on 19 November 2011
This album was Paul Simons first solo effort after the split from Art Garfunkel in 1970.It was also his first effort after the majestic and hugely successful 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' album.Originally released in 1972 it still retains all its unique musical appeal.The album title 'Paul Simon' makes you realise that Simon was making a simple statement that this was purely his solo work and what work!
Its a hugely contrasting album to the 'bridge' album.The 'bridge' album was massive in both musical production terms and harmonic liason between Simon and Garfunkel.This album is greatly pared down musically but for all that its still brilliant.Paul Simon seems to be baring his musical soul in a much more direct and intimate fashion.The result is an album which is still my favourite solo Simon album.
Instantly catchy songs like 'Me and Julio' and 'Mother and Child Reunion' soon make you realise that Simon had lost none of the old magical songwriting ability.
Sandwiched in the middle of the album is the beautiful 'Duncan', where Simon again shows his talent for writing instant classics.Mention must also be made of 'Peace Like a River' with its beautiful harmonies reminiscent of the Simon and Grafunkel era.To me this is the only song which reminds you of that era.The rest are all instantly recognisable as purely Simon efforts.
Yes, if you are a Simon fan at all you have to have this.Down through the years I have bought all his solo work and S&G work(at least three times each!).This album however is the one I return to most often....one to relish.Simply a classic!
Paul Simon's first solo album is hardly a debut, since he had already scaled the heights of musical achievement with his partnership with Art Garfunkel, as the sole songwriter and creative talent of that particular pairing. But despite having already penned some of the most popular and successful songs of a decade already saturated with classic tunes, Paul Simon had yet to explore his full potential, and this album represents the best example of just what the man was capable of. Simple, subtle, and at times truly brilliant, this album demonstrates another side of Paul Simon's huge and unique talent. Comparable to the quality of anything he ever recorded previously, this album is far more personal, and has a back-to-basics approach that would now be considered 'de riguer'.
'Peace Like A River' is simply stunning. Akin to 'The Only Living Boy In New York', the harmonies here are to die for. No coincidience then that the harmony vocals (in both cases) were performed by Simon himself. 'Papa Hobo' is a similarly acoustic number with a great lyric, and is a joy to behold. 'Armistice Day' somehow feels like the title track (or centrepiece) of the album, but I don't really know why. Maybe because it encapsulates everything that this album is about... simplicity, a vague but witty lyric and instrumental virtuosity. 'Run That Body Down' is a personal tale (but one that is easily identifiable with) of a person close to a mid-life crisis, but never gets too heavy or serious, it's a light stroll of a song that breezes by whilst making you stop and think at the same time.
Then of course there are the singles, although prior to having this album, both were unfamiliar to me... "Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard" is a brave song. Musically a bit similar to something Neil Sedaka might have done (stay with this people...), the real brilliance is in the lyric. Also with "Mother And Child Reunion", the lyrical content is deeper than first meets the ear. A strange and dark lyric, it's really a song about death and bereavement, which is oddly offset against the liveliness of the music and Carribean backing vocals. 'Duncan' is very similar to 'El Condor Pasa' from 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' (as it features Los Incas on panpipes) but is an altogether more personal, more witty and less daft song all round. I particularly love the line "My Father was a fisherman, my Mother was a Fisherman's Friend" (I think those capitals are justified!). 'Everything Put Together Falls Apart', 'Paranoid Blues' and 'Hobo Blues' (an instrumental guitar and violin duet with Stephane Grappelli) are also accomplished tracks, but battle hard to make an impact in such illustrious company.
End it all with the magnificent 'Congratulations', an ironic (but not bitter) song about the increasing incidence (and likelihood) of marital dissolution. Sounds like a great song when you describe it like that (not!), but infact it is a real highlight of this amazing album. More resigned to reality than despairing, it is still a moving song. A sad lyric coupled with subtle electric piano and restrained Hammond organ (and of course Simon's guitar), musically this is as accomplished as anything Paul Simon has ever recorded. Lyrically, it also encapsulates every insecurity a man (or woman) could ever have about their relationships, and ends with the rueful lyric "I'm hungry for learning, can you answer me please/Can a man and a woman, live together in peace?"... I wonder...
