All of Paul Simon's solo albums ranked

Every Paul Simon solo record reviewed.
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No. 13 - IN THE BLUE LIGHT (2018)

In the Blue Light consists of ten re-recordings of songs Simon had already released on other albums. As the title suggests, these new versions tended toward bluesier renditions, often stripped down, and at times also slowed down. About half the songs show improvement over the originals. The other half are no better, and occasionally not as successful.

But the bottom line is that this is not a particularly strong collection of songs. With the exception of “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” from 1983’s Hearts and Bones, these are mostly lesser efforts. And that particular song, while it does show off more colors, is not an improvement over the original.

Of the ten songs, four of them came from his 2000 album You’re the One, which might suggest he was not particularly happy with that finished product. The other six tracks are scattered across six other albums. The jazzier rendition of “How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns” (from One Trick Pony), and a fuller New Orleans treatment of You’re the One’s “Pigs, Sheep and Wolves” do deserve a new listening. And the final track, “Questions for the Angel,” (from So Beautiful or Sio What, 2011) serves up a prettier melody and an excellent vocal.

In the Blue Light is reminiscent of another great singer-songwriter looking back on his earlier years and seeking new meaning. In 2000, John Prine released Souvenirs with similarly muted success. Prine offered new versions of some of his most popular songs. That is not what Simon is doing here. These were not hits. In one way, that makes this a more intriguing project than Prine’s. On the other hand, what we are left with is a lot of second-tier Simon. Some of it is interesting. None of it is transcendent.