Simon, Carly (Contemporary Musicians)
Establishing herself during the early 1970s, Carly Simon's latest release stretches her range and completes the trilogy of her standards. Film Noir, released in 1997 by Arista, features her sultry voice against an orchestra. Recorded mostly live, the album celebrates films of the 1940s, although not all cuts actually were in films. Reminiscent of another era, the mysterious and sometimes seductive music creates a romantic mood and evokes a sense of drama. The music conjures scenes set in a smoke filled bar, featuring the likes of Humphry Bogart and Lauren Bacali playing scenes to such music. Simon proves once again that she is no lightweight in the style department, and she continually seems able to delight an audience with the variety of resources she pulls from her creative well. Her latest album adds to the long list of classics by this classy singer and songwriter.
Simon was born in New York City on June 25, 1945 to Richard Simon, aco-founder of the Simon and Schuster publishing company, and Andrea Simon. She has two sisters, Lucy and Joanna, and a brother, Peter, all artists, musical or otherwise. Both of her parents were musically inclined. Simon grew up listening to the music of George and Ira Gershwin and Richard Wagner. She was exposed to folk music as a school girl, and after dropping out of Sarah Lawrence College after a few years, she and her sister, Lucy, formed afolk duo called the Simon Sisters. The pair performed at small clubs along the east coast, eventually performing on the television show Hootenanny. Soon afterwards they recorded an album with Kapp Records and their most popular single, "Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod," reached number 78 on music charts. The Simon Sisters stopped performing together in 1965 after Lucy married.
For a short time in 1969, Simon was the lead singer for a rock band called Elephant's Memory. She also sang jingles during this period. Soon a demo was favorably considered by Elektra Records, and in 1970 she signed with them. Her 1971 debut, Carly Simon, received much positive attention. Timothy Crouse of Rolling Stone, noted Simon's impressive vocals and described her voice as, "superbly controlled." Crouse also noticed a literary connection in Simon's music; he said, "some of the songs on [Carly Simon]sound like [John] Updike or [J.D.] Salinger short stories setto music."Simon earned a Grammy in 1971 for best new artist.
Nobody Did It Better
Simon followed her debut with a string of successful singles and gold albums during the 1970s. Her No Secrets album released in 1972 would become the first of many gold albums, and included the hit,"You're So Vain." This was followed by Hotcakes in 1974, which was called the year's top album in the pop category by Cuemagazine; that release included hitsingle, "Haven't Got Time For The Pain," and a duet with husband of two years, James Taylor, "Mockingbird." These would be followed by others. Simon's style of fashioning songs from autobiographical material caused much speculation about who her songs were written about.
In 1974 Simon took a break from live performing afterthe birth of her first child, although she continued recording and released several additional albums from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s. In 1977, she had a hit with the theme "Nobody Does It Better," from the James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me. Her 1978 album, Boys In The Trees, would go platinum.
The first half of the 1980s were difficult for Simon personally and professionally. She was in the process of a divorce from Taylor, and her young son, Ben, had undergone a serious kidney operation. After being pushed by Elektra executives to tour in 1981, she eventually collapsed from exhaustion and stage fright during a concert. This was followed by her 1985 album, Spoiled Girl, which even she admitted to People interviewer, Jane Hall, "just bombed."
Came Around Again
Simon rebounded in 1987 after penning the theme, "Coming Around Again," for Mike Nichols's film Heartburn. The hit was also released on an album of the same name, and included other hits, "Give Me All Night," and "As Time Goes By." Rolling Stone reviewer Rob Hoerburger said Coming Around Again, "... is a strong reminder of how refreshing a diversion Carly Simon can be." Coming Around Again was released on her new label, Arista Records, in 1987.
This was followed up with another hit single "Let The Rivers Run, " from the film, Working Girl, which she wrote and performed. This theme earned her an Academy Award, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe Award. Also in 1987, she married writer and businessman James Hart on December 23; she recovered adequately from stage fright and performed aconcert close to home in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. The concert was filmed for an HBO special. In 1988, she released her gold album, Greatest Hits Live.
Simon's popularity and success as a singer and songwriter continued into the 1990s. She wrote the score for the film, Postcards From The Edge, and released Have You Seen Me Lately?, in 1990 which included eleven new songs by Simon and guest performances by sister, Lucy, and Judy Collins. Also in 1990 she released the second of her set of jazz/standards, My Romance. In 1992 she composed and recorded the soundtrack for the movie, This Is My Life, which spawned one of Simon's best love songs, "You're The Love Of My Life." She also performed on the hugely popular Frank Sinatra Duets album, and wrote five children's books and the children's opera Romulus Hunt for the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the John F. Kennedy Center.
In November 1994, Simon released what she called "... the most personal album, in a sea of personal albums that I have ever made. " Simon discussed her sources for the majority of her material at her online fan club site at www.fanemporium.com. With theexception of two songs, all the cuts from Letters Never Sent were written or co-written by Simon inspired by a real box of letters that Simon had written and never sent. "Like A River," was written soon after her mother's death and stemmed from Simon's strong desire to communicate with her mother. Reviewers agreed that this effort was a great success. Entertainment Weekly gave Letters a "B+" rating, and called Simon's action, "a daring move that pays off." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it the "best collection since the 70s."