In summary, there's not a weak track here. On the contrary, this is some of the best songwriting of the entire 1970's, and (for that matter) all time. A welcome departure from the over-produced S&G years, this is the real Paul Simon, and this album is a testament to the fact that he is one of the greatest songwriters of our times.
I remember sitting in my digs at University listening to this album. My first reaction at that time, was to miss the soaring voice of Art Garfunkel. But more listens showed this to be a masterful solo album and a statement that Simon without Garfunkel was going to be an important part of our musical future. I found myself playing this album frequently.
It seems to me that Paul Simon's interest in rhythm-based songs had already started and he was already carving what were to be his 'solo' sounds. As Garfunkel descended into over-produced sugariness, Simon quickly moved on, to offer masterpieces that were a long way removed from his work with his ex-partner.
The opening track, Mother And Child Reunion, is therefore a statement of intent and one of immense self-confidence. It has stood the test of time and is an always-welcomed offering whenever played. The following tracks offer a rich variety of styles and together make it clear that, of the two of them, it is Paul Simon who is going to have the more important solo career. This album is therefore the start of a journey and as such it is important.
The album has not aged and is still well deserving of playing forty years later. Five stars and a place in history.
on 30 March 2005
This is the thoroughly brave follow up to the commercial smash that was 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. Paul Simon strikes out on his own and produces such an incredible masterpiece. The production is somewhat less lavish but the songs are every bit as good. And an incredible quarter of a century later, they stand up incredibly well.
Paul Simon's songwriting is about as consistent as any other artist and none more so than on this debut solo album from 1972. The opener, a reggae tinged song about...well about a Mother And Child Reunion is simply great. Already on this opening track he has moved into previously unchartered territories (although 'Why Don't You Write Me' from 'Bridge' had hinted at this musical style). Then 'Duncan' is such a perfect ballad with an incredibly moving lyric...'crept to her tent with a flashlight' to name but one great line. 'Everything Put Together Falls Apart' is a sensitive ballad of the highest order. It is put simply quite perfect. 'Run That Body Down' finds Simon in humorous mood and it is a great relief to hear such humour on what must be said is quite a depressing collection. Not that the music isn't utterly brilliant of course. 'Armistice Day' is quite hard to listen to. But it has meaning. And that should never be underestimated.
Side 2 (vinly record) opens with the joyous 'Me And Julio' which so easily could have become a Simon And Garfunkel classic had the duo stayed together a couple more years. No Matter. It is a classic Paul Simon solo track. Then there are other great tracks such as 'Peace like A River' and 'Papa Hobo' which are too personal to warrant any input from Garfunkel. Let it be said here: Garfunkel was a wonderful singing partner for Paul Simon in the 1960s but in the 1970s Paul Simon was quite capable of producing great songs without his ex partner's input. In fact it is thoroughly appropriate that this is a Solo Album. These songs are not particularly commercial but Boy do they reach home, such is their weight, sincerity and thoroughly personal lyric. Just as with The Beatles, the break up could actually benefit the music rather than kill it. Paul Simon on this album bares his soul. And it is wonderful.
The other tracks are never less than interesting and lyrically this album is a Tour De Force the whole way through. Albeit with a slightly sad edge to the whole proceedings. Not a happy album like 'There Goes Rhymin' Simon', the next album (1973).
The last track, the brilliant 'Congratulations' is equally sad as it seems to deal with the heartbreaking break up of a relationship. In fact Simon even questions here 'Can a man and a woman live together in peace?' no less. He would ask the same question five years later when his first marriage broke up only this time with some humour on 'Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover' (1975).
