Master songwriter legend Paul Simon returns in fine form with SO BEAUTIFUL OR WHAT, a wonderful concept album that raises spiritual questions about man’s relationship with God. And so far the critical acclaim is nearly universal, including ROLLING STONE which praised the album as Paul Simon’s “best since Graceland”, another landmark album in his career. Initially, the lead-off track, “Getting Ready For Christmas” which was premiered on National Public Radio back in November became the first single off the album, although the song failed to chart on the Hot 100 charts.
“Getting Ready For Christmas” is unique in that samples a 1941 sermon by Rev. J.M. Gates, an early pioneer in Gospel music. It’s an impressive track and an excellent example of song writing from Paul Simon who combines just enough poetry and pop music together to create a master achievement album.
The second track off the album, “The Afterlife” became the latest single off the album, although the song has also failed to chart as well. But, it’s also another fine Paul Simon classic.
At moments this album has some guitar work that reminds you of GRACELAND and other times the old single “Loves Me Like A Rock ” is recalled. This album is a wonderful mix of fine songs. And the spirtual feel to the album seems to pay great respect to the traditions of Black Gospel music as well.
The Bottom Line: Paul Simon never seems to disappoint. Every outing is an inspired achievement including this one. A fine effort by a real music legend. +++1/2(Three and a half stars, or better than good. A great album to buy and love. It was just released on April 12, but should be widely available in most stores).