Though undoubtedly an improvement on the twin career nadirs of Songs from the Capeman and You're The One, this first album in five years from Paul Simon can only be regarded as a qualified success, despite the contributions of Brian Eno, credited here for "sonic landscape" - a cute way of describing his electronic interventions. Simon is no stranger to collaborations, but Eno's tics and twitches don't transform his songs anything like as radically as earlier forays into gospel and African musical territory. Ultimately, the refinement of players such as Steve Gadd, Pino Palladino, Bill Frisell and Herbie Hancock is more decisive, applying a sophisticated patina to Simon's songs about urban unease, the transitoriness of everything, and the function of faith in the 21st century. There are more memorable melodies here than on the last two albums put together, and Simon hasn't lost his gift for a striking lyric. "People hungry for the voice of God hear lunatics and liars" is the kind of pertinent observation our born-again, crusading leaders would probably prefer we didn't hear.
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