This album has none of that humour whatsoever, 'Run That Body Down' providing the only possible exception. But Sad albums do not equal Bad albums. Witness 'John Lennon Plastic Ono Band' (1970) for example. This is Paul Simon's timeless equivalent, and interestingly the two albums were released within a year or two of eachother.
on 7 October 2000
THIS ALBUM IS A FINE BLEND OF CLASSIC BALLADS AND FINE POP TUNES FROM P.SIMON.I HAVE BEEN A FAN OF SIMON AND SIMON AND GARFUNKEL SINCE 1966 AND DESPITE HAVING ALL HIS ALBUMS,SOLO AND WITH GARFUNKEL,I STILL CONSIDER THIS ONE OF HIS BEST. LESSER KNOWN SIMON SONGS LIKE 'PEACE LIKE A RIVER' AND 'EVERYTHING PUT TOGETHER' ARE AMPLE TESTIMONY TO THE MAN'S MUSICAL GENIUS.WHEN THESE ARE BLENDED WITH THE MORE POP ORIENTATED 'ME AND JULIO' AND 'MOTHER AND CHILD RE-UNION' THE RESULT IS A MARVELLOUSLY ENTERTAINING SET OF SONGS FROM THE BEST SINGER/SONGERWRITER OF OUR TIME.
on 31 March 2015
Familiarity breeds contempt, so it is said. Not so here. I know this by heart, more or less, not from very often hearing it from start to finish but since nearly all the songs have had the strength on their own to break through and become listened to. This album feels like a greatest hits record, while it is in fact the first solo album after breaking up with Art. And somehow it appears that he is now free to roam - to investigate other parts of the musical landscape that he for various reasons hadn't before. It is more than good. It is not necessarily interesting music, but it certainly is crafted very, very well. You can't criticize that.
on 21 December 2006
They'd stopped talking so the one with the big hair had gone and the little one was left on his own. And then the little one made an album.
In many ways indicative of the eclecticism that was to come later, this self-titled effort is charming, if a little fussy at times.
"Mother & Child Reunion" is a nice peice of reggae that works well. "Me & Julio..." is effective and vibrant. "Peace Like A River" is a brooding protest song which is a slow-burn classic.
More low-key than much of S&G's work.... this works rather well. Tracks like "Everything Put Together..." are a spider's web of complexity and introspection and maybe have not held up as well over the years.
On album closer "Congratulations", Simon sounds soulful and engaging.
Worth exploring. Accomplished and fascinating.
on 17 February 2016
Before that really smooooth 70s feel came in on albums like "Still Crazy..." this was a great, highly inventive acoustic folk/rock/pop album. Me and Julio has to be one of the most fun songs to sing along to and the demo version with a slightly different melody is that rare thing: a worthwhile bonus track. Love PS.
on 16 March 2015
I think this might be my favourite Paul Simon album, I like the stripped back approach, and the album benefits from the rough-around-the-edges sound. His next few 70's records went slightly too syrupy for me (although 2nd album There Goes Rhyming Simon is a masterpiece).
Duncan, Run That Body Down just superb, but Peace Like A River has to be one, if not the best Paul Simon song. It's a relaxing listen, with Simon's clever and intricate wordplay over his fluid guitar playing. Can't go wrong with this one.
You can almost palpably hear Paul stretching wings and flexing musical muscles on this his first album (though not his first solo album) since the split from his earnest, curly-haired partner. He does so with style and the promise of greater things, a promise more than fulfilled on succeeding records.
The revelation for me was the beautiful song (which I don`t recall hearing before) called Duncan, which follows the well-known blissful opening track, Mother and Child Reunion. Can`t think why it`s not included on more compilations.
But there are several relatively obscure songs here, such as Congratulations, Paranoia Blues - with bottleneck guitar by the superb blues player Stefan Grossman -as well as the lovely Peace Like A River, Run That Body Down, and his short duet with none other than legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, Hobo Blues, recorded in Paris. (Stefan & Stephane...what are the odds?)
Over the years I`ve come to revere Paul Simon as one of the special ones. You could say he occupies a place in popular music not unlike that of Stevie Wonder: easy to take for granted, but consistently coming up with wonderful music over several decades. On balance, much as I like S&G, the songs Simon has written for his solo albums show where his musical heart lies. His embrace of the music of South America and Africa has been a constant too - the sweet sounds of charango & flute played by Los Incas add immeasurably to Duncan, while several tracks have backings which stray into what we now call `world music` territory - something in which PS was a pioneer.
This is a quite modest yet lovely album from the newly freed Paul Simon, one of the finest songwriters ever to draw breath.