When a songwriting luminary and elder statesman like Paul Simon describes his latest long-player as his best album in 20 years you tend to want to believe him. As the New York folk veteran is not one for pre-album release bluster and hyperbole just to shift a few extra units.
'So Beautiful Or So What' is Simon's first solo album in five years and it isn't half bad. Sadly, it has to be stated, in the intervening period between 1986's seminal 'Graceland' release, he has not put out any material, which has come any where close to matching it, let alone eclipsing it.
the 69-year-old is still capable of penning beautiful melodies to match his peerless imagery and lyrical prowess though.
Self-produced with South African musician Phil Ramone, the record shifted an impressive 68,000 copies in its first week of release in the States and has been acclaimed by a smattering of music critics in his motherland.
Opener 'Getting Ready For Christmas Day' jauntily dances across a repetitive handclap rhythm with pleasant results, while 'Dazzling Blue' is simply majestic and up there with some of the best things he's ever done - either as a solo artist or with old buddy Art Garfunkel. The contemplative 'Questions For Angels' also causes pause for thought.
Elsewhere, nothing else really stands out, but equally does nothing to tarnish his revered reputation as one of America's all-time greats. With a Glasto slot and small UK tour to come and Ladysmith Black Mambazo also on the circuit - who would write-off the old-timer stealing the show with his backing band once again this summer.