This is the first real heavyweight battle of Round One of Montauk Madness: Elton John vs. Paul Simon. A couple of musical geniuses in their 70s who have written some of the most memorable songs of the last 50 years.
‘Your Song’ vs. ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.’ ‘Levon’ vs. ‘Still Crazy After All These Years.’ ‘Tiny Dancer’ vs. ‘Graceland.’ (I should note here that this matchup includes only Paul Simon’s solo work… Simon & Garfunkel received their own spot in the tournament).
As I wrote at the beginning of the week, I had a hard time coming up with five 1990 albums for this list. But I had no problem coming up with my #1, Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints.
Following up the all-time classic Graceland four years later was no easy task, but Simon delivered, creating an album that similarly married world music with his plaintive melodies.
In 2016, I learned that a Paul Simon album could leave me cold.
That came as a big shock. On this very blog, I named Simon the greatest-ever songwriter. I’m one of the few people in the world who really digs Songs from the Capeman. I am programmed to not only cut this guy some slack but to pretty much love everything he does.
At the start of the year, if you’d told me I’d be more excited by new Rihanna and Ariana Grande albums than the newest Paul Simon release, I’d have called you crazy. But that’s the case.
Simon’s 13th solo studio release, Stranger to Stranger, comes five years after the late-career triumph So Beautiful Or So What. I was surprised to see that album came out way back in 2011. It still feels vital and fresh, and unfortunately this new release lives in its shadow.
My fourth favorite album of 1972 is Paul Simon’s self-titled solo debut.
Hard as it is to imagine now, there were serious doubts in the early 70s over Simon’s prospects as a solo artist once Art Garfunkel left the band to pursue his movie career.
One reviewer of this album, quoted on Wikipedia, wrote “”I gather…this album is merely Simon’s way of keeping his hand in while Garfunkel makes movies….I’m now wondering if Garfunkel’s arranging work doesn’t include sending Simon back to rewrite some of his songs before recording them.”
Best Albums of the 10s So Far
#15 – Paul Simon – So Beautiful Or So What
Continuing my countdown of the best albums of the decade so far, I arrive at Paul Simon’s 2011 comeback record, So Beautiful Or So What.
Simon released only two album in the 00’s: You’re the One in 2000 and Surprise in 2006. The former was half-great and the latter a general disappointment. Before those records, it’s just 1997’s Broadway experiment Songs from the Capeman and the sublime Rhythm of the Saints way back in 1990.
Not very prolific, Mr. Simon.
Today’s Random Weekend selection is the opening track from Paul Simon’s 1983 album Hearts and Bones. This was Simon’s first record in eight years following the release of Still Crazy After All These Years.
Fans who had been waiting with bated breath for new music from Simon must have been scratching their heads when the first song they heard was this bizarre track. Could a lyrical genius like Simon really be singing lines like “Where do allergies go when it’s after a show and they want to get something to eat?”