This Kind of Love
Judging by the photos that grace both the front and back of the CD, Carly Simon could, at age 63, serve as the poster model for aging beautifully. And, judging by what’s on the actual disc, the mature Simon sounds just as good as she looks. Sure, there’s now some vocal grey streaking that smoky, ash-blonde sound that helped elevate her to pop-superstar status in the 1970s, and she occasionally struggles to reach notes that were easily within her grasp as little as a half-decade ago. But such maturity only serves to enhance her appeal.
This is Simon’s first album of original material (the majority at least partially self-penned, plus one track from her son Ben Taylor, another from her daughter Sally Taylor and a third from Jimmy Webb) in nearly 10 years, and demonstrates that the ripening of her songwriting skills is equally impressive. Gone is the hotly anticipatory wild child of privilege who partied with rock stars (and lived to sing about it) and refused to have time for pain. Now, poetically eloquent as ever, Simon shapes poignant tales of motherhood, hard-won self-awareness, the sweet satisfaction of deep, true later-in-life love, and even the hint of death on the horizon.
When the setting is kept simple, superfluous trimming stripped away and the spotlight focused squarely on Simon, the results are stunning, particularly on the tender “Hold Out Your Heart,” the dusky “In My Dreams,” the softly earnest, socially charged “So Many People” and the gently swaying samba that is the title track. Sadly, co-producers Webb and Frank Filipetti regularly succumb to the temptation of overproduction, leaving Simon too often struggling against purposelessly grandiose arrangements. Especially disturbing is her attempt at a sort of rap-fueled exercise in hip-hop, based on the predatory theme that defined All About Eve (complete with snippets of dialog from the film) on “People Say a Lot,” a cacophonous mess, entirely out of character, that buries a wise commentary on ambition’s blind cruelty.