Of all the great songwriters rock has produced, Paul Simon may be the most self-conscious. Whereas many artists embrace spontaneity, he carefully mulls over every creative decision, and when he commits something to plastic, he does so with tremendous seriousness of purpose. Take "Sure Don't Feel Like Love," from his most recent CD, Surprise. The tune is lighthearted and witty, but even his interjections of "Yay! Boo!" seem strangely fussed over, and no wonder, since the album was essentially produced twice -- once by Simon, and then by fellow brainiac Brian Eno, who's credited with providing "sonic landscape." Given the generally somber character of the disc's other material, the results feel studied and heavy despite (or perhaps because of) the obvious intelligence at their core. That could change at Magness, where Simon appears with Jerry Douglas, but don't count on it: He has a hard time cutting loose in concert settings, too. Good thing he's penned some of the best tunes of the past half-century, or seeing him could be a real drag.
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