While we're on the subject of the Simon Sisters, let me share something with you. Carly's new album comes out today or tomorrow. Press copies have been circulating for a while, and I heard one for the first time this morning. As you know, however, I don't post anything here if it's available commercially at CD quality. But here are my thoughts.
Once upon a time there was an act called, I think, Extreme. They had an offensively tepid, revoltingly tasteful little hit called More Than Words. They were the kind of group you'd like if you find Nickleback and Pearl Jam a little too raucous, bracing and strident. More Than Words was the kind of ditty that prompted bad musicians to take their guitars to parties and provide completely unsolicited renditions of songs you didn't like.
Why am I mentioning them? Because it is "More Than Words" that springs to mind when I listen to the reworkings of Carly Simon's back catalog that comprise her new album. "The Right Thing To Do", "It Happens Every Day" and so on, all sound as though they've been rearranged using "More Than Words" as a musical arbiter for style and instrumentation.
What else stands out? The wholly bizarre and unwelcome addition of an incongruous boyish background vocal team. On "The Right Thing To Do", they intersperse the song with meaningless, tacky bursts of "hallelujah". On "It Happens Every Day", yes, here they are again, this time to repeat the phrase "give it to the girl!" The exclamation mark is, I assure you, theirs and not mine.
The problem, as I see it, is that Carly's last four albums (including this one) have been other people's albums with Carly plopped on the top. Moonlight Serenade was Richard Perry with Carly on top as if an afterthought. "Into White" was Ben Taylor and David Saw with Carly plopped on top as an afterthought. "This Kind of Love" was Ben Taylor, David Saw and Jimmy Webb with Carly once more dropped in over the surface.
You have to go back to The Bedroom Tapes (from 2000) for a Carly Simon album that doesn't feel every bit like someone else's project. Even 1985's spoiled Girl, which used 101 producers and is widely regarded as an artistic nadir, still felt like Carly Simon.