Record of the Day: Paul Simon, "One-Trick Pony"

Record of the Day: Paul Simon, “One-Trick Pony”

Paul Simon
One-Trick Pony (Warner Bros. CD 7599-27407-2)

Unjustly buried in a corner of Paul Simon's copious discography, little considered by fans and critics, this album is instead one of the best of the American singer-songwriter.
The little success he received (with the exception of the single “Late in the Evening” which quickly climbed the world charts) is probably connected to the very poor result of the film of the same name directed by Robert Young (of which this album is the soundtrack ) which featured Simon in an embarrassing lead actor role, showcasing all his acting inadequacies.

It's a shame, because the songs written by Simon in recent years had reached a level of quality that had few comparisons on the world scene, both in terms of music and lyrics. Refined scores often characterized by very sophisticated harmonic turns and arrangements polished to perfection told very complex stories rich in literary references. The story of the film was a banal tale of the life on the road of a failed musician and his band (the same musicians who accompany Simon on the album, also authentic geniuses of their instrument and equally catastrophic actors).

The songs focus on a world of broken dreams, exhausting nights spent hanging out in clubs, losing figures, disillusionment mixed with golden mediocritas, often using brilliant metaphors (“Jonah”, “That's Why God Made the Movies”) to better represent the interiority of the characters. The music is full of jazz references, with memorable melodies played on carpets of unexpected modulations, openings to the blues and the use of odd tempos (“How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns”).

Simon could not have reached this level of quality without the group of musicians who pushed him towards these musical shores. Richard Tee's electric piano tastefully harmonizes Simon's melodies supported by the unrivaled class of the rhythm of Steve Gadd (drums) and Tony Levin (bass) to which is added a long list of old foxes from the American studios including Don Grolnick (keyboards ), Hugh McCracken (guitar) and Ralph McDonald (percussion) who, under the guidance of producer Phil Ramone, together with Simon, outline a soundscape that deserves to be rediscovered years later.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.