Paul Simon -1972 Self Titled Record -‘Here’s My Song’

by | Apr 22, 2020 | 0 comments

Spinning today in the ‘rock room’ is a introspective singer
songwriter classic. Released in January of 1972, Paul Simon’s self-titled solo album initiated his later extended travels into and through world music, while becoming an introductory document into his prolific 1970’s output. Paul
Simon contains its share of new explorations, but is also filled with
deeper, acoustic ruminations that recall his recently dissolved partnership
with Art Garfunkel. As such, it plays as a statement of independence, but also
as well as a self reassessment of Simon’s own musical standing.

Simon’s 1965 release Paul Simon
Songbook is his original and initial solo venture, recorded prior to
the Simon and Garfunkel partnership. But it was this 1972 project that signaled
Simon’s first true departure into a solo career. A conglomerate of unique
island rhythms, spacious instrumentation, and Simon’s tasteful self
analysis, Paul Simon is one of the first and finest singer/songwriter
albums of the 1970s.
The record opens on the jittery reggae influenced grove of
the well known cut, ‘Mother and Child Reunion’ recorded at Dynamic Studios in
Jamaica using Jimmy Cliff’s backing group. The kinetic track is known as one of
the first to feature a mainstream rock artist using elements of reggae in a
song. Female backing vocalists support Simon’s clean and glassy lyrical lines,
and his absolutely addictive melody. The track would go on to be one of Simon’s
most recognized and earned him deserved attention for his incorporation of what
would later be known as world-music elements. As addictive as caffeine and as sweet as sugar, the LP opens on a stellar note.

‘Duncan’, the second track of the album, contains one of Simon’s finest and
most fascinating character analyses, telling the tale of a fisherman’s son
journey of discovery. The tune spotlights Simon on acoustic guitar with Los
Incas, the South American musical group who’d earlier collaborated on Simon and
Garfunkel’s ‘El Condor Pasa’, contributing flutes and percussion. The song
follows Duncan’s coming of age and learning of life from a new found female
companion who teaches him the ways of faith and love. The diversity of the
salty seashore instrumentation of drums and flutes once again illustrates how
this early album was a breeding ground for Simon’s accelerating and diverse
musical references.
‘Everything Put Together Falls Apart’ follows, and is a
sparse commentary on the worrisome and painful situation created by a partner’s
substance abuse. A mirror reflection in content of Neil Young’s ‘Needle and the
Damage Done’, and composed around the same era, ‘Everything’ balances the same
tightrope. A serious and firm warning is stated, contrasted by the
rocking-chair acoustic lines that run parallel with Simon’s frank and
undulating tunefulness. 
Continuing in the same thematic vein, the camera of
inspection is turned back onto the narrator with ‘Run That Body Down’, a gently
swinging piece of self analysis. The realities of age, physical condition and
lifestyle are inspected, initiated by lyrical warnings from the wife and
doctor, all set against an introspective musical backing. Simon’s pensive but
self-encouraging vocal lines make the song, with the musical bed lending a
plush pillow for Simon to rest his worn-out head.

The first side of the album concludes with the exceptional
‘Armistice Day’, another stunning composition to be discovered in Simon’s
collection of string-bending folk blues. Here gently alternating picking
patterns shadow Simon’s tempered verses. Accompanied by percussionist Airto
Moreira, the song dynamically enters a quasi-patriotic funk jam at its peak, as
Simon travels to speak to his congressman.
Flipping
the wax, the second side of the record begins with one of Simon’s biggest hits
and most popular songs: ‘Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard’ which also lends
its central striding acoustic riff and central groaning bass to the influence
of reggae. The Grateful Dead’s own ‘Scarlet Begonia’s would draw its influence from the Simon track. It’s the second powerful opener of the record. The tribal thumping
groove was completely unique to hear on FM and influenced a number of musicians’
forays into international music. All of the elements that comprise a perfect
rock song are on display here.

‘Peace
like a River’ flows as a straight-forward blues, becomes a starry twilight
verse, and continues a falsetto dressed, blurry-eyed ballad, born of sleepless
New York City nights. Simon’s instantly recognizable finger picking delivers a
flurry of buzzing low note strikes and elastic bends.

‘Papa
Hobo’ continues with the intimate theme of the second side of the record, with
an instrumentation featuring Simon’s simple acoustic, a carnival harmonium and
creaky bass harmonica. The song is a Rockwell portrait, its imagery as vivid
and timeless as a hand painted capture.

Fittingly, ‘Papa Hobo’ is then followed by the instrumental ‘Hobo’s Blues’ , a
brief ditty composed by the duo of Simon and famed violinist Stephane Grappelli
and recorded in France. The quick interlude is a perfect jazzy match for the
organic series of song created on side two.

Possibly
referencing Simon’s relationship with the ‘big bright green pleasure machine’, in addition to his own companions, ‘Paranoia Blues’ is a bucket-kicking hand clapping stomp. Gritty horn
interjections and silvery slide draw out the color as Simon sings and rattles
percussion. The song nervously knocks and slides to the point of quaking like a quivering wagon wheel about to fall off its axle. Similarly to the narrator’s own jittery 
existence, the song makes the listener wonder, ‘Is paranoia just a heightened state of awareness’?
Concluding the record is the sly and beautifully sung ‘Congratulations’, the
title a sarcastic commentary on a deteriorating relationship. The lyrical
content goes deeper, with Simon asking for peace while explaining the
seriousness of the emotion of love. Plush blue keyboards work in conjunction
with the understated backing by the three piece band, adding up to a gentle R&B sway
that makes for a fitting end.
By it’s conclusion, it’s clear that Simon has curated the
map for the next phase of his life and career with the recording of this
record. The music contained in the LP grooves blends familiar contexts with a
new direction, combining Simon’s creative past while still keeping a hand in
the contemporary world. Simon follows his already successful muse, but allows
for outer influences and interpretations to guide the direction of his
compositions. The result of his artistic attitude is a record as warm as its
principal pictured on the jacket cover, snug in a parka, with a slight knowing
smile crossing his lips.

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