Friday, May 4, 2012

Paul Simon 2: Paul Simon

After Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel went their own ways, their fans could be forgiven for expecting to get double the great music. The first problem with that theory was that each of the men, who’d already taken lots of time between albums, only continued to work just as slowly. Besides, now Garfunkel had to rely on other people to write songs for him.
Paul Simon’s eponymous album might have satisfied those seeking a logical follow-up to Bridge Over Troubled Water. His fascination with world music continued, starting with the Jamaican rhythms of “Mother And Child Reunion” and the Incan pipes in “Duncan”. “Everything Put Together Falls Apart” seems to have been written solely to start a song with the word “paraphernalia”. These ears hear echoes of “I’m Only Sleeping” in “Run That Body Down”, except there’s no backwards guitar, and the meter jumps around. “Armistice Day” is particularly sneaky, starting almost formlessly, but building power and a beat, with some horn touches and electric scratching.
If “Mother And Child Reunion” was vague, it had nothing on “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”, one of the greatest stupid songs ever recorded. “Peace Like A River” is the album’s hidden gem, with some tempting wordless “ah”s that you wish somebody else contributed. Now follows three songs linked by their titles: “Papa Hobo” with its bass harmonica, “Hobo’s Blues” with Stephane Grapelli’s gypsy violin, and “Paranoia Blues” with its unexpected bottleneck guitar and another reference to Chinese food. Larry Knechtel’s electric piano on “Congratulations” provides some foreshadowing for the music Paul would release throughout the decade.
Art’s harmonies are sorely missed, but outside of the more exotic touches, Paul Simon is hardly overproduced. Acoustic guitars abound, and the album is notable for a general theme of stress and anxiety, as opposed to the lovelorn hedonism common to his peers of the time. (Current CDs include early demos of “Me And Julio” and “Duncan” with slight lyrical differences, plus an alternate take of “Paranoia Blues”.)

Paul Simon Paul Simon (1972)—3
2004 CD reissue: same as 1972, plus 3 extra tracks

4 comments:

  1. Hi! Been going through your archives, and have been thoroughly entertained. Do you have a list posted anywhere with albums organized by the rating? Thanks!

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    1. As of now, only items rated 5 have been tagged thusly. Your idea is something I may tackle down the road, though my ratings have been known to change. Meanwhile, one intrepid individual (not me) has created a Spotify playlist of anything I've rated 4 1/2 and up.

      Thanks for the note! Hope you enjoy what you see!

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    2. Awesome! I'll look for the Spotify playlist. Thanks!

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  2. This was one of the first albums that I ever bought, even before any S&G music. For a na├»ve 14-year-old from New Hampshire, the lyrics were certainly intriguing and baffling. (In particular, not knowing what the New York airport was called, I thought there was some metaphorical symbolism in the line “I fly into JFK”).

    Musically, it’s more stripped down and funky than his work with S&G. The three singles were fantastic, and there are no duds among the rest of the tracks. Except for the singles on his next album, I lost interest in Paul as he drifted towards soft rock. (As you pointed out, “Congratulations”, the weakest track, points in that direction). It would be a long time before I listened to a full Simon album. However, I don’t think that he ever beat this excellent set.

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