Paul Simon/Various Artists
Paul Simon & Friends

Release Date: May 19, 2009
Produced by: N/A
Format: DVD



Bob Olsen


Despite my advanced years (or maybe IN spite of my advanced years), I have a hard time naming a songwriter who has had as long and as prolific career as Paul Simon.  While he will probably be recognized more for his collaboration with Art Garfunkel during the sixties, it’s pretty obvious that his music has continued to branch out into many different regional forms…in short, his solo career hasn’t been a slouch either.  Over the years he has moved freely between, folk, African, Brazilian, Gospel, and Zydeco (to name a few).

This DVD captures a diverse tribute by various artists who cover Simon’s tunes.  While I’ve long admired Simon as an artist, this performance really drove home the notion of how wide ranging his influence is.  Also, how comfortable artists from different genres are when interpreting his songs.

I had a notion that this would be a Paul Simon solo retrospective…so when Lyle Lovett came out with a wonderful version of “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”, I was beginning to feel a sense of dread coming on.  Damn, if Lovett doesn’t nail this one, with some capable backup from the Jesse Dixon Singers.  OK…some promise is beginning to show when Shawn Colvin and Alison Krause performed the most beautiful version of “The Boxer” that I ever heard.  Colvin sand the Simon part with Krause adding an angelic Garfunkel harmony…throw in  pretty Violin solo by Krause and a dynamite dobro solo by a backup player (didn’t get his name) and you have a reason y to buy this DVD.

Steven Marley followed with a so-so reggae version of “Mother and Child Reunion”.  In a brief departure from the tributes, they featured a 1987 concert clip with Simon singing “Under African Skies” with Miriam Makeba…stunning version with stripped down instrumentation by exciting vocals by the pair.   Ladysmith Black Mambazo followed with “Homeless”…still a riveting song and made more heartfelt by their harmonies.

Back to film clips of Simon singing a solo acoustic version of “Mrs. Robinson” at Yankee Stadium…”Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio” never brought tears to my eyes until I heard it in this setting…a gentle reminiscence of an older (simpler?) time, I wonder what our generation’s version will be.

The DVD slowed down a bit with James Taylor singing “Slip Siding Away” and a poetry reading.  Lovett and Buckwheat Zydeco got the crowd on their feet with the next number…sorry, I didn’t recognize the cut, but it further showed how Simon’s music can cross over.  Next was a clip from SNL with Simon and George Harrison dueting on “Homeward Bound”…beautiful harmonies and I realized just how much Harrison is missed.   Taylor slowed it down again with “Still Crazy After all These Years”…Marc Anthony (yeah, I’m thinking WTF?), brought the house to its butt with mediocre versions of “El Condor Pasa” and “Late in the Evening”.

The Muppets had an old cip of them doing “59th Street Bridge Song” that was cute but not very necessary.  The evening then came back to life as Simon strolled on stage and did one of the best versions of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” (with Ladysmith…), recorded.   The most touching part of the evening was when Art Garfunkel (Simon’s “comrade in many an argument”) came onstage and did a very touching version of “Bridge over Troubled Water” with Simon taking lead on one verse.  The voices are a bit raspy now, but seeing these guys together again, made for a most tender performance.

Stevie Wonder came next and did “Me and Julio…” with Simon…they closed with a rollicing version of “Loves me Like a Rock”.   I was surprised to see Phillip Glass do a medley of Simon songs over the credits…”Sounds of Silence” played in Glass’ minimalist mode was a trip.

This is a strong tribute to a great artist…some definite misplays, but the highlights take you soaring…go for it.









Copyright 2002-2009 Matthew Rowe.
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212 Frech

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