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Ghost Canyon

Title - Paul Simon - Definitive Editions on CD (Legacy)
Artist - Paul Simon

Originally released on Columbia Records in 1972, Paul Simon, the artist's first solo studio album without Art Garfunkel, peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 while generating the signature hits 'Mother and Child Reunion' (#4 Hot 100) and 'Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard' (#22) - and other classic tracks, of course.

The CD bonus cuts here include demos of 'Duncan' and 'Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard' and a previously-unreleased 'Paranoia Blues.'

And they're quite interesting songs, too. It's a very loose, lively, intimate, and occasionally funny album. We see Simon goofing up and letting it loose on funny, rambling pieces like 'Duncan' and 'Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard,' while making quite calculated statements on others, such as 'Everything Put Together Falls Apart.' There are also songs here that namecheck reggae ('Mother and Child Reunion'), blues ('Paranoia Blues'), and other forms of music than the folk that Simon was pre-dominatenly known for at the time.

With an album focused on the smaller details and defining quirks of real life, Simon's second solo album There Goes Rhymin' Simon finds him regarding the passage of time and the fragility of relationships with his usual mix of quirky observations and gentler, more deeply felt melancholy.

The result was a grab-bag of songs that were all terrific, three top 40 singles and a solo Grammy. But even with the mix of styles, the sound is still distinctly Simon. The perky pop of 'Kodachrome,' the gospel of 'Loves Me Like a Rock' and the jazzy 'Take Me To The Mardi Gras' all intermingle. Two of his best love songs are here with the lullaby to his son ('St Judy's Comet') and the beautiful 'Something So Right' (much later covered by Annie Lennox).

Also included is the classic 'American Tune,' where Simon makes a declarative statement about his state of mind circa 1973. Watergate was beginning to bubble, Nixon was still dragging out the Vietnam War after his re-election and Simon was singing "I don't know a soul who's not been battered."

As we all know by now, Paul Simon's third solo album Still Crazy After All These Years unified the varied threads running through its predecessors. Threads and moods such as confessional ballads, wily story songs, agnostic spirituals and snapshots of modern life - all circa 1975.

Atop this lush musical carpet, Simon laid restrained melodies and knotty vignettes on middle-aged urban life. 'You're Kind' plays like a straight, dry love song until its punch line hits like a Seinfeld re-run! The black rainbow and deceased ballplayer in 'My Little Town' and 'Night Game,' respectively, capture childhood's frozen, dashed dreams. But 'Have A Good Time' and the title song itself convey a survivor mentality with sly wit missing from the Eagles' bombastic, similar-themed 'Take It To The Limit.'

Recorded during Simon's groundbreaking tours with Urubamba and the Jessy Dixon Singers in 1973-74, Paul Simon In Concert: Live Rhymin', is newly-remastered and includes two previously unavailable live tracks - 'Kodachrome' and 'Something So Right.' Which is lucky for all us Simon fans as neither have ever appeared on vinyl or other CD editions of this wonderful album!

As for the live show itself, well, the versions of 'Me and Julio' and 'American Tune' are very powerful, with Simon's voice and acoustic guitar highlighting the pop quality of the first song, and the moody world-weary lyrics of the poignant second one. Sometimes it is successful, particularly when the Incan group Urubamba joins him for 'El Condor Pasa,' 'Duncan,' and 'Boxer'.

His songs with the Jessy Dixon group are, sadly not as consistent. 'Mother and Child Reunion' and 'Loves Me Like A Rock' are enhanced by the gospel-tinged accompaniment, but I find them distracting presences in the classic 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters' and 'Sounds of Silence.'