In 2015 Paul Simon has had a fourth number one album in an incredible (and at times choppy) career – albeit with a compilation that combines both Simon and Garfunkel with his Solo material for the first time. Which got in mind of the 15CD Box Set peach – "The Complete Albums Collection" and his 70ts output. The box gives you classy presentation, gorgeous remastered Audio and a wad of Previously Unreleased stuff for those who haven’t bought the previous reissues. It’s even turned up on sale of late with a price that will entice.
Which brings us to this 1975 peach. Like 1983's "Hearts And Bones" - I often feel his album "Still Crazy After All These Years" is an overlooked gem in a wildly distinguished career – yet another platter crammed full of classy tunes and complimentary productions. The man’s day job as intelligent generational spokesman seems in tact. Here are the Fifty Ways...
There are two ways to get the CD. The November 2011 UK and European issue on Sony/Legacy 88697819992 (Barcode 886978199928) is essentially a re-run of an American Remaster from 2004 with the two bonus tracks listed below (45:32 minutes). It can be bought on Amazon for around a fiver. But I'd argue that Paul Simon is such a good artist with such a consistent catalogue that you should go the few extra quid and seek out the October 2013 Box Set "The Complete Albums Collection" on Sony/Legacy 88691912922 (Barcode 886919129229). It's a 14-album/15CD Mini Box with 5” Repro Card Sleeves and beautiful VIC ANESNI Mastering. His is a name I seek out - Anesini has handled very prestigious SONY catalogue – Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Nilsson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carole King, Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Santana, Mountain, Lou Reed and The Jayhawks to name but a few. Clean – full of presence and warmth – this thing is a joy to listen too.
1. Still Crazy After All These Years
2. My Little Town [with Art Garfunkel]
3. I Do It For Your Love
4. 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
5. Night Game
6. Gone At Last [with Phoebe Snow and the Jessy Dixon Singers] [Side 2]
7. Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy
8. Have A Good Time
9. You’re Kind
10. Silent Eyes
Tracks 1 to 10 are the 4th studio album "Still Crazy After All These Years" by PAUL SIMON – released October 1975 on Columbia PC 33540 and in the UK on CBS Records S 86001.
11. Slip Slidin' Away – Demo
12. Gone At Last – Original Demo with the Jessy Dixon Singers
The 62-page colour booklet of the Box Set is beautifully laid out – full track-by-track annotation (musicians, producers, studios etc) for every album. In-between the pages of info are period black and white photos – guitar on his back for “The Paul Simon Song Book” LP, the straw hat face shot for the “Paul Simon” LP and a live photo of Simon on stage with Ladysmith Black Mambazo before the credits for “Graceland”. As fans will already know many of the early albums were remastered in the 2000s by Ted Jensen and Vic Anesini – two names high on the list of those looking for quality audiophile. Produced by STEVE BERKOWITZ and BILL INGLOT, the whole box is listed as being mastering by VIC ANESINI at Sony Music Studios. There are also a couple of pages at the beginning by journalist ASHLEY KAHN on Simon’s long and prestigious career. Only one of the card sleeves is a gatefold (“There Goes Rhymin’ Simon”) and all have white rims around the front and rear artwork. A nice touch is that each CD is a picture disc (usually using the front cover artwork) and 37 Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks accompany the albums.
"Still Crazy After All These Years" opens with a sweet Barry Beckett keyboard tinkle where Paul informs us that he met his old lover on the street last night – they had a few bevvies and reminisced as to how they'd survived the emotional rollercoaster of life. He says "...I ain't no fool for love songs that whisper in my ears..." - but somehow you can't help but feel that Paul Simon is as big a mushball as the rest of us. And don't you just love that Mike Brecker Saxophone solo as it sails in like a great Steely Dan moment. At the time - stickers on the sleeve of the original vinyl LP made a big deal of "My Little Town" – the long-awaited reunion of Simon & Garfunkel in all but name. But the song always left me unmoved. Rehearing it however on this gorgeous remaster – I know warm to it better than I did (sweet harmonies). Sivuca plays Accordion and gives a Vocal Solo in the beautifully dishevelled "I Do It For Your Love" – a song with fabulous lyrics about a warm marriage on a rainy day and the drifting years that follow. A drum rattle introduces the witty "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" – where our Paul accepts a woman's help. She doesn't want to intrude but does want to sleep with him (he agrees her diagnosis is probably a good one). And that roll call of names like Sam, Gus and Roy leaving their lovers in varying ways still raises a smile (you can hear Phoebe Snow, Patti Austen and Valerie Simpson on Backing Vocals with Hugh McCracken playing Guitar). The extremely quite Baseball song "Night Game" plays softly before Toots Thielmans comes sailing in on his Harmonica - classy like Larry Adler.
Side 2 opens with the manic "Gone At Last" where Phoebe Snow and The Jesse Dixon Singers come sailing in to amazing effect (she carries the second verse on her own). It's the kind of Dixieland romp he had on the wonderful "There Goes Rhymin' Simon" album in 1973. Bob James plays sweet Keyboards on the ballad "Some Folks' Live Roll Easy" as Hugh McCracken picks Guitar and David Sanborn provides Saxophone. It's such a simple song but so damn good too. One of the album's hidden gems is “You're Kind” with Joe Beck playing sweet Guitar licks throughout – beautifully clear Production to. It ends on the almost Gospel piano and voice of "Silent Eyes" – Leon Pendarvis on the Piano with The Chicago Community Choir lending their backing vocals as he sings of Jerusalem weeping alone.
When the "Greatest Hits, etc." set turned up in 1977 – it had two fantastic new songs as an enticement for buyers – the sexily languid "Slip Slidin' Away" and the brassy bopper "Stranded In A Limousine". It won't take many fans any time to work out that the finished studio cut of "Slip Slidin' Away" is unfortunately conspicuous by its absence here (the studio version of "Stranded In A Limousine" is a Bonus Track on the "One-Trick Pony" CD). The Demo is fully formed as he starts it with "...just keep playing..." instructions to the players. But as nice as the Demo is – it's no substitute for the finished cut and is frankly a huge boo-boo on the blotter of this otherwise exemplary set. The "Gone At Last" Demo has The Jessie Dixon Singers on it and feels like an African chant as the drums patter and pace. Both are nice additions but with the two 'Greatest Hits' tracks AWOL – this CD would have been six stars and not five. But that core album is just so damn good...
"...Found a rug in an old junk shop...brought it home to you..." - Paul Simon sings on the beautifully crafted "I Do It For Your Love".
Seek out the Box Set version and bring this overlooked beauty into your home...