November 05, 1990 12:00 PM

Carly Simon

With a couple of exceptions, notably the more pop-oriented “Better Not Tell Her,” the songs on this album, all written by Simon (with collaborators in three cases), tend to sound like parts of a musical taken out of context, rhythmically meandering and designed to keep a story moving.

That doesn’t keep them from being occasionally intriguing on their own. “It’s Not Like Him,” for instance, is about a woman trying to persuade herself of her lover’s infidelity: “He smiles out of context and acts so polite/He stays at his cousin’s overnight.” In “Waiting at the Gate,” Simon is anticipating somebody’s release from a mental institution: “But I’m counting on you to prove the doctors wrong/I’m imagining you healthy and strong.” (Maybe there’s a mental health theme here. “Sorry that your mother dropped you on your head/Maybe her mother dropped her too.” Simon sings in another tune, “Didn’t I?”) “The Fisherman’s Song,” which includes ethereal harmony backup by Judy Collins and Lucy Simon, seems to be set near Simon’s Martha’s Vineyard retreat.

Devoting as much time as she has recently to composing movie songs, Simon seems to be in a transitional phase. Her followers will admire this part of the transition—she rarely gets anywhere near a cliché—but the uninitiated might be better off picking her up somewhere further back or further down the line. (Arista)

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