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Carly Simon Carly Simon
Album: Have You Seen Me Lately/ Letters Never Sent
Label: Floating World
Tracks: 25

Most people, if asked to name a Carly Simon track would cite "You're So Vain", others might go for "Have You See Me Lately?" But then run out of steam. This is a pity because this prolific singer/songwriter has written some great songs. This double album re-release illustrates that perfectly. Of the two albums in this package, "Have You Seen Me Lately?" is the more melodic of the two. Simon surrounds herself with musicians of top quality and this is demonstrated on the very first track "Better Not Tell Her" as it contains some very nifty Spanish guitar playing by Jay Berliner. Like most Carly Simon songs, there is a story to this song and it is "better not tell her (I still love you). I found it engaging, interesting and needless to say, exquisitely performed.

The theme of story telling runs right through this album some with gentle humour such as in "Happy Birthday," (not the song that is sung in eighteen different languages every day) Carly gets the giggles towards the end of this song and glory be! They left it in. Some of the song are a little grittier "Don't Wrap It Up" is one such where the woman no longer feels that she has to pretend to be what she is not to attract the stylish guy. Another "Waiting At The Gate" depicts a rehab centre in a poor part of town while she circles the date of her lover's forthcoming release.

"Life Is Eternal" is more an anthem than a narrative tale. Whilst "Fisherman's Song" tells of the betrayal of a woman after a fisherman has had his summer fun with her and cast her aside. This track features Judy Collins no less on backing vocals and harmonies.

I really liked this CD and would recommend giving it consideration as a purchase. The second CD in the package is "Letters Never Sent" apparently inspired by Carly's discovery of a box of letters that she had written bit not posted (?) It is a completely different album to the first one. There is a strange intro lasting about seventeen seconds which does not seem to relate to anything in particular. The first proper (Title) track degenerates into a discordant cacophony at one point and made me wonder what on earth the listener was in for when hearing the other tracks. However "Lost In Your Love" seems to tread into more familiar Carly Simon Territory and incidentally has a great saxophone solo from Andy Snitzer. It gave me more confidence to continue listening.

There are two songs on this disc which are dedicated, one to her mother, Andrea and the other to her great friend Jackie Onassis, both of whom died from cancer in 1994. The first, to her mother, written after her death, "Like A River" contains some beautiful lyrics Vis: "I'll wait no more for you like a daughter... ...but I'll wait for you forever, like a river" There is also an excerpt the opera "Romulus Hunt" (also written by Carly Simon) closing this lovely memorial to her mom. The other song mentioned above is "Touched By The Sun" written for Jackie Onassis apparently as she reaches the "other" place and meets up with all the great people of the world who are already there. This song has powerful soaring vocals and impact which brings forward the grief that Carly was obviously feeling at the time.

Light relief is called for and it is provided in "What About A Holiday?" almost a bubblegum teenage girl silly song which acts as precursor to "The Reason" which tells the receiver of the song the reasons why things didn't develop the night before.

With the exception on the intro and the title track of "Letters Never Sent", I liked this package. Some songs I found more attractive than others. I did find the song "Private" more difficult to understand. Written in a minor key and continually rising in pitch, the musical merits are more obscure to me but no doubt others will think it very cool.

The second album in the package is the funkier and perhaps a bit experimental, but someone who has already written nineteen albums is entitled to experiment a bit. I was taken with "Like A River" and "Touched by The Sun" perhaps because I caught the emotional inspiration behind them.

Another reviewer said of Letters Never Sent, "it is amazingly coquettish for a woman of forty-nine" (at the time of it's initial release). I do not agree totally, for whilst there are some lightweight numbers, some seriously good songs are included in this package of two albums. Worth a re-visit.

Tony Collins