The Paul Simon Songbook
First Appeared at The Music Box, April 2004, Volume 11, #4
Written by John Metzger
Following the commercial failure of Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, Paul Simon traveled to England, where, by working the coffeehouse circuit, he achieved greater initial success and eventually landed a spot on the BBC. The publicity resulting from the event led to a general clamoring for material, however, there was none available to British audiences. Consequently, Simon settled into CBSís London studios to record The Paul Simon Songbook, a 12-track, solo, acoustic outing that was released only in the U.K. Interestingly, the set featured only two holdovers from Wednesday Morning, 3 AM and instead was stuffed with newer material that had yet to make it into Simon & Garfunkelís repertoire.
After years of being out of print, The Paul Simon Songbook has been remastered and, for the first time, made available internationally, and the collection continues to succeed in offering insight into Paul Simonís development as both a songwriter and a performer. Yes, there are a few missteps, here and there: I Am a Rock lacks the punch of the later-recorded, full-band version, while the conclusion of He Was My Brother doesnít convey the same hopeful ambience of the duoís original rendition. Likewise, at times, Art Garfunkelís perfect harmonic accompaniment sorely is missed.
Largely, however, The Paul Simon Songbook is a quietly captivating affair that strips away layers of sound to reveal Simonís songs for what they are ó brilliant poems caressed by the gentle touch of finger-picked guitar. Kathyís Song, Leaves that Are Green, and April Come She Will are transcendentally gorgeous while Sounds of Silence is far more dark and desolate, sounding by coincidence more akin to Townes Van Zandt than the quaint, burbling pop of Simon & Garfunkel. Yet, the most intriguing tune on the set may be The Side of a Hill, which crept into the duoís repertoire as the counter-melody within Scarborough Fair. Here, it stands on its own as the powerful gem that it is, and thatís saying something, given its magnificent surroundings.
The Paul Simon Songbook is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box