Monday, November 4, 2013

Paul Simon - Heart and Bones

Today (November 4th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Heart and Bones, the sixth solo studio album from Paul Simon. This one reached number 99 in Australia, number 51 in Germany, number 35 on the US Billboard Album chart, number 34 in the UK, number 19 in France, number 14 in the Netherlands, number 11 in Sweden and number 3 in Norway.

Side one opens with the snappy synths and reverberating percussion “Allergies”. As the first single, it went to number 47 in the Netherlands, number 44 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 26 on the US Adult Contemporary chart.

The picturesque acoustic “Hearts and Bones” chronicles Simon’s trip through New Mexico with then girlfriend Carrie Fisher (he describes themselves as “one and one-half wandering Jews“). The lyrics of this ballad are beautiful poetry, the type of songs we had been coming to expect from him for so many years at this point.

“When Numbers Get Serious” talks about the early days of the Information age. Today, we don’t think much about how much information about ourselves is out there, but in the old days it was a lot harder to gather these kinds of things quickly. We really have come a long way in the past thirty years.

“Think Too Much” appears in two flavors on this record, sharing only the title and a chorus line. The first version is marked by the sub indicator (b), and it was the B-side to the first single. It has a bit of a Calypso/island rhythm to it.

The B-side to the second single was the gently swaying “Song About the Moon”.

Side two starts with the second version of “Think Too Much”, with the sub indicator (a). This was the second single released from the album. This one has a funkier groove to it and features guests Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic.

“Train in the Distance” has a cool and cautious melody to it that pulls you along with ease.

“Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War” is ballad about the named surreal artist and his wife. It also pays homage to the doo-wop days of early rock and roll.

“Cars Are Cars” has a very interesting stop-go aspect to its rhythm. It almost sounds like record is skipping but it isn’t. It reminds me of those time-elapsed films of traffic, moving in a shuttering sort of way.

“The Late Great Johnny Ace” is Simon’s tribute to the late John Lennon. The lyrics tell of a fictional R&B singer who was shot in the face during a game of Russian roulette in the mid-1950’s. The closing somber, one minute coda at the end of it was written by American composer Phillip Glass.

Hearts and Bones was another of those albums I had never heard before, but I instantly liked what I heard. Paul Simon is an outstanding songwriter who can embrace a variety of styles, as shown here. The thing is that the record does not sound dated at all; it could easily be have been released last year as opposed to 1983. That is how timeless Simon’s songs can be.

For 1980’s One Trick Pony, click here.

For 1982’s classic Concert In the Park, click here.

For 1986’s Graceland, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

While the legendary story of his death has been disputed by those who were there, Johnny Ace is not a fictional character.

His song "Pledging My Love" was one of the earliest posthumous hits, coming just a couple of years after the death of Hank Williams, who had four Number One country hits after his passing.

I think Simon's song references Johnny Ace and then JFK before getting around to Lennon. In referencing the three tragic and untimely deaths, the song is similar to Dion's "Abraham, Martin and John".

As a fan of Simon's work, this album doesn't get a lot of play around the Hideaway. It's not a bad album but it just doesn't rank up there with his best work. Simon has released what? A dozen albums as a solo artist? I'd put Hearts and Bones at #7. Looking at iTunes play counts, that seems to be an accurate assessment. The surprise is how many plays the songs from 2011's So Beautiful or So What have. It looks to be my fourth most played Paul Simon album. I would have guessed sixth or eighth.