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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
The Paul Simon Songbook
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£6.41+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 20 August 2004
I too had heard about the existence of these masters and, although I love and respect Paul Simon's body of work, did not think enough of it to check it out right away. Well ... I'm certainly sorry I waited as long as I have.
Listening to this CD will give you the kind of insight into an artist that you may only get from his or her private notebooks, a sense of looking at notes that may still change but were important enough to be written down when they were, a diary of a young man who must express the outrage or tenderness he's found in the world around him.
You don't have to be a completist or be writing a PhD dissertation on Simon, to own this CD. I'd argue that if you've never heard Simon & Garfunkel you may still be thanking your stars for having discovered the treasures that are included here.
This is not to say that the latter versions with Art Garfunkel are to be forgotten, of course, but that these takes ought to be listened to as the roots of the glorious recordings they created together. Actually, I'd go as far as to say that many of their classics would not be have been such without Artie's breathtaking voice.
This album is full of gems, played with a minimum of instrumentation and without any kind of pretentiousness. "I Am A Rock" sounds angrier and reveals an edge to the words I did not ever get from the famous duo's versions; "A Most Peculiar Man" and "Kathy's Song" are bound to thaw your heart; and "A Church Is Burning" or "A Simple Desultory Philippic" although naive, somewhat the sentimental fury of a young man, will move you with their honesty.
These are not outtakes, the often incomplete, unrealized stuff that gets added to reissued classic albums, that clearly proves why it was buried in vaults for a long time. This is an early album, a set of songs that was meant to be heard, by one of the most important singer-songwriters in popular music. Astute and tender, at times naive but not asleep to the times he witnessed as a young artist.
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on 10 January 2017
This is possibly the best album ever made, simply because of the fact you're hearing a tormented man singing his own songs prior to them often being watered down or, at worst, ruined later in his career. A man with a guitar and a whole bunch of emotions. The booklet gives some really nice insights into the history of the record.

I've been listening to this since I was about 8, on my mum's vinyl copy. I'm now 46 and haven't stopped. It's super, especially for a hearty singalong.
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on 28 July 2016
I always knew about this recording in Simon's discography. Somehow I never ever got round to listening to it once in fifty-something years... Perhaps because I had every Simon and Garfunkel record. Is it still relevant after all these years? I played it to my 17 year old daughter who just loved it. She's right.
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on 5 November 2017
Pure nostalgia yet songs just as relevant and meaningful as they were when I was 17. I am now 68!
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on 12 March 2004
If, like me, the draw of Simon and Garfunkel is not the soaring tenor of the latter, nor even their perfect harmonies, but more the elegant, melodic beauty of Paul Simon's singing, song-writing and acoustic guitar picking, then this album is for you. Many songs sound better here than on the S+G studio albums that followed without the uneeded over-arrangements. This is how Paul Simon must have sounded when he was "on a tour of one night stands", in England, back in the early sixties. I'm lucky that my dad has the original LP. But I can't wait to buy my own - it'll be well worth it. Paul Simon says on the sleeve: "The words I write today will not be mine tomorrow". But they (and his melodies) are still poignant, beautiful and moving even today.......
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on 5 January 2015
Very good
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It's interesting to hear how fully formed some of Paul Simon's musical ideas already were at this point, prior to the full-on fame and success of his (already extant) duo with Art Garfunkel.

There are a good number of five-star classics here. So I find myself slightly surprised giving it only four stars. I think the reasons are twofold: it's a bit uneven, there's some really great stuff, and some that's less compelling. Secondly, the pairing with Garfunkel, and the excellent sidemen and production of those classic CBS albums really do take some of the better material here to even greater heights.

I have to confess I was a little disappointed when I first bought and heard this, as I was kind of hoping for something akin to the raw stripped down magic of the acoustic duets of Toquinho and Vinicius (which in the case of that Brazilian duo are often better than their more syrupy big-budget record label productions), or Chet Baker's long out of print 'Embraceable You' sessions, which are another case of when less can be more.

