Greatest Hits, Etc.

Paul Simon

Columbia Records, 1977

http://www.paulsimon.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/21/1997

Whenever I need a quick scapegoat to blame some of my musical quirks on, it's nice that I can still turn to my father - rather, turn on my father.

It was his influence that led to our reviewing Don McLean last week, and his influence visits us again in the form of an album that has been out of print for over 10 years - Paul Simon's Greatest Hits, Etc. And while I try to avoid best-of compilations, this one truly does live up to its name.

In one sense, it may have seemed to be a shot of overkill to release a best-of album after only three studio releases and a live disc. But Simon is more than just a typical artist - his past as half of the legendary '60s folk group Simon and Garfunkel is proof of that. Simon recorded some solid performances, often hidden in so-so albums like his self-titled debut.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Two new numbers appear on this one, one of which is worth the search itself - "Slip Slidin' Away." Featuring background vocals by The Oak Ridge Boys, Simon has rarely been better. There is a reason this track is considered to be one of Simon's best. I can't say the same for new item number two, "Stranded In A Limousine," a song whose subject I still don't quite understand.

When you listen to Greatest Hits, Etc., Simon's progression into African and Brazilian rhythms on his last two studio albums doesn't seem as surprising. Not when you hear the Celtic pipes on the live version of "Duncan," or the gospel-like rhythms of "Loves Me Like A Rock," or even the ska that hit the States before Bob Marley on "Mother And Child Reunion," coordinated by Jamaican reggae legend Leslie Kong shortly before his death.

But Simon was more than a musical ambassador, even at this point in his solo career. He continued to prove himself to be a gifted storyteller with an acoustic guitar strapped to his back. "Still Crazy After All These Years" features the lamentations of a man who has chosen to be a loner, while "Have A Good Time" is just the opposite - the singer discovers that life is too short to be taken so seriously.

The most moving portion of the album is the live version of "American Tune," a song that, when it catches me at the right moment, can reduce me to tears. The addition of strings to the number here is just the ingredient it needed.

Oh, sure you could go with the replacement to this album, Negotiations And Love Songs, or you could choose the box set. But Greatest Hits, Etc. is worth the search - according to one site whose address I can't remember, there is a CD available, but is extremely difficult to find. One listen to this, and I really realize how good of an artist Simon is - and how I wish he would start recording again.

Rating: A-

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.