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Paul Simon Returns With a 'Surprise'

Paul Simon's new album "Surprise" has a surprising musical quality not heard on his previous albums. But there's one unsurprising element on it; Simon's ongoing concern for the human condition.

Musically, Surprise is no Graceland, Simon's 1986 Grammy-winning album. Nor does it sound like his earlier solo work, or for that matter, like Simon and Garfunkel. Instead, Paul Simon's first studio album in six years is in a category all its own.

If there was such a category for Surprise, it might be "electronic ambient folk rock."

Simon has Grammy-winning producer and keyboardist Brian Eno to thank for creating the album's ethereal arrangements. Eno, who pioneered ambient music in the late-'70s, and later produced albums for Devo, The Talking Heads and U2, is credited for providing the sonic landscape on Surprise.

Reminiscent of Eno's production on U2's The Joshua Tree, the infinite guitar intro on "Another Galaxy" takes a full minute-and-a-half before we hear Paul Simon's vocal.

While his music varies from album to album, Simon continues to invoke his melancholy musings. Among his recurring themes are relationships, faith, aging and inequality, themes that resurface on Surprise.

Refreshing to hear is "Father And Daughter," the poignant, Oscar-nominated ballad from the film The Wild Thornberrys, and re-released for the closing song on Surprise.