Still, if you like Paul Simon, and if you like his youthful repertoire, it's certainly a good album, worth having. The signs of greatness are there, and are even realised here and there. But the real magic was yet to come.
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on 3 May 2004
I tried to buy this album 10 years ago in a particularly Hi-fidelity styled record shop in the West end of Glasgow. The guy behind the counter was a minor music celebrity and went to the bother of producing two very large Sony reference catalogues to prove to me that this album didn't exist. "Bootleg" was his self satisfied reponse!! The fact that I had the album on vinyl seemed to matter not a jot. This album captures Simon as the young unaffected protest singer with the songs to go. Given the enormity of the man's eventual position in pop's canon, this is the equivalent of an acoustic Lennon version of Revolver, with all his soon to be disguised Dylanisms turned up to 10, and all the better for it. This is one of the most important albums ever made...nuff said.
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VINE VOICEon 11 November 2004
Every year before Christmas, I enter the words "Paul Simon Songbook" into the Amazon searchbox. And this year I got a result! I have the album on lp, which I copied to cassette tape years ago. Last year I made a copy of the tape onto CD, but the sound qulity is fairly poor. Finally, here is the CD version. It is a wonderful, simple and very sincere album, the first one I ever bought. It reflects the magic of those years in the sixties. And it is great to hear early accousitc versions of later hits.
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on 20 October 2004
I would be very envious of anyone coming to the PAUL SIMON SONGBOOK who had never heard the Simon & Garfunkel versions. As it is, like one previous reviewer has said, if the guitar picking of Paul Simon (especially in the days of his pounding Martin D-18 guitar before he swapped it for something smaller) and his soft tenor voice are the draw of S & G, then you will not be disappointed. One thing that impresses me is that Paul Simon never felt the need to alter the songs in anyway when they appeared on subsequent S & G albums; in such a young songwriter, I find that degree of self-assuredness and confidence in his material quite amazing. But then he'd first cut a record in 1957, so he'd had plenty of experience by 1965. The title of the album is highly important: these were the songs that he was cultivating at the time, and given that 'The Sound of Silence' was on three albums (WEDNESDAY MORNING 3 A.M.; PAUL SIMON SONGBOOK; SOUNDS OF SILENCE) clearly shows that this was something of a personal favourite. The reason why I made the point about hearing this before the S & G albums is that the solo songs actually do in some cases sound a bit hollow after my being so used to Art Garfunkel's vocals, slightly distracting the listener; and Paul Simon sometimes does sound as if he had been recording in the London Dungeon, circa 1365. I was surprised at this reaction in myself and conclude that Art Garfunkel was quite important after all. All that having been said, this album is well worth getting hold of. It's very much an album of the times: how did he get away with a one-off? No five record deal with CBS? It shows that Paul Simon was assiduous and full in self-belief to succeed, compared to say poor Jackson C. Frank Paul Simon really did work hard to get where he was, and created his own luck.

The reason why I haven't given five stars is that I feel the inclusion of two bonus tracks was a mistake: so what if Paul uses a six-string guitar instead of a twelve-string one on 'A Church Is Burning' or whether he stamps his foot on 'I Am A Rock [Take #6]'? The choice of these two songs means that should you wish to play the album more than once in succession it means within the space of five tracks you get these two songs twice a piece, which takes a bit of sticking - 'A Church Is Burning' is not the strongest song in Paul Simon's repertoire. The liner notes are little bit dated - and Paul Simon does portray himself somewhat pretentiously, and the protest songs are probably the weakest in the set. But it's all relevant to the feel of the album and no reason for disappointment; after all, the album is nearly 40 years old.

All that aside, the listener will relish those songs that show Paul Simon at his best, namely: 'Kathy's Song' (the girl on the front cover apparently being the aforementioned Kathy); 'Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall', 'April She Will Come', 'A Most Peculiar Man', 'He Was My Brother', 'Patterns', and a rather impressively solid version of 'The Sound of Silence', complete with foot-tapping. It is certainly worth getting the album for these songs, and you won't feel that you have duplicated previous S & G versions; rather you've been privy to a unique snapshot of a great songwriter, and a slightly overlooked guitar player, not to mention singer.
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