There Goes Rhymin' Simon: The First Four Books Of Paul

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With Paul Simon's latest CD, So Beautiful or So What, released this spring, the reissue folks at Columbia/Legacy have embarked on a reissue project. Out of the box first this month are his four solo releases after the implosion of Simon and Garfunkel.

Coming on the heels of S&G's epic farewell, Bridge Over Troubled Water, the simply titled Paul Simon (1971) couldn't have been more different. This low-key effort shows Simon dipping his musical toes into different genres - something he continues to do today - be it singer-songwriter ("Duncan," "Congratulations"), jazz ("Run that Body Down"), ballads ("Armistice Day"), and blues ("Paranoia Blues").

The record also debuted two hits, the reggae-tinged "Mother and Child Reunion" and the jaunty "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" - though what Mama saw that was "against the law," he's never quite clarified... All in all, it's Paul Simon taking his first, almost shy steps into the solo spotlight. That's a theory borne out by the cover, which features Simon's face barely poking out of one of those huge fuzzy-hooded winter coats, making him look like a Jewish Eskimo.

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A more skilled and satisfying collection is There Goes Rhymin' Simon (1973). The songs are better, and the influence of producer Phil Ramone and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section flavor tracks like "Take Me To the Mardi Gras," the quirky "One Man's Ceiling is Another Man's Floor," and the gorgeous ballad "Something So Right."

And while "American Tune" doesn't quite play out as the epic statement that Simon is reaching for, he does deliver a tender father-son ballad rich with imagery in "St. Judy's Comet." And there's two more hits - the paean to now-forgotten photographic technology "Kodachrome," and the buoyant white-man's gospel of "Love Me Like a Rock." Simon is still working in many different genres here, but with more solid (and fun) results than his debut.

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As great as these songs are and while Paul Simon still strikes an emotional chord with listeners, it’s hard not to miss his work with Art Garfunkel. “The Boxer” from the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album features one of most exquisite harmonies by Simon & Garfunkel. Simon says the song is autobiographical, written after reading the Bible; after years of praise, the duo were criticized as unauthentic.  Rockaeology at has the story of the “lie la lie” chorus; it was originally a placeholder until lyrics could be written. 

Classic Rock Bob
Classic Rock Bob

If you like the "Bridge" record, I would encourage you to get the recently-released Deluxe  Edition. Not only does the record sound better, a DVD has the only-aired-once "Songs for America" Simon and Garfunkel TV documentary, as well as a recently-shot documentary on the making of "Bridge" featuring interviews with Paul, Artie, players, and engineers. 

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