So Beautiful or So What

So Beautiful or So What

by Paul Simon


Touted as Paul Simon's return to traditional songwriting -- Simon writing alone with a guitar and a pen instead of constructing songs around rhythmic loops the way he's done since Graceland -- So Beautiful or So What doesn't feel like a return to the '70s. From the moment the record kicks in with the heavy blues stomp and samples of "Getting Ready for Christmas Day," it's evident that while Simon may have changed his style of composing, he's not abandoning his method of record-making, which is distinctly engaged with the present. When Bob Dylan sings about Alicia Keys he does so with an old-fashioned swing, but when Simon writes a verse about Jay-Z he does it within the context of an album anchored in polyrhythms, chattering guitars, and digital loops, where the handful of delicate acoustic numbers function as a counterpoint to the clean bustle of the rest of the record. Certainly, So Beautiful or So What isn't as reliant on soundscapes as its Brian Eno-produced predecessor, but it is no rejection of texture, just as it is in no way a repudiation of the musical sensibility of Graceland, whose rhythms are as firmly felt here as on any record he's made since. Rather, So Beautiful elegantly touches upon each of Simon's solo signatures within a compact 38 minutes, its brevity indicating the precision of Simon's focus. There are no wasted sounds or words here, and if he offers some of his simplest, prettiest tunes in years ("Love & Hard Times," "Amulet") and spends a considerable chunk of the record dwelling on spiritual matters, the album is neither steeped in nostalgia nor haunted by death. Paul Simon is remarkably clear-eyed in assessing the modern world and his place in it, not shying away from contemporary sounds -- if anything, the production is occasionally a tad too brittle, like so many digital-age recordings -- but not chasing after youth either. He's merely living in his time and reporting, returning with an album that's vivid, vibrant, and current in a way none of his peers have managed to achieve.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/12/2011
Label: Hear Music
UPC: 0888072328143
catalogNumber: 32814

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Paul Simon   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Percussion,Glockenspiel,Electric Guitar,Vocals,12-string Guitar,Bells,Guitar (Nylon String)
Doyle Lawson   Background Vocals
Michael White   Clarinet
Steve Gorn   Bansuri
Edie Brickell   Background Vocals
David Finck   Bass
Skip La Plante   Gong,Harp,Wind Chimes
Jeanne LeBlanc   Celli
Richard Locker   Celli
Lois Martin   Viola
Vincent Nguini   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Steve Shehan   Bass,Saz,Cymbals,Stick,Djembe,talking drum,Angklung,Crotale,Brushes,Resonator,Glass Harp
Pamela Sklar   Flute
Sonny Terry   Harmonica,Soloist
Diane Lesser   English Horn
Sara Cutler   Flute,Harp
Nancy Zeltsman   Marimbas
Elizabeth Mann   Flute
Charles Pillow   Clarinet
Gabe Witcher   Fiddle
Etienne Stadwijk   Celeste
Karaikudi R. Mani   Ensemble,Vocal Percussion
Yacouba Sissoko   Kora
Desiree Elsevier   Viola
Vincent Lionti   Viola
Mick Rossi   Piano
Chris Bear   electronics
Jim Oblon   Bass,Percussion,Drums,Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar
Mary Abt   Clarinet
Lulu Simon   Background Vocals
Joshua Swift   Dobro

Technical Credits

Elvis Costello   Liner Notes
Paul Simon   Composer,Lyricist,Producer,Whistle
Gil Goldstein   Arranger
Phil Ramone   Producer
Andy Smith   Engineer
Geoff Gans   Art Direction
Kevin Mazur   Band Photo
Sven Geier   Cover Image
Chris Bear   Introduction

Customer Reviews

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So Beautiful or So What 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Jahmis More than 1 year ago
This album is as NPR says his best since Graceland. Every track is winner. Don't waste your time with the deluxe version. You don't get bonus tracks and the making of the album video can be seen on Paul's website. Save your money and buy the LP or regular CD.
bellens More than 1 year ago
This album is incredible. Paul has written an album that is stunning. I have been a fan for nearly 50 Years, and this album doesn't disappoint. There is no other artist whose work means as much to me. Paul Simon is still the BEST after all these years.