Paul Simon – Seven Psalms -“It’s Time to Come Home”

by | May 19, 2023 | 0 comments


Paul Simon’s new album, Seven Psalms, is exactly what the title says, seven individually crafted songs and morality musings. Seven proud and beautiful prayer flags, wind worn and strung on a frayed and unifying line. The album, a thirty-minute song cycle rooted in acoustic guitar, and ornately decorated in timely percussion, exotic flourishes and vocal choruses. The seven elements comprising one piece of music, one narrative told through Simon’s poetic constructs. As explained on the Paul Simon website, “Psalms are hymns that are meant to be sung rather than spoken”.

Reaching back to move forward, Simon’s approach on Seven Psalms, feels coffeehouse, but the results are orchestrated and contemporary. The songs were born by his acoustic guitar, drawn by hand, and then the places of interest and locations of note colored in with additional artist’s tools.

 

While it was thought that Simon was retired and not writing music for the past five years, the muse once again visited him unannounced and at a pale hour. Simon has revealed that the Seven Psalms album idea came to him in a dream, and the compositions were completed in the witching hours. The record sparkles, like sunlight warmed dust floating around a white room. The songs acknowledge our eventual end, not in a sad way, but a hopeful, honest one. Simon’s guitar is crisp, serious, his voice an earnest gospel instrument. He is at his most lyrical and poetic, the album contains imagery in abundance. 

 

The recording begins with the gently disorienting ring of soft round bells ushing in an instantly recognizable Paul Simon acoustic guitar riff. “The Lord,” is an introspective overture, Simon sings, “I’ve been thinking about the great migration.” A line that lets us know the source of the record’s pious meditations. 

 

The song’s central lick reappears throughout the record, a meditation, a central locale to return to. Stern, forgiving and omnipotent, just like the subject of the song.  Simon’s guitar playing is intimate and complex. Each lyrical fragment, matched with a delicate string played melody, the marriage of the two resulting in an entire living universe.  

 

While Simon’s lyricism glimpses mortality seriously and with an analytical side eye, his humor has not left him either. In the quirky cool, “My Professional Opinion,” groovy riff that creates its own inertia, and is supplemented by a squishy harmonica and some quirky electronic coloring.

 

The album feels like resignation and acceptance. It sounds like repentance and forgiveness. 

The songs are shards of a beautiful sound, miniature movements that Simon has captured and trumpeted from his instrument in an earthly form. “Dip your hand in heaven’s waters,” Simon sings in an exotic refrain, one that reflects the glory of God, yet lacks any preachy religious conviction. These songs are compiled images Simon has been given, and now must revel to us through his sacred harp.

 

The second side of the record reminds me at times of David Bowie’s Blackstar, an album that uncovers similar submerged emotions through atmospheric choral voices and sonic contemplation. While Simon and Bowie’s respective aesthetics may differ, their resulting messages are similar. The idea that comfort can be found in song, and that human mystery can be solved through joyous melodic wonder.

 

                                        Photo: Paul Simon

 

Simon’s wife, Edie Brickell also lends her vocal talents to the second side of the record, adding a contrasting voice to the conversation. The final song of the record, “Wait,” is a stunning piece of music. The track’s instrumentation feels like a conglomeration of the entirety Simon’s music career. The overarching subject of the song, the elephant in the room.

It feels like a lost balloon being tossed between a dark realization of the inevitable, and the delicate awakening of an eventual beautiful release. Brickell sings a garden verse chorus in exciting opposition to the deep blue recital by her husband. Their voices together meaningful and symbolic. The album and song then conclude with Simon and wife singing the word “Amen” together in chorus, an appropriate closing to such a deep album long narrative.

 

Seven Psalms, is a serious piece of music by one of the finest singer/songwriter poets in music history. In the twilight of his creative years, Simon continues to compose wonderful music, his resolve strong, and his mind sharp. What he has conjured with this album surpasses his most recent musical expressions. Seven Psalms sounds inspired, and feels serious, it’s multiplicity and depth worthy of our time and our ears.

 

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