Coming from a tranquil place, Simon's voice emerges with terrific ease, composure, and contentment. Surrounded by ravishing instrumental and jazz-based blends that, thanks to added detail and clearer tones, feel more joyous and spirited than on any prior pressing, Simon's words take on a reassuring quality conveyed by the best singer-songwriter albums of the era. Consider this stellar-sounding reissue the equivalent of a crackling fireplace on a winter night. Such is the level of coziness and amiability provided.
Largely based around Simon's feelings and experiences before giving birth, Hotcakes wonderfully channels a prevailing attitude during the mid-70s that found many people returning to the basics and getting back in touch with familial surroundings after the upheaval following the end of the Sixties. Simon's first three albums captured this transition in frank, feminist-inspired, take-no-muss fashion. On Hotcakes, her fourth and second consecutive platinum-selling set, she both reflected and led the dominant spirit of the time, delivering with nursery-rhyme purity and soothing tenderness playful songs about homey euphoria and marital glee.
Anchored by the duet with her then-partner James Taylor, "Mockingbird," a cover that the power couple took into the Top Five, Hotcakes shuns any tension or negativity in favor of optimism, intimacy, and tranquility. Standout fare such as "I Think I'm Gonna Have a Baby" and the Simon-Taylor penned "Forever My Love" testify on behalf of personal bonds and the importance of love. Similarly, "Mind on My Man," the husband-focused "Misfit," and humorous "Safe and Sound" â€“ a theme-setting opener that describes much of the world in disarray but which maintains all is fine as long as Simon has her soulmate â€“ speak on behalf of the artist's new priorities and the gravity of strong relationships.
Musically, Hotcakes is appointed with first-rate session work from a stream of Hall of Fame-worthy instrumentalists. Robbie Robertson, Michael Brecker, Bucky Pizzarelli, Dr. John, and Taylor are among the guests gracing the arrangements with nimble touches and heartfelt accents indicative of Simon's emotionalism. Factor in the tasteful horn sections, excellent backing vocal tracks, and producer Richard Perry's illustrative orchestrations, and Hotcakes may reign as Simon's finest-ever studio hour.