“I know nothing stays the same/But if you’re willing to play the game, it’s coming around again…”
With the release of 1987’s Coming Around Again, Carly Simon proved she was not only willing to play, but still most definitely in the game. After the diminishing commercial (though not artistic) returns of her Warner Bros. and Epic releases of earlier in the decade, Simon’s debut album for Clive Davis’ Arista Records was a return to form. It yielded four major hits, all in her intensely personal voice yet burnished with the smooth production polish of the era. Now, Coming Around Again has come around again thanks to Cherry Red’s Hot Shot Records label. The 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition chronicles Carly’s resurgence at the crossroads of pop, Hollywood, and Broadway with the original album and a host of bonus tracks on CD 1, while the second disc presents Carly’s only live album to date: the 1988 Greatest Hits Live set, recorded in 1987 in Martha’s Vineyard.
“Coming Around Again,” the title track and spiritual anchor of the album, was first issued as a single in conjunction with its appearance in Mike Nichols’ film Heartburn. It served as a warm reintroduction to Simon’s compassionate voice after the dance-pop rhythms of her 1985 Epic release Spoiled Girl (also expanded by Hot Shot). “So don’t mind if I fall apart,” she sang with characteristic candor in one of the song’s most felicitous turns of phrase, “there’s more room in a broken heart.” By the time Coming Around Again was released, the song had already achieved hit status. Its streak of optimism and positivity ran through the album, assembled by Simon and a cadre of producers including Russ Kunkel, Bill Payne, and George Massenburg; Rob Mounsey; John Boylan; Frank Filipetti; pop superstar Bryan Adams; and Simon’s old friends Paul Samwell-Smith and Richard Perry. Despite the various pedigrees, the sound of Coming Around Again was consistently sparkling.
“Give Me All Night,” implored Simon on the LP’s first proper single. The empowering, romantic anthem, co-written by Carly and Gerard McMahon, took on anthemic proportions in Samwell-Smith’s confident production. Samwell-Smith also helmed and co-authored the low-key rumination on a relationship, “Do the Walls Come Down” (melding Carly’s exquisite lyrical poetry to his rhythm track), and “Two Hot Girls (On a Hot Summer Night),” a reflective and eminently relatable story song. (Michael Brecker turned up on saxophone for the latter, to up the already-sultry quotient.)
John Boylan and Russ Kunkel produced “The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of,” the next single and third straight Top 5 AC hit for Carly. After “Give Me All Night,” listeners were clearly ready for another example of Simon in melodically soaring mode. On “The Stuff,” she dispensed sage advice based on her real-life observations to a friend. Once again translating the personal into the universal, “The Stuff” struck a resonant and commanding chord.
Carly teamed with her Spoiled Girl collaborator Andy Goldmark and her longtime lyricist pal Jacob Brackman to pen the earthy, deliciously lusty “All I Want is You,” which became the fourth consecutive hit single on Coming Around Again. Richard Perry, who produced such Simon/Brackman classics as “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” and “Attitude Dancing,” reunited with her for a feisty update of Joe Tex’s 1965 R&B standard “Hold What You’ve Got.”
Indeed, American standards of every stripe have always been a key part of the artist’s DNA, from 1981’s underrated Torch and 1990’s My Romance to 1997’s Film Noir and 2005’s Moonlight Serenade. Working with producer Rob Mounsey, she gave a faithful yet relaxed and modern reading of “As Time Goes By.” Stevie Wonder added luster with his instantly-recognizable harmonica. It’s not the only non-Simon-written track on Coming Around Again. Much as he had with other singer-songwriters such as Melissa Manchester and Barry Manilow, Clive Davis encouraged Carly to record outside material. One such song was Bryan Adams’ “It Should Have Been Me,” which the Canadian rocker also produced. Ultimately, though, the midtempo track took a back seat to Carly’s own hitmaking ability. So did “You Have to Hurt” by Frank Musker and Dominic King, whose “Every Woman in the World” was proffered by Davis to Air Supply. The song sonically blended seamlessly with Simon’s own material, thanks to Samwell-Smith and Filipetti’s crisp sheen in the studio, and Carly’s committed vocal, but its more impersonal lyrics couldn’t help but pale in comparison to the singer’s own. By closing the album with the children’s nursery rhyme “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as intertwined with “Coming Around Again” (and featuring the Taylor family kids on the track including Carly’s children Sally and Ben), earth mother Simon staked a vivid claim for her powerful originality and creative spark.
