Paul Simon

Surprise (Warner Bros.)

Paul Simon and Brian Eno? The very idea reads like a trick false answer on a pop-music trivia quiz. Then again, so did the marriage of Simon and hometown darling Edie Brickell, which by all appearances has turned out to be a successful (and fertile) union. And so is this album, whose title well describes the seamless interweaving of Simon's songs with Eno's "sonic landscapes" (as he is credited)...as long as we add the modifier "delightful." And it's also a nice surprise after the unmitigated disaster of The Capeman that Simon has created another landmark in his four-decade run as, at his best, a genuine pop-music genius. Surprise is likely a bit too arty and elliptical to anywhere approach the impact of Graceland, though echoes of its lilting South African kwela music are heard on "Outrageous" and "Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean." Yet Surprise is just as monumental as an artistic achievement, as Simon delivers impressionistic, literate and sagacious songs--and quite ear-tickling tunes to boot--that comment, often wittily and with great empathy, on matters across the carnival of modern existence, and Eno frames them with imaginative musical modernity.

 
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