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Pop/Rock - Released June 1, 2012 | Legacy Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Exceptional Sound Productions - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
With Graceland, Paul Simon hit on the idea of combining his always perceptive songwriting with the little-heard mbaqanga music of South Africa, creating a fascinating hybrid that re-enchanted his old audience and earned him a new one. It is true that the South African angle (including its controversial aspect during the apartheid days) was a powerful marketing tool and that the catchy music succeeded in presenting listeners with that magical combination: something they'd never heard before that nevertheless sounded familiar. As eclectic as any record Simon had made, it also delved into zydeco and conjunto-flavored rock & roll while marking a surprising new lyrical approach (presaged on some songs on Hearts and Bones); for the most part, Simon abandoned a linear, narrative approach to his words, instead drawing highly poetic ("Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"), abstract ("The Boy in the Bubble"), and satiric ("I Know What I Know") portraits of modern life, often charged by striking images and turns of phrase torn from the headlines or overheard in contemporary speech. An enormously successful record, Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop/Rock - Released June 1, 2012 | Legacy Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
With Graceland, Paul Simon hit on the idea of combining his always perceptive songwriting with the little-heard mbaqanga music of South Africa, creating a fascinating hybrid that re-enchanted his old audience and earned him a new one. It is true that the South African angle (including its controversial aspect during the apartheid days) was a powerful marketing tool and that the catchy music succeeded in presenting listeners with that magical combination: something they'd never heard before that nevertheless sounded familiar. As eclectic as any record Simon had made, it also delved into zydeco and conjunto-flavored rock & roll while marking a surprising new lyrical approach (presaged on some songs on Hearts and Bones); for the most part, Simon abandoned a linear, narrative approach to his words, instead drawing highly poetic ("Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"), abstract ("The Boy in the Bubble"), and satiric ("I Know What I Know") portraits of modern life, often charged by striking images and turns of phrase torn from the headlines or overheard in contemporary speech. An enormously successful record, Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop/Rock - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
If any musical justification were needed for the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel, it could be found on this striking collection, Paul Simon's post-split debut. From the opening cut, "Mother and Child Reunion" (a Top Ten hit), Simon, who had snuck several subtle musical explorations into the generally conservative S&G sound, broke free, heralding the rise of reggae with an exuberant track recorded in Jamaica for a song about death. From there, it was off to Paris for a track in South American style and a rambling story of a fisherman's son, "Duncan" (which made the singles chart). But most of the album had a low-key feel, with Simon on acoustic guitar backed by only a few trusted associates (among them Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel, David Spinozza, Mike Manieri, Ron Carter, and Hal Blaine, along with such guests as Stefan Grossman, Airto Moreira, and Stephane Grappelli), singing a group of informal, intimate, funny, and closely observed songs (among them the lively Top 40 hit "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"). It was miles removed from the big, stately ballad style of Bridge Over Troubled Water and signaled that Simon was a versatile songwriter as well as an expressive singer with a much broader range of musical interests than he had previously demonstrated. You didn't miss Art Garfunkel on Paul Simon, not only because Simon didn't write Garfunkel-like showcases for himself, but because the songs he did write showed off his own, more varied musical strengths. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Rock - Released June 3, 2016 | Concord Records

