Paul Simon

Songwriter

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The title makes plain the intention of Paul Simon on this 2011 double-disc set: the focus is not on the hits but the songs, to the extent that his most famous song is not performed either by him solo or with Art Garfunkel, it is sung by Aretha Franklin, a selection that suggests this compilation will be more idiosyncratic than it is. Many of the songs that are Simon’s solo staples -- “Mother and Child Reunion,” “Kodachrome,” “American Tune,” “Late in the Evening,” “Still Crazy After All These Years,” “Graceland,” “The Boy in the Bubble” -- are here, enough to almost camouflage the big songs that are missing in action, including “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “Duncan,” “Slip Slidin’ Away,” and “You Can Call Me Al.” All these are casualties of a concept that allows for Simon to spend the entirety of the second disc on albums released since 1990, a move that fits the aesthetic -- there’s no dip in quality -- but is sure to disgruntle listeners who only want the songs they know by heart. But there are plenty of compilations for those kind of fans; for listeners who want to get a strong overview of Simon the writer, containing many but not all of his best songs, Songwriter is a solid choice.

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