Release Date: Oct 26, 2009
Record label: Iris
Genre(s): Rock, Singer-Songwriter
Carly Simon rerecorded her most famous songs for this unplugged compendium, Never Been Gone, which was instigated and abetted by her musician son, Benjamin Taylor. Underproducing these performances mostly works wonderfully: ”You’re So Vain” takes on new life, and other songs previously easily dismissed as adult-contemporary mush, like ”You Belong to Me,” sound palatable and emotional for the first time. Only in a couple of instances do sparse arrangements just further expose thin material (”It Happens Every Day”).
Carly Simon's latest album isn't exactly a best of, although it features several of the songs previously collected in Simon's four other hits compilations. Nor is it a live album, yet it frequently sounds like one, thanks to the intimacy of the pared-back performances (you can even hear Simon giggle as she fluffs the beginning to It Happens Every Day). Its hybrid format allows Simon to revisit the songs of her youth in illuminating and poignant ways: a twentysomething's misgivings about marriage in That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be are imbued with weariness when delivered by a woman in her 60s; similarly, the clinging to hope in the face of marital breakdown expressed in Coming Around Again is more melancholy coming from someone twice divorced.
After the 2008 commercial disaster that was Carly Simon's This Kind of Love, issued on the now-defunct Starbucks' Hear Music imprint, this collection of rearranged and re-recorded versions of her hits seems like a logical step backward in order to move forwards. Released on the Iris imprint and produced by "Paphiopedillium" (a group effort comprised of Simon, her son Benjamin Taylor, Larry Ciancia, Peter Cato, and David Saw, the band of players on this set), Simon's on acoustic guitar with her voice right up front. The arrangements are considerably starker than their original versions (she doesn't have the same kind of recording budget as she did when she was with the major labels, but perhaps she would have chosen this manner of delivering these songs even if she had), and her voice is considerably lower, dictating that she transpose keys on many of these selections.
The obvious question is, “Why?” That is, why would a legendary artist go back into the studio and re-cut her best-loved hits for a new release? What makes Carly Simon’s new project especially confusing is that no one thinks her classic singles need the least bit of tinkering with; those mellow-groove adult-contemporary folk-rock vibes are what made Simon a ‘70s superstar in the first place. The new project, Never Been Gone, is not so much a risky maneuver for Simon since, if the album flops, it does nothing to diminish the legacy of an artist already inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. But Simon is still clearly hungry for a return to the album charts—she’s currently suing Starbucks, for instance, on whose label her 2008 album, This Kind of Love, was released, claiming that the coffee chain failed to adequately promote the record.
Pleasant rather than essential, something that would be a nice tour souvenir. David Quantick 2010 There comes a time in a recording artiste’s career when they feel the need to revisit the hell out of their oeuvre. Rockers and jazzers of a certain age who, dare one say, have run out of new ideas, often go back into their old catalogue to have a look around and see what they can retool for whatever audience they have left.