The unlikely proximity these two figures share should not surprise anyone familiar with the trajectory that Carly Simon has followed since her debut in 1971. She’s covered both Bob Marley and Stephen Sondheim, recorded the first “standards” album of the rock generation, wrote an opera, inspired Janet Jackson, serenaded James Bond, and created one of the longest-standing riddles in popular culture. To call the compass points of Carly Simon’s creativity “multi-directional” would be an understatement. The Brazilian flavor of This Kind of Love is yet another stroke in the Pollock-esque portrait of Carly Simon’s career.
There is variety even among the 13 tracks of newly written material, her first such album since The Bedroom Tapes (2000). When Carly Simon challenges me to guess which of the news songs is her favorite, I struggle in the way that guessing someone’s favorite dessert is often a fruitless exercise. How could any one of these exquisite tracks possibly stand out over another, especially when the choices are such a variegated bunch? I answer “Hola Soleil”, thinking its furious explosion of sunshine and samba would naturally bring Simon the ultimate satisfaction as a writer and musician. Though she does love that song, I’m wrong. “People Say a Lot” is the correct answer, but more on that later.
Marci, a huge Carly Simon fan, e-mailed to ask if I'd note Christian John Wikane (PopMatters) who interviewed Carly back in May 2008? Gladly. And, at the link, you also have Carly performing her early 80s British hit "Why?" -- the original video of that. I remember US magazine gave her a long third of the page for that video shoot in their equivalent of "Random Notes." She was eating an ice cream cone and it was a full shot of her lean and lanky body. I wish US still did the black & white photos because they really were powerful.
Like Marci, I'm a huge Carly fan. I'm also a huge fan of Joni Mitchell. And I'll note this by Kyle Cunningham on Joni's Blue album:
It's not an album for those who enjoy the computerized song process of today, that's for sure. "Blue" is shamelessly simple – with nothing more complex than an Appalachian dulcimer, Mitchell gives the album an easy-to-follow sound, which is good when you're writing heartfelt lyrics.
"That's why I became a confessional poet," Mitchell said to Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe in 1979. "I thought, ‘You better know who you're applauding up here.' It was a compulsion to be honest with my audience."
And how much more honest with yourself and your audience can you get then writing "Little Green," a song about the daughter Mitchell put up for adoption in 1964? The song was heart-wrenching enough before this piece of information crossed my eyes a while back. Now it's almost crippling.
"Call her green and the winters cannot fade her," Mitchell sings over a light and simple guitar part.
Blue is a great album. A classic. And, from year-to-year, my favorite track switches. I think "My Old Man" was my favorite last year. This year it's been the title track. And what's amazing is that, even now, all these years later, I still discover new things in the album.
Favorite Carly album of that period? That's tough. Anticipation is an amazing album. And No Secrets is a groundbreaker. But of that early 70s period, I think right now my favorite is 1975's Playing Possum. "After The Storm" is especially amazing.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"