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And Here’s To You, Mr. Simon: Paul Simon Mulls “Graceland” Box Set and Tour, Reflects On His Career With “Songwriter” (UPDATED)

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How terribly strange to be seventy.

Today, October 13, Paul Simon reaches that milestone, over forty-three years after he first mused what it would be like to be sitting on that park bench with his friend, like bookends.  Yet in that time, Simon’s music has remained resonant and timely, a point driven home when the singer paid tribute on September 11, 2011 to the fallen at New York City’s Ground Zero with a poignant performance of “The Sound of Silence.”  His music has been a soundtrack to countless lives, bringing particular solace to a wounded nation in the aftermath of those 2001 attacks with a performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on America: A Tribute to Heroes, and “The Boxer” on the first live episode of Saturday Night Live to air after that pivotal day.  David Bowie even used Simon’s “America” to open The Concert for New York City on October 20, 2001.  Chances are those memories, along with so many others, will surface soon as Simon launches a number of retrospective projects.  First up is the release of Songwriter, a new 2-CD, 32-track compilation curated by Simon himself.  The first recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Simon has drawn on the entirety of his career for Songwriter, beginning with three Simon and Garfunkel songs, and ending with selections from 2011’s So Beautiful or So What.

Simon’s old friend Art Garfunkel is conspicuous by his absence on Songwriter, although “The Sound of Silence,” “The Boxer” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” have been chosen to lead off the new anthology, covering Simon’s early years as one-half of the most famous folk-rock duo of all time.  “The Sound of Silence” is heard in a previously-unissued performance from Webster Hall, recorded this year, while “The Boxer” is drawn from Simon’s 1991 Central Park concert and “Bridge” is heard in Aretha Franklin’s rendition of the Simon song.  (Franklin’s incendiary take on the song won her a Grammy Award, one of the few times both the original and a cover version of a song took home the Grammy gold.)  “Bridge” is the only song included in a non-Simon recording.

That’s not all, though.  Simon recently told Phil Gallo of Billboard that the 25th anniversary of his landmark album Graceland won’t go unrecognized.  Although the actual anniversary was August 12 of this year, plans are currently underway for both a tour and a box set celebrating the occasion.  Simon told Billboard he intends to reunite a number of the musicians who toured with him in 1987, among them the South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  This past July, Simon performed in South Africa with Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well as pioneering musician Hugh Masekela for a small audience of 300.  The concert was captured on film by director Joe Berlinger, with plans to release it as part of a documentary DVD to be included in the upcoming Graceland box set.  Simon commented, “The documentary took me back to the artistic aspects and the political aspects of making Graceland and the controversy that surrounded it and how it was resolved, plus what remains of it and what we learn from it.”  Although originally issued by Warner Bros. Records, the Graceland box will arrive courtesy our friends at Sony’s Legacy Recordings as part of the deal that has brought together Simon’s solo catalogue with that of his Simon and Garfunkel discography.  (The lone exception is Simon’s 2011 So Beautiful or So What, released by Concord and Hear Music.)  Both tour and box set could arrive next May.

Hit the jump for more information on these momentous projects, including the full track listing of Songwriter with discographical information!

Journalist Tom Moon has penned new liner notes for Songwriter, asserting that the album “features commercial landmarks alongside ambitious and often criminally under-appreciated compositions. This structure makes the case that hit-single success is just one (often over-emphasized) measure; inevitably, with an artist who has contributed as much as Simon has, some of the ‘smaller’ pieces get overlooked…. What you learn, listening to this ‘director’s cut’ sampler from a long career, is that there have always been conversations bubbling inside of Simon’s tunes, and those conversations take many forms….” 

To that end, this “director’s cut” isn’t arranged in strictly chronological order, especially on the first disc.  The second takes a more conventional approach to sequencing.  The most well-represented albums are 1973’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon and 1990’s The Rhythm of the Saints, with four songs apiece.  1974’s Live Rhymin’, recently reissued by Legacy, is the only of Simon’s solo albums not tapped for this new set.  Many of Simon’s commercial high points have been included, but many favorites didn’t make the cut, such as “Duncan,” “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “You Can Call Me Al” and “Loves Me Like a Rock,” just to name a few.  In their place, listeners can reacquaint – or perhaps acquaint – themselves with the beautiful doo wop and Latin-tinged songs from Simon’s underrated 1997 Songs from the Capeman, and three tracks each from Simon’s three most recent albums, including 2011’s critically acclaimed So Beautiful or So What.  Three Graceland songs have made the cut.  This set adds up to an alternative history of an iconoclastic writer.

If you’re interested in charting Paul Simon’s evolution as a composer and lyricist, and revisiting his own personal best, the new 2-CD Songwriter is in stores from Columbia and Legacy on Monday, October 24.  You’ll find a pre-order link below!

