FEATURE: “A Finely Wrought Dead End…” The Finest Paul Simon Albums




“A Finely Wrought Dead End…”


IN THIS PHOTO: Paul Simon/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

The Finest Paul Simon Albums


THIS is an emotional time in music…


 IN THIS PHOTO: Paul Simon performs in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on 22nd September, 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

as Paul Simon bade farewell to live performance at the wekend. If you were not lucky enough to see the legend perform one of his final gigs then it is rather sad to realise that he will not perform again. Playing his last gig in Queens; Simon performed one of his most emotionally-charged sets ever. It seems like you really had to be there:

Paul Simon ended his final concert tour under a moonlit sky on home turf on Saturday, telling an audience in a Queens park their cheers “mean more than you can know”.

Simon performed at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which he said was a 20-minute bicycle ride from where he grew up, ending the landmark night with his first big hit, The Sound of Silence.

The 76-year-old isn’t retiring and hasn’t ruled out occasional future performances. But he has said this is his last time out on the road. Among his peers, Elton John and Kiss are also doing goodbye tours.

“…Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced Simon, calling him “one of the greatest New York City artists of all time”. The return to New York raised memories of two famous shows in Central Park, in 1981 with former partner Art Garfunkel and in 1991 on his own”.

He will continue, let’s hope, to produce albums but, given the fact we will not see him live again, I wanted to look at his very best records – for those starting out who want to discover Simon and his genius. If you want a collection of his eight best albums (a random number but it seems right to me…) then I suggest you have a look at the list and you will find much to love. (That quote at the top of this piece is what Robert Christgau said of Paul Simon’s brilliant album, Hearts and Bones). Have a look and listen to the essential Paul Simon collection and get lost…


 IN THIS PHOTO: Paul Simon during his final performance/PHOTO CREDIT: Jake Edwards Photography

IN his magic!



Number-One: Graceland


Release Date: 25th August, 1986

Label: Warner Bros.

Review Snippet:

It's easy to overstate what Graceland was. It wasn't the first world-music album, as some critics claim. But it was unique in its total, and totally natural, synthesis of musical strains that turned out to be not nearly as different from each other as its listeners might have expected, and the result resonated strongly around the world and across generations” - Pitchfork (2012)

Standout Track: Graceland

Number-Two: Paul Simon


Release Date: 24th January, 1972

Labels: Columbia; Warner Bros.

Review Snippet:

It was miles removed from the big, stately ballad style of Bridge Over Troubled Water and signaled that Simon was a versatile songwriter as well as an expressive singer with a much broader range of musical interests than he had previously demonstrated. You didn't miss Art Garfunkel on Paul Simon, not only because Simon didn't write Garfunkel-like showcases for himself, but because the songs he did write showed off his own, more varied musical strengths” - AllMusic (2010)

Standout Track: Mother and Child Reunion

Number-Three: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel)


Release Date: 26th January, 1970

Label: Columbia

Review Snippet:

It wasn't clear at the time, but Bridge Over Troubled Water was an album about the end -- a casually ambitious look back at an expiring musical partnership (Simon and Garfunkel) and decade (the Sixties). Recorded in late 1969, it's largely remembered for a pair of big-themed production masterworks: "The Boxer" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," led by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, respectively. "Bridge" quickly attained the beloved stature of a hymn, while "The Boxer" -- a metaphor for the immigrant experience in America -- ranks with Simon's finest songs” - Rolling Stone (2003)

Standout Track: The Boxer

Number-Four: Hearts and Bones


Release Date: 4th November, 1983

Label: Warner Bros.

Review Snippet:

Hearts and Bones remains Simon’s most personal and also least known solo work because his next studio album, Graceland, would not only revitalize Simon’s career, but his personal life as well. Hearts and Bones would follow its predecessor to the bargain bins, but has more recently experienced a critical resurgence. In the time since its release, Simon has not since been nearly as personal in his lyrics, with his career focusing on the emerging world music genre during the 80s and 90s, and now, commonly reverts to more obscure issues in the world instead of looking inside himself for inspiration. But, the failed collaboration with Garfunkel and Simon’s troubled relationship with Carrie Fisher remain woven indelibly into Hearts and Bones, and despite its personal and sometimes uncomfortable moments, it remains is absolutely essential listen for those who are fans of his efforts as a singer-songwriter” - Sputnikmusic (2016)

Standout Track: Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War


Number-Five: Still Crazy After All These Years


Release Date: 25th October, 1975

Label: Columbia

Review Snippet:

Where Rhymin' Simon was the work of a confident family man, Still Crazy came off as a post-divorce album, its songs reeking of smug self-satisfaction and romantic disillusionment. At their best, such sentiments were undercut by humor and made palatable by musical hooks, as on "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," which became the biggest solo hit of Simon's career. But elsewhere, as on "Have a Good Time," the singer's cynicism seemed unearned. Still, as out of sorts as Simon may have been, he was never more in tune with his audience: Still Crazy topped the charts, spawned four Top 40 hits, and won Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Vocal Performance” - AllMusic (2012)

Standout Track: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover


Number-Six: Bookends (Simon & Garfunkel)


Release Date: 3rd April, 1968

Label: Columbia

Review Snippet:

While certainly not containing the emotional weight or grand arrangements of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Bookends is possibly Simon & Garfunkel's best album of pure, fun pop music. The seeds of Bridge's depth are there, but they don't get in the way of the fun, convoluted lyrics or the consistently amazing harmonies that are S&G's calling card. Bookends is fun, escapist folk/pop at it's best” - Sputnikmusic (2005)

Standout Track: A Hazy Shade of Winter

Number-Seven: Stranger to Stranger


Release Date: 3rd June, 2016

Label: Concord

Review Snippet:

Stranger to Stranger is, finally, Simon’s most interconnected work, a self-contained world unto itself full of backing tracks that wind up in multiple songs and recurring characters (“the Street Angel”) who pop up in unexpected places. That type of self-referencing is also a first of sorts for Simon, yet another indicator that he has never stopped finding new ways to get excited and curious about his own, still-challenging, ever-expanding art” – Entertainment Weekly

Standout Track: Wristband

Number-Eight: The Rhythm of the Saints 


Release Date: 16th October, 1990

Label: Warner Bros.

Review Snippet:

St It is hard to surmise whether The Rhythm of the Saints has an over-exuberance of percussion which distracts from the core song craft or if the opposite is true, meaning these track may not have been quite as interesting without the arrangements. In any case, this album was a critical and commercial success all over the world and yet another high water mark in the long and brilliant career of Paul Simon” – Classic Rock Review (2015)

Standout Track: The Obvious Child