By Steve Morley
Paul Simon: Surprise
Early in his career, Paul Simon was willing to experiment with his and partner Art Garfunkel’s sound while retaining the core components of his personality — intellect, wry humor, sensitivity and musical curiosity. That same knack informs his newly-released Surprise.
Simon peeks out in first person, but still clocks substantial time as an observer/narrator on cuts like Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean. The song follows an unambitious city dweller hoping to elude his past through cigarettes, T.V. and beer. Unbidden thoughts bring him repeatedly to the realization that time is passing like “something unstoppable set into motion,” a force that finally takes him to a transcendent church service.
Wartime Prayers, which takes a closer look at conversations with the unseen, finds Simon stating his own desire to find wisdom and “to cleanse my soul of rage before I’m through.”
It’s hard to dismiss this work as merely a dispassionate look at supernatural matters. Those who unwittingly encounter the subtle spiritual truths contained on Surprise may discover the biggest surprise of all.
Morley is a freelance music journalist living in