I just finished watching the Library of Congress' Gershwin Award ceremony for Paul Simon on PBS. Like most tribute shows, some acts were better than others--my favorite performances included Allison Krauss' version of "Graceland", Lyle Lovett's "That Was Your Mother", Jessy Dixon and a female backup vocalist doing a "Gone At Last" duet superior to the Simon/Phoebe Snow original on the STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS album and Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo doing a reasonably enthusiastic version of "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes."
Unfortunately, it's a little bittersweet when one considers that Simon's last sustained burst of creative genius took place with GRACELAND and THE RHYTHM OF THE SAINTS--and the better part of the last two decades have only produced a handful of good songs scattered amongst three subpar albums, plus an enjoyable for-the-paycheck reunion tour with Art Garfunkel. Out of charity, I'll not rehash the controversy over Simon's attempt to conquer musical theater (THE CAPEMAN)--which consumed much of his time and creative energy in the 90s.
But the Gershwin/Library of Congress award is probably a good thing for Simon--he doesn't have to go out on tour; yet another WB-released best-of compilation came out this week (THE ESSENTIAL PAUL SIMON) and the press he's been doing plus the PBS special will stimulate sales of his solo back catalog.
Maybe the adulation might nudge Simon into actually trying to reach out to his devoted fanbase again (we all know he's cranky about having to sweat to be commercial and be a part of the marketplace--something he gave up after the successful duo of GRACELAND/SAINTS) and write a whole album of songs that can stand proudly alongside his best solo work from the period of 1972-1990.
Or maybe he and Garfunkel can cease their feuding one more time and go into the studio together for a final album. BOOKENDS II, perhaps?