Hot Shot has expanded Coming Around Again with six bonus tracks. Unusually, these tracks aren’t all necessarily connected to the album; instead, they function as the soundtrack to the story compellingly told in Simon’s own words (and those of her collaborators Frank Filipetti and John Boylan) via Christian John Wikane’s illuminating liner notes. The gently shimmering “Raining” was written by Simon in 1984, in the aftermath of her breakup with James Taylor, though it remained unreleased until her 1995 box set Clouds in My Coffee. “The Wives are in Connecticut” is a compelling and quirky art song from Spoiled Girl; it beguiled Mike Nichols enough to lead to the Heartburn assignment. “If It Wasn’t Love” wasn’t written by Carly, but rather by Motown veteran Kathy Wakefield and Patrick Leonard for the comedy Nothing in Common. Simon’s “Hollywood period” reached its apex when she picked up an Academy Award for the stirring “Let the River Run,” and that’s here, too. The bonus tracks are rounded out by “Sleight of Hand,” the pre-recorded theme to John Pielmeier’s short-lived 1987 Broadway play; and the 12-inch mix of “Give Me All the Night,” which manages to extend the song’s already euphoric sense of excitement and anticipation.
The second disc is a straight reissue of Greatest Hits Live, which preserved Simon’s return to the concert stage in June, 1987 after a lengthy absence. The 11-track set, culled from two performances, features faithful renditions of her beloved hits (“Nobody Does It Better,” “You’re So Vain,” “Anticipation,” “The Right Thing to Do”) alongside then-new tracks from Coming Around Again, including the title track and “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Two Hot Girls (On a Hot Summer Night”), “Do the Walls Come Down,” and “All I Want is You.” The performance feels intimate and relaxed on disc, with the artist matching the audience’s affection note for note. Alas, the full concert- including three more Coming Around Again tracks, “Give Me All Night,” “The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of,” and “You Have to Hurt” – remains unreleased in an audio format, though the full show has been issued on VHS and DVD.
Hot Shot’s 30th Anniversary Edition, produced by the label’s Wayne A. Dickson, is attractively packaged in a six-panel digipak, and contains a full-color 24-page booklet with Wikane’s notes as well as photographs and picture sleeve reproductions. Both albums sound stellar as remastered by Nick Robbins. Carly Simon hasn’t issued a new studio album since 2009’s Never Been Gone, a collection of her classic songs revisited and reworked in stripped-down fashion, though her 2015 memoir Boys in the Trees offered a revealing and poignant look at the events that have shaped and informed her work. While her ardent fans wait for new songs from her enduringly original voice, Coming Around Again is a reminder of how she conquered the 1980s on her own terms.
Coming Around Again is due in stores in the U.K. this Friday, and it arrives in the U.S. one week later, on November 3! You’ll find pre-order links below!
Disc 1: Expanded original album (released as Arista AL-8443, 1987)
- Coming Around Again
- Give Me All Night
- As Time Goes By
- Do The Walls Come Down
- It Should Have Been Me
- The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
- Two Hot Girls (On a Hot Summer Night)
- You Have to Hurt
- All I Want Is You
- Hold What You’ve Got
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Raining (from Clouds In My Coffee 1965-1995 – Arista 07822-18798-2, 1995)
- The Wives Are In Connecticut (from Spoiled Girl – Epic FE 39970, 1985)
- If It Wasn’t Love (from Nothing In Common: Original Soundtrack – Arista AL9-8438, 1986)
- Let The River Run (from Working Girl: Original Soundtrack Album – Arista AL-8593, 1989)
- Sleight of Hand (B-side to “Give Me All Night” – Arista AS1-9587, 1987)
- Give Me All Night (12″ Extended Remix) (from U.K. 12″ single – Arista RIST 8, 1987)
Disc 2: Carly In Concert – Coming Around Again (released as Greatest Hits Live – Arista AL 8526, 1988)
- Nobody Does It Better
- You’re So Vain
- It Happens Everyday
- The Right Thing to Do
- Do The Walls Come Down
- You Belong to Me
- Two Hot Girls (On a Hot Summer Night)
- All I Want is You
- Coming Around Again/Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Never Been Gone