Paul Simon – The Essential Paul Simon (2007)

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Photo by Mark Seliger

by Mark Saleski

Paul Simon’s career has something that is becoming quite rare in the entertainment world: longevity. Yes, the songs on this collection span over three decades. During that time period our culture, the music biz, and Simon himself have seen great changes.

So has every one of us.

For instance, at the beginning of this thirty year period, I could not have been called a Paul Simon fan. I had no use for Simon and Garfunkel and considered the Simon solo material to be a natural extension. So hey, why bother? Then my girlfriend put on one of his records and, well … “Still Crazy After All These Years” was something that couldn’t be denied. Maybe, just maybe, it was time to look beyond my then current Foghat/Bad Company/Nugent listening habits.

[SOMETHING ELSE! SNEAK PEEK: Preview “The Afterlife,” a track from Paul Simon’s upcoming 2011 release So Beautiful or So What, to be released on April 12.]

All these years later, my palette of sounds has expanded far beyond what I’d ever thought possible. Though Simon was probably not surprised by his own path, his music has touched upon many genres: folk, folk rock, pop, Brazilian, South African, and even a little bit of art rock (on 2006’s Surprise). Somehow, this collection of disparate musics hangs together as a single artistic statement.

But wait, let’s get back to that girlfriend/epiphany thing for a minute. See, it really wasn’t all that much of an awakening as I still went right along ignoring Simon’s music. Oh sure, I might have noticed when “You Can Call Me Al” was an unavoidable presence on the airwaves but that was about it. (OK, that and Simon’s hilarious “Still Crazy…” performed in a turkey costume on Saturday Night Live.)

Around about the time that Simon released Surprise, I took a look back across thirty years to see an amazing lineup of tunes — “Late In The Evening,” “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” “Kodachrome,” “Slip Slidin’ Away,” “American Tune,” “Me And Julio Down By The School Yard,” “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,” “Graceland,” “The Boy In The Bubble.” My goodness, that’s a whole lotta songwriting goodness right there!

The good news is that Simon shows no signs of slowing down. Artistically, Surprise sat proudly alongside just about all of his other records. Another thirty years is probably too much to ask but hey, you never know. There’s longevity, and then there’s longevity!

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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