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Paul Simon (album)

Paul Simon released his self-titled album in January of 1972, (see 1972 in music) about two years after he split up with musical partner Art Garfunkel. It was released on the Warner label. Musically, it is a direct follow-up from his work with Simon and Garfunkel. The song writing quality that is revealed in Simon and Garfunkel songs like "The Only Living Boy in New York" and "Song for the Asking" is, on Paul Simon, extended and combined with a new appreciation for the album as a complete and single work of art. The result is an album that works from beginning to end, wherein each song holds its own but also reflects on its mates, adding its own texture to the single overarching statement.

The album is Simon's most personal work, and includes many autobiographical elements. Several songs on the album make reference directly or indirectly to his rocky marriage to Peggy (nee Harper), which ended in divorce in 1975 (?). Troubles with the marriage figure prominently on songs such as "Run that Body Down" and "Congratulations". As one becomes more familiar with the album, and understands more of what the album communicates, this theme seems to arise in many of the other songs as well.

Other themes include drugs, and adolescence, especially in urban areas.

Despite these heavy themes, the album is far from dreary. The first track is upbeat and soulful, even though the subject matter is morbid and even grisly. At the the end of the album, Simon extends his insecurity about his own marriage into a general question about the nature of male and female relationships. Simon expertly balances the dark with the light throughout the album, in both words and music, and never appears to favour either side. By the end of the album, listeners get a sense that Simon has communicated a great deal without threatening the sanctity of the music itself.

The musicianship on the album is consistently excellent. No one player dominates the sound of any song, yet everyone is heard clearly. The smallest elements can have a large effect on how a song is heard. Consider the entrace of the two shakers on "Armistice Day".

Paul Simon can most accurately be placed in the folk-rock genre. As such, it owes a debt to other folk-rock pioneers, such as Bob Dylan and the Everly Brothers. Joni Mitchell, a contemporaneous folk-rock artist, also concentrates her albums with personal communication, perhaps more intensely. The works of Leonard Cohen also share qualities with Paul Simon, particularly the poeticism of the lyrics, an area in which Cohen shows extreme talent. Of course, the albums of Simon and Garfunkel and the later works of Paul Simon share similarities with this album. Specifically, the songs "Mother and Child Reunion" and "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard", and some of the percussion by Airto Moreira[?] and Los Incas[?], prefigure the fascination Simon had with world music, most especially on Graceland[?].

The album reached #4 in the U.S. and #1 in Great Britain.

Track Listing All songs composed by Paul Simon except "Hobo's Blues" by Simon & Grappelli.

Side One

  1. Mother and Child Reunion
    This song is considered to be one of the first attempts at reggae music by a white musician. The song is actually about Death: the "Reunion" of the title is in Heaven. In each of the two verses the singer describes his confusion and sadness and disbelief at the death of the mother. In each chorus the narrator says "No I would not give you false hope/On this strange and mournful day/But the mother and child reunion/is only a motion away." The "motion" referred to is apparently a killing blow: the singer could reunite the "little darling" with his or her mother, which would apparently be favourable for the child. Although the words "false hope" suggest that the narrator has no intention of doing so, the last chorus replaces "motion" with "moment", implying that Time, and indeed a short amount of it, is now a factor in the reunion.
    • Lead Guitar: Huks Brown
    • Rhythm Guitar: Wallace Wilson
    • Organ: Neville Hinds
    • Bass: Jackie Jackson
    • Drums: Winston Grennan
    • Percussion: Denzil Laing
    • Piano: Larry Knechtel
    • Singers: Cissy Houston, Renelle Stafford, Deirdre Tuck, Von Eva Sims

  2. Duncan
    This song is about a young man's departure from his home in the Maritimes and his struggle to find to find his way in New England. The song begins with a line about sex: "Couple in the next room/ Bound to win a prize/ They've been going at it all night long", and almost ends with his own first sexual experience. The last two verses refer to this event, both before and afterward, but the last lines are, "I was playing my guitar/ Lying underneath the stars/ Just thanking the Lord/ For my fingers." In these lines, and in the positioning of these lines, the narrator establishes a curious equality between his sexual experience and the sublime act of playing the guitar, raising issues of introversion/extroversion, and the value of experiences.

  3. Everything Put Together Falls Apart
  4. Run that Body Down
  5. Armistice Day

Side Two

  1. Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard
  2. Peace Like a River
  3. Papa Hobo
  4. Hobo's Blues
  5. Paranoia Blues
  6. Congratulations


See Also

  • Allmusic entry (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=SEARCH&sql=A43j20rjac48p)

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