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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reversed and remanded

When you talk about playing an album backward, it always brings to my mind those Beatles records where spoken messages were recorded in reverse and buried in the music. "Turn me on, dead man." "Paul's dead -- miss him, miss him." There were plenty of clues for us all. At the end of "Rain," the boys even gave us a line or two of sung lyrics played backward.

I still play albums backward sometimes, sort of. Occasionally I find it revealing to re-order the tracks on a CD, playing the last song first, then the next-to-last, then the one before that, etc. It was always that way for me with Steve Earle's "The Hard Way," a dark album from the depths of his heroin period. There's some seriously moving material on that disk, but I had trouble getting into it the way it was sequenced. For some reason the album would start to drag on me about 10 or 15 minutes into it. When I told the CD player to play the tracks in reverse order, I liked the result better, for some reason.

(Of course, this would not go over well with Mr. Earle. When he re-emerged from jail, the small record label that took on his next album changed the order of the tracks from what he had presented, releasing it the changed way with no advance notice to Earle. The artist was quite displeased, eventually regaining the rights to the album and switching the tracks back to the original sequence for re-release on his own record label. I believe the quote was something like "I've been doing this for a long time; I know what the f*ck I'm doin'.")

Anyway, I'm just getting into Paul Simon's latest album, "Surprise," and I'm starting to get the same feeling about it. The most accessible number on it, "Father and Daughter," is last, with Simon's more challenging Brian Eno soundscapes kicking things off. Somehow the whole thing is more appealing to me (at least on a second listen) with the sweet stuff first and the thinking stuff later.

Don't tell the record companies about this. They'll probably decide that this is some sort of copyright violation, and try to bankrupt me.

Comments (4)

Jack: I noticed that you've been playing the new Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris CD. If you like the pairing, you might want to get the CD/DVD of them on tour. It is called "Real Live Roadrunning". It is a delicious CD with a mix of both "All the Roadrunning" songs as well as tracks from early MK solo CDs. Adding ELH to the mix makes the songs just that much more delightful. The live DVD is a real joy as well. JHMO

Sounds sort of like playing records with the wrong speed on the record player?????

"If This Is Goodbye" sung by Knopler and Harris about 9/11, is awesome.
I lived with that song in my head for several days straight. There's also a Hall of Fame guitar lick on the instrumental part at the end.
They also crushed when they performed it live on "Imus in the Morning". It's a classic example of taking something horrible - the phone calls from people trapped in the WTC towers - and turning it into something beautiful.

Once you understand what each track is about, Simon's doing perfectly clear stuff. The initial "how do these things relate?" goes away. This album is a monster!

I'm blogging about this and need all the help I can get cracking the last three songs. Explanations for "Outrageous", "That Don't Feel Like Love" and "Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean" are now up at http://www.CrackingTheSimonCode.blogspot.com

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