Produced by Phil Ramone
and Paul Simon
, the ten track album - his 12th solo studio record - sees Simon crafting his songs around harmony and song structure instead of the beat-driven form of writing which has inspired him since the mid-1980s.
"Since 'Graceland', I've always made the record based on either making the tracks or the percussion first," Simon told Rolling Stone. "This time the stimuli was a guitar in my lap. That takes me back to 'Still Crazy After All These Years' or 'Something So Right'."
Opening with a song for all seasons "Getting Ready for Christmas Day", the album starts as it means to go on, with a dry wit, keen political awareness (both personal and global) and a damn fine melody.
"The Afterlife" muses on the next world over a laid back Soca beat and the taut "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light" on the power of good and evil while the tender "Questions for the Angels" tells its tale of messengers of god and the homeless wandering the streets of Brooklyn and the title track gives listeners a chicken gumbo recipe.
Recording the demos in the equipment packed cottage next to his house in Connecticut, guitarist Vincent Nguini and percussionist Steve Shehan offered up their talents, as did Grizzly Bear's drummer, Chris Bear, who contributed electronic drum parts.
Taking more than a year to perfect, Simon has revealed that 'So Beautiful or So What' reminds him of his very first solo release, his acclaimed 1972 album 'Paul Simon'.
1. Getting Ready For Christmas Day
2. The Afterlife
3. Dazzling Blue
5. Love and Hard Times
6. Love is Eternal Sacred Light
8. Questions for the Angels
9. Love And Blessings
10. So Beautiful Or So What