Pleasant rather than essential, something that would be a nice tour souvenir.
David Quantick 2010
There comes a time in a recording artiste’s career when they feel the need to revisit the hell out of their oeuvre. Rockers and jazzers of a certain age who, dare one say, have run out of new ideas, often go back into their old catalogue to have a look around and see what they can retool for whatever audience they have left.
Joining the ranks of the old-school repeaters is Carly Simon. This collection of old songs, re-recorded by Simon with new arrangements (which also suit her age-changed vocal style), joins The Best of…, Greatest Hits Live, Clouds in My Coffee, Anthology: Reflections, and Carly Simon's Greatest Hits as the latest recycling of her back catalogue. Her work does lend itself well to this kind of treatment; not being a clapped-out male rocker, she has no need to sound loud, and nor is she lumping it out on the dancefloor like, say, Tom Jones. Simon’s work has always leaned towards the jazzy and, while she hasn’t done a Joni Mitchell, who recently went back to her old hits but made them smokier and bluer, she has added new layers of experience and meaning to them.
If at times the impression left is too breezy (the elephant in the career that is You’re So Vain sounds almost embarrassed to be here), at others it’s extremely potent. Coming Round Again, with a lyric that always dealt with the passing of time as well the lot of a woman, is particularly effective here. The same can’t be said of You Belong to Me. In its original incarnation, as a duet with Michael McDonald, it sounded like a funky preview of what McDonald would pen in the 1980s; but now it sounds shaky and bland, a shadow of what it was.
As an album Never Been Gone is pleasant rather than essential, and would be a nice tour souvenir. But it’s hard to imagine it bringing in new fans, or making older ones want to sit it alongside the original versions they hold dear.