Paul Simon, Songwriter (Columbia/Legacy, 2011)

CD 1

  1. The Sound Of Silence (Live at Webster Hall, 2011)
  2.  The Boxer (Live in Central Park, 1991)
  3. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Aretha Franklin (Studio Version)
  4. Mother and Child Reunion
  5. Tenderness
  6. Peace Like A River
  7. American Tune
  8. Kodachrome
  9. Something So Right
  10.  Late In The Evening
  11. Train in the Distance
  12. Hearts and Bones
  13. Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War
  14. Still Crazy After All These Years
  15. Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
  16. The Boy In The Bubble
  17. Graceland

CD 2

  1. Obvious Child
  2. Further To Fly
  3. The Cool, Cool River
  4. Spirit Voices
  5. Born In Puerto Rico
  6. Quality
  7. Darling Lorraine
  8. Look At That
  9. Senorita With A Necklace Of Tears
  10. That’s Me
  11. Another Galaxy
  12. Father And Daughter
  13. Rewrite
  14. Love and Hard Times
  15. So Beautiful Or So What

Disc 1, Track 1 previously unreleased
Disc 1, Track 2 from Paul Simon’s Concert in the Park, Warner Bros. 9 26737-2, 1991
Disc 1, Track 3 from Atlantic single 2796, 1971
Disc 1, Tracks 4 & 6 from Paul Simon, Columbia LP KC-30750, 1972
Disc 1, Tracks 5, 7-9 from There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Columbia LP KC-32280, 1973
Disc 1, Track 10 from One Trick Pony, Warner Bros. LP 3472, 1980
Disc 1, Tracks 11-13 from Hearts and Bones, Warner Bros. LP 23942, 1983
Disc 1, Track 14 from Still Crazy After All These Years, Columbia LP PC-33540, 1975
Disc 1, Tracks 15-17 from Graceland, Warner Bros. LP 25447, 1986
Disc 2, Tracks 1-4 from The Rhythm of the Saints, Warner Bros. LP 26098, 1990
Disc 2, Tracks 5-6 from Songs from the Capeman, Warner Bros. CD 46814, 1997
Disc 2, Tracks 7-9 from You’re the One, Warner Bros. CD 47844, 2000
Disc 2, Tracks 10-12 from Surprise, Warner Bros. CD 49982, 2006
Disc 2, Tracks 13-15 from So Beautiful or So What, Hear Music CD HRM-32814-2, 2011

Written by Joe Marchese

October 13, 2011 at 13:31

6 Responses

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  1. Interesting approach, and almost everything on here is great (the later, post-“Rhythm” stuff is hit and miss), but truly… What the world needs is yet another Paul Simon compilation. Most of these songs have appeared on (multiple) past collections, and So Beautiful or So What just came out this year. I think there are more Paul “best ofs” than there are different versions of the Star Wars movies.


    September 16, 2011 at 18:50

  2. Weird that “You Can Call Me Al” isn’t on here. Sure, it’s not Simon’s greatest lyric ever, but it was all over MTV back in the day and it pretty much introduced Paul Simon to the Breakfast Club generation.


    September 19, 2011 at 11:08

  3. Simon really wants to be rated as the #1 artist of his generation. He has said so, quite bluntly. He complains that he is rated #2, next to Dylan.

    Who said he is #2? What true artist spends his time worrying about his ranking number, or even thinks about rankings at all?

    If we are forced to rank artists, I’m afraid that Simon is not even the #1 artist named “Paul”.


    October 13, 2011 at 14:10

  4. I still love lots of Paul’s work, but the way he jerked around Los Lobos over their contribution to Graceland is pretty disappointing for a person of his talent and wealth.

    Paul’s strict management of his history also leaves out the work he did from 1955-63 as a struggling songwriter/performer. Several dozen songs from that time have available from time to time, and while they’re interesting as artifacts, those 7 or 8 years alone show that he’s even more of a chameleon than the casual fan might ever suspect.


    October 13, 2011 at 18:37

  5. Good point everyone. Paul is one of the greatest songwriters of his or any generation, but he IS also very self-conscious and rather pretentious… And yes, WHO NEEDS another PS compilation? Who’s going to buy this one, for heaven’s sake?

    The real news hidden here, is the forthcoming Graceland anniversary box… That, I might be interested in…


    October 14, 2011 at 12:25

  6. In 1968, my girlfriend went with her high school best friend and their guitars to Paul Simon’s NYC home. At the door, they told Paul that they wanted to play their songs for him. He was alone and let them in. They played their insufferable, terribly non-musical and pretentious songs for quite awhile. Paul never got what he probably expected, but at least he got the concert of a lifetime.


    October 18, 2011 at 08:42

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