All of Paul Simon's solo albums ranked

Every Paul Simon solo record reviewed.

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No. 5 - SO BEAUTIFUL OR SO WHAT (2011)

Simon’s best album of the 21st century opens with a very good rocker – “Getting Ready for Christmas Day.” It is yet another hybrid – a pop-rock tune with gospel influences. Then we get another good rocker – “The Afterlife” – with the African percussion that dominates his great albums from the late 1980s. “Dazzling Blue” does the same thing, and then the brilliant self-reflective “Rewrite” closes out an opening powerhouse quartet.

The rest of the album is quite good, though a little bit uneven. “Love and Blessings” probably would have benefitted from a different vocalist, and “Questions for the Angels” is a pretty song but minor in the context of the rest of the album. He closes things out with the title track – a great blues rocker.

After years of producing himself, Simon reunited with veteran Phil Ramone on the production of So Beautiful or So What. Ramone helps Simon maintain a tougher, more focused sound throughout. And that is no small feat, given the album’s preoccupation with love songs and songs examining spirituality.