The following year, in December of 1995, Arista released a boxed set, Clouds In My Coffee, which was a retrospective on a prolific career spanning from 1965 to 1995. It includes many of her previous hit songs, some new, some live, and some previously unrecorded cuts. Marjorie Rosen of Peop/ecalled the collection, "...some kinda wonderful." A Billboard reviewer called the collection, "... a must have for the Carly Simon fan and a long deserved tribute to an artist who has made immeasurable contributions to American pop, folk, and rock."
Some of the cuts include remixes of her timeless classics as well as two songs from her duet album with sister Lucy. Simon's first demo, recorded in 1965, "Play With Me" is included. In conjunction with the upcoming release of the retrospective, Simon kicked off her first concert tour in 14 years with performances in 16 cities. She received glowing reviews including one from Steve Morse of the Boston Globe, who commented on the high level of confidence that Simon displayed in a March 1995 performance at the Boston's Avalon. She was joined by daughter, Sally, singing Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally." Simon "stopped commuters in their tracks" according to People, during a live performance in New York's Grand Central Terminal on April 2, 1995. The performance was filmed and later released by PolyGram, called Live At Grand Central; it also aired on Lifetime TV.
Completed Trilogy of Standards
Simon's latest release, Film Noir, on Arista in 1997, completes her trilogy of standards. The first, Torch, 1981, and second, My Romance, 1990 were quite successful. The majority of songs included on this album hail from movies of the 1940s. The seductive, mysterious music sets a romantic mood, reminds one of another era, and evokes a sense of the drama reminiscent of the silver screen. Simon's sultry, smoky voice against the orchestra increases the lush, sensual sound of this production. The cuts were mainly taped live, giving the album afresh, unrehearsed feeling. She and co-producer, Jimmy Webb, harmonize together on the Frank Loesser song, "Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year." Simon sang another duet, "Two Sleepy People," a sweet, light love song, with longtime friend, John Travolta.
The CD is an enhanced cassette disk (ECD) which contains multimedia files that can be used to interface with the Simon World Wide Web site and offers free time on America Online. Simon's son, Ben Taylor, joins in on several cuts. The reception of Film Noir has been deservedly positive; New York Post reviewer Liz Smith called the latest release, "...the sexiest CD of the year." Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald said, "... the first-take vocal aspect lends spontaneity and warmth."
Cohen also noted how Simon "... constantly shifts stylistic gears," on the newest album. Perhaps this is a factor which has aided Simon in maintaining the longevity of her professional success. Constantly looking for new ways to utilize her wealth of creativity, whether it be literary, insinging style, or the range of material from which she pulls themes, Simon continues to delight fans. She told People in November 1997, that continuing her tradition of always doing the opposite of her last, her next work will be "a stripped-down set of originals called Stark." Her fans will wait in anticipation.
(With sister Lucy) The Simon Sisters (includes "Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod"), Kapp, 1964.
Carly Simon, Elektra, 1971.
Anticipation, Elektra, 1971.
No Secrets, (includes "You're So Vain"), Elektra, 1972.
Hotcakes, (includes "Haven't Got Time For The Pain" and "Mockingbird"), Elektra, 1974.
Playing Possum, Elektra, 1975.
Another Passenger, Elektra, 1976.
(Contributor) The Spy Who Loved Me (soundtrack, includes "Nobody Does It Better"), 1977, reissued Alliance, 1996.
Boys In The Trees, Elektra, 1978.
Spy, Elektra, 1979.
Come Upstairs, Warner Bros., 1980.
Torch, Warner Bros., 1981.
Spoiled Girl, Epic, 1985.
Corning Around Again, (includes "Coming Around Again," "Give Me All Night," and "As Time Goes By"), Arista, 1987.
Greatest Hits Live, Arista, 1988.
(Contributor) Working Girl (soundtrack, includes "Let The Rivers Run"), Arista, 1989.
My Romance, Arista, 1990.
Have You Seen Me Lately?, Arista, 1990.
(Contributor) This Is My Life (soundtrack, includes "You're The Love Of My Life"), Warner Bros., 1992.
Frank Sinatra's Duets, Capitol, 1993.
Letters Never Sent, (includes "Like A River"), Arista, 1994.
Clouds In My Coffee, (includes "Play With Me"), Arista, 1995.
Film Noir (includes "Spring Will Be A Little Late" and "Two Sleepy People"), Arista, 1997.
Amy And The Dancing Bear (juvenile), Doubleday, 1989.
Postcards From The Edge, score, 1990.
The Boy of The Bells (children's book), Doubleday, 1990.
The Fisherman's Song (children's book), Doubleday, 1992.
Romulus Hunt (an opera for children), 1992.
Midnight Farm (children's book), Simon and Schuster, 1997.
The Nighttime Chauffeur (children's book), Doubleday.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Dorling Kindersly, 1996.
Romanowski, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, editors, The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Fireside, 1995.
Billboard, December 2,1995; December 16, 1995; January 27, 1996, p. 107; September 6, 1997; October 4, 1997.
Boston Globe, November 13, 1994; March 14, 1995.
Cue, December 9, 1974.
Entertainment Weekly, November 11, 1994, p. 77.
InStyle, July 1995, pp. 62-68.
Miami Herald, September 12, 1997.
New York Post, October 8, 1997.
MOJO, November 1997.
People, August 17, 1987, pp.38,40; April 17, 1995; December 18, 1995, p. 23; November 3, 1997.
Rolling Stone, April 29, 1971; June 18, 1987, p. 85.
Toronto Sun, October 25, 1997.
TV Guide, May 13, 1995, p. 46.
USA Today, March 8, 1995; December 19,1995.
Additional information was provided by Arista Records.