out a slyly reconfigred "You're The One," ripe with new harmonies and a new arrangement that tookmore advantage of the rock-and-roll chops of the new band.

The rest of the show worked on a "hit, new song, deep track" cycle, more or less. The other new songs during the main set- "How Can You Live In The Northeast?" and "Father And Daughter" - wove in well with the retooled Graceland tracks, which in turn worked well with Simon's older work. In particular, it was wonderful to see Simon dig out rare acoustic-driven songs like "Duncan" and "The Only Living Boy In New York," both of which simply shimmered with life.

The show ended with two encores: one featured hits, the other a new song and a retooled favorite that's more closely associated with Art Garfunkel.

The first encore was a "keep the fans happy" mix of "You Can Call Me Al," "The Only Living Boy In New York," and "The Boxer." This last song featured some silky dobro work from Jerry Douglas, whose band opened for Simon.

The second encore was a "send 'em home mellow and thinking" coupling of the new "Wartime Prayers" (the strongest song from Surprise) and a guitar-driven version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It was a perfect ending to a lovely show.

  1. Gumboots
  2. The Boy In The Bubble
  3. Outrageous
  4. Slip Sliding Away
  5. You're the One
  6. Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard
  7. How Can You Live In The Northeast?
  8. Mrs. Robinson
  9. Loves Me Like A Rock
  10. That Was Your Mother
  11. Duncan
  12. Graceland
  13. Father and Daughter
  14. Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
  15. Still Crazy After All These Years
  16. Cecilia
    1st Encore:
  17. You Can Call Me Al
  18. The Only Living Boy In New York
  19. The Boxer
    2nd Encore:
  20. Wartime Prayers
  21. Bridge Over Troubled Water
(17 July 2006)

News: Simon's Summer Tour Kicks Off

Paul Simon's "Surprise" tour kicks off tonight in Columbus, Ohio, and winds its way for 21 shows in 19 cities in the United States and Canada. Simon's set is sure to contain most of Surprise, as well as a good number of tunes from Graceland, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The Jerry Douglas Band will open - a superb act as a warm-up, and don't be surprised to see Douglas appear with Simon's band for a few songs (perhaps some dobro on "The Boxer" or "Graceland").

Click here for the full schedule, courtesy of Pollstar. I'll write a reivew of the Columbia, Maryland, show in mid-June - stay tuned. (28 June 2006)

News: Capeman Cast Album Available From iTunes

Well, it's finally out: The Capeman (Original Broadway Cast Album) is now available exclusively from the iTunes Music Store. Click here to take a look (iTunes is required). The whole album is $19.99, which isn't bad for 39 songs that span two CDs' worth of music. (29 June 2006)

News/Review: Paul Simon's Surprise Released May 9

Paul Simon's latest work, Surprise, is a bold step into new sonic territory that finds Simon teamed with Brian Eno, whose modern sonic textures give a very modern and experimental feel. And unlike Simon's earlier foray into modern sounds (1983's Hearts And Bones), this works much more effectively, complementing Simon's trademark lyric storytelling and imagery.

On a whole, this is another crafty retooling of the Paul Simon sound. It's perhaps the most electronically-processed album Simon has done - and that's not a bad thing, at all, so long as the sound meshes well with Simon's sound. And to these ears, it works - though it'll be jarring to the world-beat and folk faithful who long for Simon to keep hitting the same chord as he did in the 1970s and 1980s. This is not the same Simon sound as There Goes Rhymin' Simon or Graceland.

In a way, I see the matching of Simon and Brian Eno as something akin to Paul McCartney's recent work with David Kahne and Nigel Godrich: working with a younger and/or more "out there" producer who will push the envelope.

Overall, the sonic tapestry is much more lush and varied under Eno's watch. If anything, this may be the most atmospheric Simon work, on a par with Rhythm and Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water in terms of depth of musical textures. And lyrically, there are many small story arcs that continue between songs, something that Simon hasn't done since the early 1980s, save for his musical, The Capeman.

