Paul Simon

iTunes Originals

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The Paul Simon edition of the exclusive digital download-only series iTunes Originals is a lengthy interview interspersed with 14 songs, some of them newly recorded versions of old favorites, others original recordings from previously released albums. On the whole, the collection must be considered primarily a promotional effort for 2006's Surprise LP, featuring seven songs from that album, which dominates the second half of the two-hour running time. But Simon begins with autobiographical remarks, recounting his childhood encounter with Art Garfunkel. That leads to a live performance of their Tom & Jerry hit "Hey, Schoolgirl" from the 2004 Old Friends: Live on Stage album. That disc is also the source for the version of "The Sound of Silence," after Simon tells a detailed, but not precisely accurate, story about that song's march up the charts. He also discusses the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel, of course, as a lead-in to a new recording of his early solo hit "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." After that, his comments have less of a biographical narrative and tend to jump around to various observations about aspects of his career including his approach to songwriting, bringing him up to his collaboration with co-producer Brian Eno on Surprise. Even Simon fans are likely to learn things they didn't know about him and his work while enjoying a few rare versions of his songs.