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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Released five years after Warner's last Paul Simon comp, the single-disc The Paul Simon Collection: On My Way, Don't Know Where I'm Goin', the double-disc The Essential Paul Simon is a full 17 tracks heftier than its predecessor and contains all but one of its 19 songs (MIA is the latter-day "Love," which only hardcore fans will recognize as from You're the One, and they're not quite the market for this set anyway). It's also slimmer than the 1993 box Paul Simon 1964/1993, which spanned three discs but also encompassed his '60s recordings with Art Garfunkel, plus a single the duo recorded as Tom & Jerry, along with selections from his solo debut, The Paul Simon Songbook -- it was ambitious, where this compilation is efficient, picking up after the parting of ways with Garfunkel and running straight through until 2006's Surprise. The sequencing isn't strictly chronological -- some songs are shuffled around for effect, with "Still Crazy After All These Years" closing the first, while "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" is cleverly followed by the zydeco stomp "That Was Your Mother" -- but it roughly divides into having the first disc devoted to the '70s and early '80s, the second devoted to Graceland and beyond. Some might argue that there's too heavy of a Graceland presence here -- a whopping six tracks, over half the album -- but it is his biggest album and functions as a nice transition between his better-known '70s hits and the more esoteric but frequently compelling work that he's done since. And, unlike The Paul Simon Collection, The Essential Paul Simon is designed to introduce fellow travelers to the interesting work he's done since Graceland, as the second disc emphasizes that quite greatly, and it does a good job of it, while also providing a good summary of his best-known (and much of his best) solo work. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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The third new studio album of Paul Simon's post-Simon & Garfunkel career was a musical and lyrical change of pace from his first two, Paul Simon and There Goes Rhymin' Simon. Where Simon had taken an eclectic approach before, delving into a variety of musical styles and recording all over the world, Still Crazy found him working for the most part with a group of jazz-pop New York session players, though he did do a couple of tracks ("My Little Town" and "Still Crazy After All These Years") with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section that had appeared on Rhymin' Simon and another ("Gone at Last") returned to the gospel style of earlier songs like "Loves Me Like a Rock." Of course, "My Little Town" also marked a return to working with Art Garfunkel, and another Top Ten entry for S&G. But the overall feel of Still Crazy was of a jazzy style subtly augmented with strings and horns. Perhaps more striking, however, was Simon's lyrical approach. Where Rhymin' Simon was the work of a confident family man, Still Crazy came off as a post-divorce album, its songs reeking of smug self-satisfaction and romantic disillusionment. At their best, such sentiments were undercut by humor and made palatable by musical hooks, as on "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," which became the biggest solo hit of Simon's career. But elsewhere, as on "Have a Good Time," the singer's cynicism seemed unearned. Still, as out of sorts as Simon may have been, he was never more in tune with his audience: Still Crazy topped the charts, spawned four Top 40 hits, and won Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Vocal Performance. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Though it was released to coincide with the opening of the film One-Trick Pony, which Paul Simon wrote and starred in, the One-Trick Pony album is not a soundtrack, as it is sometimes categorized, at least, not exactly. If it were, it might contain the Paul Simon song "Soft Parachutes" and other non-Simon music featured in the movie. Instead, this is a studio album containing many of the movie songs, some of them in the same performances (two were cut live at the Agora Club in Cleveland). The record is not billed as a soundtrack, but a sleeve note reads, "The music on this Compact Disc was created for the Paul Simon Movie 'One-Trick Pony.'" Anyway, if Simon was in fact writing songs for Jonah, his movie character (as seems true of songs like "Jonah," "God Bless the Absentee," and "Long, Long Day"), he intended that character to take a somewhat less considered lyrical viewpoint than Paul Simon generally does, but to be even more enamored of light jazz fusion than Paul Simon had been on his last album, Still Crazy After All These Years. Tasty licks abound from the fretwork of Eric Gale, Hiram Bullock, and Hugh McCracken, and the rhythm section of Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, and Richard Tee is equally in the groove. This is the closest thing to a band album Simon ever made, and it contains some of his most rhythmic and energetic singing. But it is also his most uneven album, simply because the songwriting, with the exception of the title song and the ballads "How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns" and "Nobody," is not up to his usual standard. Maybe he was too busy writing his screenplay to polish these songs to the usual gloss. (It can't have been than Jonah wasn't supposed to be as talented as Paul Simon. Could it?) In any case, though the album spawned a Top Ten hit in "Late in the Evening" and may have sold more copies than the film did tickets, it remained a disappointment in both artistic and commercial terms. ~ William Ruhlmann

Pop/Rock - Released January 1, 2012 | Fantasy Records

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When it came time to cut a live album documenting his supporting tour for his excellent 2011 album So Beautiful or So What, Paul Simon did what he always does: he set up shop in his hometown of New York City. Previously, he -- either with or without Art Garfunkel -- released albums recorded at massive venues like Madison Square Garden or Central Park, but Hear Music's 2012 Live in New York City -- available either as a two-CD/one-DVD set or simply as a double CD or single DVD -- was recorded at the comparatively intimate Webster Hall and, appropriately enough, the performance feels comparatively cozy, Simon striking just the right blend of playing for himself and playing for the audience. He showcases a nice chunk of So Beautiful or So What -- "Dazzling Blue," "So Beautiful or So What," "Rewrite," "The Afterlife," roughly half of the album -- and about half of Graceland, often opting for album tracks over hits (no "You Can Call Me Al" or "Graceland," but "That Was Your Mother" and "Gumboots" both make the cut), and when he does dip into such standards as "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," "Mother and Child Reunion," "Slip Slidin' Away," and "Still Crazy," he finds subtle little ways to inject a bit of groove into their well-worn contours. Simon is pleasing the crowd without pandering, and he winds up with a live album that's lively, slightly surprising, warm, and undeniably fun. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Though he recorded the album's prominent percussion tracks in Brazil, Paul Simon fashioned The Rhythm of the Saints as a deliberate follow-up to the artistic breakthrough and commercial comeback that was the South Africa-tinged Graceland. Several of the musicians who had appeared previously were back, along with some of the New York session players who had worked with Simon in the 1970s, and the overall sound was familiar to fans of Graceland. Further, Simon's nonlinear lyrical approach was carried over: he continued to ruminate about love, aging, and the onslaught of modern life in disconnected phrases and images that created impressions rather than telling straightforward stories. But where Graceland had seamlessly merged its styles into an exuberant whole, The Rhythm of the Saints was less well digested. Those drum tracks never seemed integrated effectively into what had been dubbed over them; at the same time, they tended to lock the songs into musical patterns that reined them in from the kind of excitement the South African music on Graceland generated, making the melodies harder to grasp. At the same time, Simon sang his lyrics in a less involved way, which sometimes made them seem like collections of random lines rather than the series of striking observations Graceland seemed to contain. No Paul Simon album could be lacking in craft or quality, and The Rhythm of the Saints was a typically tasteful effort. But this time around, Simon hadn't quite succeeded in bringing the wide-ranging elements together; the album sold about half as many copies as Graceland (that is to say, a none-too-shabby two million), and that's about right -- where Graceland was an exotic adventure, The Rhythm of the Saints was more of an anthropology lesson. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop - Released September 6, 2013 | Legacy Recordings

