Paul Simon

The Paul Simon Songbook

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The first album to use this title is one of the most mysterious in Paul Simon's output and almost belongs more with Simon & Garfunkel's discography, given its 1965 recording date. Following the failure of Simon & Garfunkel's first, all-acoustic folk revival-style album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, Simon headed off to England to see about pursuing music over there. While he was in London, he found himself in demand as a visiting American "folksinger" (though Simon's credentials in this area were rather limited), began building up a following in the coffeehouses, and was eventually pegged for a performing spot on the BBC. Suddenly, there were requests for Paul Simon recordings, of which there were none -- as a result of his being signed to Columbia Records in America, however, he was brought into the London studios of British CBS and recorded this album with only his acoustic guitar for backup. The resulting album is spare, almost minimalist, as Simon runs through raw and unaffected versions of songs that he was known for in London, including "The Sounds of Silence," "The Sun Is Burning," "I Am a Rock," "A Simple Desultory Philippic" (in its earliest form, and far nastier than the version later done by Simon & Garfunkel), and "Kathy's Song." The notes are very, very strange, but a bigger problem is the production by Reginald Warburton and Stanley West, which isn't terribly sympathetic; the sound isn't very natural, being very close and booming, but the album is a fascinating artifact of Simon's work during the interregnum in Simon & Garfunkel's career. And there is one fascinating number here, "The Side of a Hill," which eventually resurfaced as the countermelody song in the Simon & Garfunkel version of "Scarborough Fair" (a song curious by its absence here, considering that Simon was doing it in his coffeehouse appearances) two years later.

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