Home / Album Reviews / The Paul Simon Legacy
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011

The Paul Simon Legacy

'70s Albums Reissued

Google+ Pinterest Print
Both the album-collecting counterculture and the singles-devouring pop audience honored Simon & Garfunkel, who found magic for much of their prolific ride on the top of the charts in the late 1960s. Their voices harmonized in a breathtaking choir for two, around which their producers reared sonic cathedrals—or at least chapels. Paul Simon was the songwriter who coupled poetic lyrics and calm intelligence with a command of balladry and the craft of pop songs. After the duo called it quits in 1971, Art Garfunkel released a few recordings but in an era focused on singer/songwriters, all ears were on Simon.

Columbia Legacy has issued extended editions of the first four albums Simon recorded after splitting with his partner. Although pop music and culture were changing rapidly as the '60s turned into the '70s, his reign on the charts continued through the release of Paul Simon
(1972), There Goes Rhymin' Simon (1973), Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin' (1974) and Still Crazy After All These Years (1975). All of those LPs reached the upper registers of the charts and contained AM hits as well as tracks in FM rotation.

The first post-Garfunkel album included memorable peaks and forgettable lows. Among the former were “Mother and Child Reunion,” recorded in Jamaica and an introduction to Americans for ska (even if most folks had no idea the cantering rhythm had a name); the Carnivalesque “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”; and “Duncan,” a masterful recasting of Anglo-Celtic balladry with modern themes. The previously unreleased demo of “Duncan” is remarkable, virtually a different song from the track Simon chose to release. In the forgettable category were Simon's unconvincing efforts at singing the blues and political commentary. His best lyrics were as intriguing for what was omitted as for what was included.


Rhymin' Simon
sported a pair of hits, “Kodachrome,” a lively piece of nothing, and the rollicking gospel of “Loves Me Like a Rock,” a prelude to much of what would come on Live Rhymin'. A remarkably generous album for a star at his peak, the concert began with Simon playing solo from a stool (“Me and Julio”) before being joined by the haunting rainforest music of Peru's Urubamba (“El Condor Pasa,” “Duncan”). Afterward, it became a gospel show. Simon virtually surrendered the stage to the Jessy Dixon Singers, who performed “Jesus is the Answer” and brought “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to church.

Still Crazy
made news upon release for its one-number Simon & Garfunkel reunion (“My Little Town”), but is better remembered for the funky “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and the melodic sophistication of the title number.