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Album Review

‘So Beautiful’ has all Simon charms

(Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
By Zeth Lundy
April 19, 2011

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Paul Simon’s studio albums occur at an infrequency that qualifies them as genuine events, yet they have become, post-“Graceland,’’ increasingly uneventful events. That is to say, a new Paul Simon record is predictable in the most comforting of ways: gentle world music affiliations, keen narrative, righteous guitar work, effortless vibe. Though his voice retains its coy, boyish charm from 40 years ago, Simon’s gift for melody has now been superseded by a knack for rich texture and complex rhythm. So while we’ll never get another “Kodachrome,’’ here we can relish in the heartbeat heave of “Rewrite’’ and the compulsive rut-groove propelling the title track. His slinky, sophisticated guitar goes to work throughout, digitized in “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,’’ Afrobeated in “The Afterlife,’’ and unaccompanied in the gorgeous instrumental “Amulet.’’ Pitter-pattering atop it all, Simon drops science on culinary matters, muses on Jay-Z billboards, and imagines a red-tape hereafter. Mortality, a favorite subject of aging singer-songwriters, abounds; in Simon’s hands, matters of life and death are casually broached and expertly summarized. “How’d it all begin? Started with a bang / Couple of light years later stars and planets sang,’’ Simon sings on “Love Is Eternal Sacred Light,’’ compacting a pretty big deal into something far more fathomable.

ESSENTIAL “Love Is Eternal Sacred Light’’

Paul Simon plays the Citi Wang Theater on June 1 and the House of Blues on June 2.