All of Paul Simon's solo albums ranked

Every Paul Simon solo record reviewed.

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No. 10 - SEVEN PSALMS (2023)

Seven Psalms was released last year when Simon was 81 years old. His subject matter and his musical approach may have morphed over the decades, but the voice remains unchanged. In a sense, Paul Simon is forever youthful, even when confronting questions surrounding old age and death. Of course, even when he was a young man, there was a gravitas to his writing that revealed an old soul.

Seven Psalms could have easily been a ponderous soliloquy on life, death, and faith. It is structured as a single 33-minute track with seven distinct movements. He returns several times to the opening number – “The Lord” – which links some of the later psalms. But within that structure, Simon has created a remarkable single piece, which quite frankly, turned out far better than I might have expected. Nick Cave released his own Seven Psalms one year earlier, and it was, in fact, a mostly ponderous exercise.

“The Lord” features Simon’s voice and his guitar. Eventually, other sounds creep into the mix and they tend to recall religious experience. Bells chime in the distance. Lyrically, it sets out Simon’s state of mind as he approaches eternity. “The Lord is the COVID virus” is merely one of the provocative lines that essentially cedes all power to a superior being.  And yet the tone remains optimistic, even when clouded by doubt and fear. There is a genuine faith that permeates Seven Psalms, immediately evident in the opening track.

Eventually, Simon begins branching out. The short, soft second psalm – “Love is Like a Braid” – begins adding more sounds to the mix. “My Professional Opinion,” the third track, features a bluesier guitar attack, and a reference to a couple of cows engaged in a deep conversation. Simon has always had the ability to balance humor with his more serious concerns and that may show more clearly on Seven Psalms than on any album he has released since the 1970s.

The remainder of the numbers are equally strong, especially the brief “Trial of Volcanoes,” a potent little story that features some of his best lyrics. And toward the end, he allows another voice to join him. Edie Brickell sings on the final two numbers and her mere presence on such a personal album speaks volumes. For an artist who made his name as part of one of the most famous duos in pop music, only to blow that up and pursue a career in which he frequently collaborated but never gave up being the dominant voice in his work, this is a profound statement. At the end of Seven Psalms, Paul Simon is not a rock, nor an island.