Paul Simon's latest album, "Songwriter" (Sony Legacy), neatly sums up his iconic, 50-year-career in pop music.
The two-CD, 32-song collection, which spans his Simon & Garfunkel days through his '70s and '80s commercial peak through more contemporary material, offers ample evidence of Simon's writing chops. His current tour, which makes a stop on Saturday, Nov. 26, at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, similarly promises real world proof of the range - and endurance - of his prodigious talents.
"The 70-year-old Simon's electrifying crowd-pleaser of a show reinforced what a sea of good songs he has to choose from," writes Wisconsin State Journal critic Rob Thomas, of a recent sold-out performance in Milwaukee, Wis. "Classic tunes from Simon & Garfunkel gave way to theater-shaking tunes off his landmark 1986 album 'Graceland,' then gave way to strong new songs off his new 'So Beautiful or So What.'"
As you might expect from such a restless talent, who has incorporated reggae, Brazilian and African beats into his folk-rock base, Simon isn't content to phone-in the album versions of his material.
Backed by an eight-piece band, the multiple Grammy-winner tinkers with catalog favorites, such as "Cecelia" and "The Boxer," infusing them with a bluegrass twang, and adds a world music feel to "Mother and Child Reunion."
"Live, he forces you to take a second look by pulling the vocal melody out of its comfortable vein, pushing notes ahead a fractional beat and pausing where we expect a resolution to fall," writes The Riverfront Times' Kiernan Maletsky about a show earlier this month in St. Louis, Mo.
Simon further keeps the audience honest by making unusual segues: In one section, he moves between the playful "That Was Your Mother" to the more contemplative "Hearts and Bones" to a cover of Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train." In another, he pairs the less familiar strains of "Dazzling Blue" from "So Beautiful or So What" with the catalog staple, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."
Although known for his low-key manner, Simon pulls out his own kind of stops by wrapping the show with not one, but two encores.
The first includes "The Sounds of Silence," "Kodachrome," "Here Comes the Sun" and "Late in the Evening," while the second goes from "Graceland" to Bo Diddley's "Pretty Thing" to "Still Crazy After All These Years."
"If the sight of Simon standing alone on stage and playing the first few notes of 'Sounds of Silence' doesn't raise goosebumps, you're probably in the wrong room," Thomas writes.