It's a fun album - let's look at it track-by-track:

"How Can You Live In The Northeast?"
Eno's influence is immediately present from the beginning of this track. The sound drips of Eno's work with U2,Meizitang yet still maintains a lot of the Simon groove from Rhythm Of The Saints and You're The One.

"Everything About It Is A Love Song"
The track opens with an acoustic guitar, then smolders with a grungy guitar background until a rapidfire, quiet beat is established at the intro of the second verse.

A lot of funk in the intro leads to a guitar-driven groove. A song about growing old and vanity - "who's going to love you when your looks are gone" is the harmony refrain of the chorus - the song builds over a very modern, yet not overly- sequenced, groove.

"Sure Don't Feel Like Love"
A lot of funk behind this, and a lot of effects on the vocals. The harmonies are not only other humans, but voice synths similar to those used by Imogen Heap. Again, Eno's touches abound: deep synth groans as a base layer, with a lot of sequencing of electronic and acoustic instruments.

"Wartime Prayers"
Yet another acoustic opening, one that reminds me more of Roger Waters than of Paul Simon. In fact, this song - both in terms of musical and lyrical content - would fit completely well into Roger Waters' work (both solo and with Pink Floyd). When the gospel choir kicks in around 3 minutes in, it is more reminiscent of classic Simon constructions. One of the strongest songs on the album. (If this were a long-playing vinyl album, this is where the side break would occur.)

A fast, shuffle about adopting a baby that is a wonderfully uplifting song. The texture of this song is much closer to You're The One than most of the other material on this album, yet the texture fits in the overall sonic path of the album. Not the strongest track on the album, but it fits.

"I Don't Believe"
A bit of a raga, though with multiple chords, this song reminds me of a drive along I-70 through Colorado, from Glenwood Springs to Denver. Don't ask me why, but the beat matches the drive through the scrub canyons, along cliffs and rock faces, through alpine valleys and over high mountain passes. Another strong song, one of Simon's best.

"Another Galaxy"
Another traveling song in audio texture, which follows "Beautiful" and "I Don't Believe" quite naturally - an "adoption and return" tryptich, of sorts. This song is the journey home from adopting the child, reflecting on life's changes, the uncertainties, and even a nod to Simon's previous work (thinking about the "eye of the hurricane" - a tip of the hat to 2000's "Hurricane Eye").

"Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean"
A song that's edgy and electric, with a lot of Eno samples and crunch guitar painting a manic transition into the chorus. "Nothing is different, but everything has changed." Simon uses this effectively as a sonic transition to the next two songs, which aren't quite of the same cloth as the rest of the album.

"That's Me"
The song that most closely resembles songs from Rhythm Of The Saints or You're The One in terms of rhythm and phrasing, it's also one of the most pedestrian on the album. The lyrics are quite good (and dovetail well with "That's Me"), but the song doesn't really cover any new ground like the previous five tracks. Toward the end of the track, the track does open up with some funky slide guitar and looped samples that fatten the sound.

"Father And Daughter"
An older track, recorded in 2002 for The Wild Thornberries Movie. It seems tacked on, and while it's a great song and fits the theme of the album (as well as the "side two" story arc), its musical textures don't mesh well with the rest of the album. This was probably included to give the song more exposure, but it was hardly a necessary inclusion, in my opinion.

Top Songs: "Wartime Prayers", "I Don't Believe"
Rating: 8.5/10

Click here to pre-order from Amazon. (3 May 2006)

News: Garfunkel Arrested For Pot Possession

Art Garfunkel was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana on Sunday, August 28, just outside of the town of Woodstock. He was pulled over for running a stop sign, and New York State Police troopers smelled pot smoke, a subsequent search finding at least one marijuana cigarette.

Garfunkel was arrested on a similar charge in January 2004, for which he paid a $100 file and an additional $100 administrative cost. (30 August 2005)

More news coming soon...

To see older news items, click here.

Last updated: 19 January 2007