Paul Simon Colin Irwin - Essay

Colin Irwin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Paul Simon has developed into possibly the most perfect craftsman of songs on this planet. Even the later Simon and Garfunkel material included its share of dross, but though hardly prolific with his output, his subsequent solo career has been (artistically) virtually faultless….

A Greatest Hits compilation [like Simon's "Greatest Hits, Etc."] is pretty much guaranteed good value, and whatever combination of his solo work you come up with would make an outstandingly strong collection….

The biggest problem in such a compilation is in getting a representative balance, but though there are surprising omissions (notably "Gone At Last" and "My Little Town") it's a choice that will satisfy most people, covering all aspects of Simon's extraordinary talent.

We have the "Jamaican" Simon with "Mother And Child Reunion" and the Dixieland Simon ("Take Me To The Mardi Gras"), as well as the more basic and simple narrative of "Duncan," one of his most neglected works and a welcome addition here, and the quirky charm of "I Do It For Your Love," again not an obvious contender for a "Greatest" collection.

It tends to sway slightly in favor of the more mournful material, particularly on the first side.

The second side, opened by "Kodachrome" and also including the absurd rhyming of "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" and "Mardi Gras," is much brighter, and it also includes "American Tune" which, with its disquieting lyric and haunting tune, is probably his best song.

Colin Irwin, "Albums: 'Greatest Hits, Etc.'," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), November 26, 1977, p. 24.