Paul Simon

Paul Simon aka Jerry Landis: Work in Progress, Vol. 2

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Like the first volume of this almost certainly unauthorized series -- not many series put a release date on Vol. 1 (of 1995) that's later than the one (1994) printed on Vol. 2! -- this presents a wealth of material Paul Simon wrote and recorded in the years prior to the formation of Simon & Garfunkel. (In those days, he was often using pseudonyms like Jerry Landis, hence the CD's title.) Of these 34 tracks, 18 were previously unreleased; four of them are sung by Artie Garr, a pseudonym used by Art Garfunkel in his early years. These cuts are a marginal improvement on Vol. 1, if for no other reason than they find the songs getting at least somewhat more clever and sophisticated. Yet still, these are -- if you're approaching this with anything other than a primary eye for historical interest -- incredibly disappointing in light of what Simon would be producing as half of Simon & Garfunkel just a few years later. It's clich├ęd late-'50s/early-'60s teen pop both lyrically and melodically, and if he was showing some slight improvement, had he not gone on to do what he did and retired from music before S&G, no one would hear these recordings and wonder why he failed to make more headway in the Brill Building scene. At least his voice is engaging and recognizable, but no one could have made good music, or hits, out of the songs. As for some of the more interesting tracks, at least relatively speaking, "I'm Lonely" sounds like it could have been penned with a Buddy Holly imitator in mind, and it comes as a relief to hear at least some unexpected melodic turns thrown into "Haven't You Hurt Me Enough." But while it seems as if he's learning some tricks of the trade from his Brill Building betters, it seems hopeless that he'll ever reach their level -- let alone surpass them, as he, quite surprisingly in light of these early efforts, did in not too many years.