Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Paul Simon: Alternate Tunings and In the Blue Light

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Songs for the Asking: Paul Simon Previews Rarities Collection “Alternate Tunings” and “In the Blue Light”

Joe Marchese
The Second Disc
18 June 2018

Paul Simon may be retiring from the road, but the conclusion of his acclaimed Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour on September 22 won’t be the last we’ve heard of the legendary musician. On tour, he’s currently previewing two upcoming projects: Alternate Tunings, a long-awaited collection of previously unreleased material, and an album entitled In the Blue Light, due in September.

In lieu of a traditional tour program, Simon is offering a lavish “Limited Edition Folio” for purchase at each evening’s concert (price: a reasonable $30.00). This clothbound, hardcover, roughly LP-sized book is a fitting souvenir, but moreover, it includes a six-song MP3 download “from the forthcoming rarities collection Alternate Tunings.” The download card promises, “Drawn from Paul Simon’s vast archive of recordings, this collection spans his entire career.” This anthology has been mooted for years now; a quick online search reveals discussion of the project as far back as 2003. It’s finally becoming a reality, with the following previously unreleased songs available now for download to purchasers of the folio:

Song for the Asking (Solo Demo) (released version from Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970)
Papa Hobo (Solo Demo) (released version from Paul Simon, 1972)
Learn How to Fall (Solo Demo) (released version from There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, 1973)
Silent Eyes (Film Score Outtake) (released version from Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975)
Hearts and Bones (Solo Demo) (released version from Hearts and Bones, 1983)
Citizen of the Planet (Solo Demo) (released version from Simon & Garfunkel, Old Friends: Live on Stage, 2004)

These six beautiful acoustic tracks, bookended (pun intended) by solo versions of compositions associated with Simon & Garfunkel, augur well for the high quality of the complete release. (“Citizen of the Planet” was originally intended for Hearts and Bones – the album that itself began life as Think Too Much, the S&G reunion album that never was.) “Silent Eyes,” noted as “Film Score Outtake,” is a particularly fascinating offering, with Simon’s ethereal, wordless vocals and guitar joined by subtle, baroque orchestration.

Alternate Tunings isn’t the only project on the way from Rhymin’ Simon, however. The folio promises that In the Blue Light will arrive this September from Legacy Recordings. Though no further information about the album is printed in the folio or otherwise available, we do know that the album title derives from a lyric in “How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns” from 1980’s One Trick Pony. Additionally, Simon mentioned from the stage of Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night that his longtime guitarist Vincent N’guini (who died last December at the age of 65) played on In the Blue Light – his final collaboration with the artist. N’guini was first heard on a Simon album in 1990 The Rhythm of the Saints and has been featured on each of Simon’s LPs since. With Alternate Tunings also on the way and the farewell tour occurring now, it’s evident that Simon has been in a reflective mood. Perhaps In the Blue Lightwill find him looking back to the milieu or style of the past as well? In a 2016 interview with American Songwriter, Simon divulged that he and veteran producer-engineer Roy Halee had been re-recording new versions of old songs. The fruits of those sessions, including the possibility of a reworked “How the Heart…,” could finally see the Light of day this September. Whatever the case, Simon assured the enthusiastic Philly crowd that he wouldn’t be turning away from music despite his onstage retirement.

Watch this space for more news on both In the Blue Light and Alternate Tunings as it becomes available. Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour resumes Tuesday night in North Carolina and continues through September 22, when it will wrap up at a still-unannounced venue in (where else?) New York City.

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