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One thing Simon & Garfunkel never did much of was tour, so a Paul Simon solo tour, following two commercially successful solo albums, was one more way for Simon to distance himself from the duo and, simultaneously, by performing songs like "The Boxer" and "Homeward Bound," to reclaim his songwriting catalog. Reflecting the musical explorations he had pursued since S & G, Simon brought along Brazilian group Urubamba and gospel group the Jessy Dixon Singers. The result wasn't perfect: nobody needed to hear "Jesus Is the Answer" (a Dixons spotlight number) on a Paul Simon album, and if it was inevitable that he would try his own version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," it was also predestined that he wouldn't come near to matching Garfunkel's original. Though the album was, like most live albums, artistically redundant (there was nothing new, and none of the live versions improved upon the studio ones), it served as a career statement and it had a marketing function, buying the relatively slow-working Simon time between new studio releases. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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The disaster of Songs from the Capeman hit Paul Simon particularly hard, so he decided to quickly record a new album, his first proper collection of songs since 1990's The Rhythm of the Saints -- his first album in ten years, really. Nevertheless, if this album has a relative, it's 1982's Hearts and Bones, since it's a deliberately low-key, insular record, especially when compared to the sweeping worldbeat explorations of Graceland and Rhythm. But where Hearts and Bones was a singer/songwriter album, no two ways about it, You're the One illustrates the influence of its predecessors, but it's not showy about it. The African and South American rhythms are as much a foundation of Simon's music as folk is, and his compositions reflect it, boasting surprisingly tricky rhythms that carry through to his melodies themselves. That, combined with Simon's determination to meet aging head-on, makes You're the One a bit of an acquired taste, especially since its compositions are never overtly accessible and melodic -- they're all tone poems, driven as much by tone and lyric as song itself. This all results in a record that may be a little too deliberately low-key and elliptical for most tastes, especially since it demands full concentration even from serious fans. But this does reward close listening, and even if it doesn't shine as brilliantly as Hearts and Bones (his most underappreciated record), it does share some similarities in that it's an unassumingly intellectual record that feels like it was made without an audience in mind. Which means it's more interesting than successful, but interesting can have its own rewards. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Folk - Released January 1, 2010 | Fantasy Records

Folk - Released July 12, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

Ten years after playing a free concert in New York's Central Park with Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon returned, backed by the New York session musicians and the native musicians from South Africa and Brazil who had enlivened his solo work. The show was filmed and recorded, and the audio release was a 23-track double-disc set running nearly two hours. Half the selections came from his Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints albums, but unlike the Graceland Tour of 1987, the Born at the Right Time Tour of 1991 made room for Simon's earlier solo work as well as a few Simon & Garfunkel songs. Simon made such stylistically various material work together by front-loading the set with the newer stuff and rearranging some of the older solo stuff, so that "Kodachrome," for example, was refitted with a guitar line courtesy of Graceland player Ray Phiri. (Wisely, except for a becalmed Africanization of "Cecilia," Simon didn't monkey with the S&G songs, most of which came at the end of the set.) But Simon also toned down the Brazilian percussion that had dominated the Saints material and sang it more convincingly, so that "Born at the Right Time," for example, was far more effective than it had been in its studio version. On the whole, then, Concert in the Park managed to be an enjoyable and surprisingly cohesive career summary. ~ William Ruhlmann

Folk - Released January 1, 2011 | Fantasy Records

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Pop/Rock - Released July 14, 2017 | Legacy Recordings

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When you're an institution like Paul Simon, and strictly speaking you don't have anything to prove, you can do whatever you like. So surely Art Garfunkel's former bandmate was doing exactly that when he recorded this ample (two hours!) live set in Hyde Park in London on 15 July 2012, as part of the Hard Rock Calling Festival. As so often in this kind of situation, when the artist possesses an XXL-sized body of work and discography, the recording plays the role of a kind of Best Of. And that is precisely what it is. All Paul Simon’s hits get an airing here, in pretty vigorous versions. The concert reunites Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who were present on the album Graceland, but also features a guest appearance by the great Jimmy Cliff. Solo career (Kodachrome, Graceland, Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover) or works from the Simon & Garfunkel period (The Boxer), nothing is missing from this first-rate performance. © CM/Qobuz

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Paul Simon in the magazine
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