Paul Simon announced his retirement from touring in 2018 and his last set of original material was five years ago. Should he decide, closing in on 80, to never set foot in a studio again, he can comfortably and rhythmically, like the diamond-soled rhymin’ saint he’s long been, hand his proverbial pinball crown (70’s Who reference, look it up if need be) to Gabriel Judet-Weinshel, a prolific manic expressive - cinematographer, film director and singer-songwriter – so musically, stylistically, poetically and narratively so deep, expansive, clever and ambitious that only a natural metaphor based on elusiveness – Unpinnable Butterflies – can attempt to capture the scope of his creative muses.
Especially on his latest epic, 13 track magnum opus Radio Ocean, which marks his debut on sonaBLAST! Records. Because it’s a music project, it makes sense to start the praise with Gabriel’s soulful, laid back sometimes distorted vocals and spirited, Simonesque talk-singing way of trying to get lots of words into a musical passage. Then there’s the star studded, freewheeling, culturally transcendent Quincy Jones mega-ensemble-esque production of Scott Healy. Best known for his work as Conan O’Brien’s pianist and work with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Levon Helm, Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin, he aligns with Gabriel’s crazy-cool socially conscious, global minded, Zeitgeist representing vision to create wild-hearted, culturally transcendent sonic magic with, among others, bassist Lee Sklar, drummer Shawn Pelton, guitarist Jason Orme, edgy sax/vocal prodigy Grace Kelly and a bunch of Conan’s horn guys.
Then there’s the cavalcade of influences, from laid back country/Americana and speedy West African romps to simmering R&B/blues classic rock and classical music. On the musical side, part of the joy of listening all the way through is the wayfaring adventur Gabriel and Co. take us on, as we go from the exotic percussion and jazzy horn dips of “You” to the dramatic, old school horn drenched “Santa Maria” (a quirky, simultaneous ode to his mother, colonialization and the immigrant experience) and beyond to the moody-bluesy and charmingly lyrical “Revolutionary at the Vestibule,” the funky, blues-tinged and sizzling horn driven romp “Sweet Loretta” and the punchy, punky, Clash-esque rave up/singalong “Cracks in the Architecture.”
Brilliant and eclectic as the musical weep is, the English Lit major in me is happy to declare that, a la Simon, Dylan, Joni and the like, an entire poetry class could be taught just on Gabriel’s offbeat literary references, crafty rhymes and intriguing narratives that pull us along and keep us guessing, probing and Googling madly long after the horn fire, guitar energy and world beat grooving dies down. To wit, he invokes a series of obvious literary influences - Samuel Beckett (“Burden Down”), Thomas Pynchon and Arundhati Roy (“Radio Ocean”), and David Foster Wallace (the richly imaginative fictional narrative “Sell Me in the Morning.”
Elsewhere, the singer – our offbeat new musical literary hero/guru – gives Rhymin’ Simon a crazy run for his money with lines like “hiring drunk architects to reconstruct old peripatetic” (“Good Kings”), “you were a blogosphere trying to scalp the next toupee” (“Radio Ocean”), “Everyone’s a despot, when the belly needs its fill” (“Let’s Not Wage War (We’ll Just Write Poetry)” and “Adam and Eve hold hands at Widow’s Peak/They listen to the war on the radio.” Gabriel’s is an obtuse form of poetic and musical genius with limits only his muses can fathom.
Listen to Radio Ocean here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4kdpX2E1urGXCdIFp3gveN