Stephen Holden

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 416

There Goes Rhymin' Simon is the logical second step in Paul Simon's solo recording career, and it is a dazzlingly surefooted one. Despite its many light, humorous moments, the core theme of his first album, Paul Simon, was depressing: fear of death, its focal point a sung poem, "Everything Put Together Falls Apart," that while worthy of comparison with the best work of John Berryman, could hardly be called "easy listening." Since the album dealt with anxiety, it communicated anxiety and was difficult in places to accept as entertainment. This isn't true of Rhymin' Simon. Like its predecessor, it is a fully realized work of art, of genius in fact, but one that is also endlessly listenable on every level….

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Rhymin' Simon shows, once and for all, that Simon is now the consummate master of the contemporary narrative song—one of a very few practicing singer/songwriters able to impart wisdom as much by implication as by direct statement. Here, even more than in the first album, Simon successfully communicates the deepest kinds of love without ever becoming rhetorical or overly sentimental. The chief factor in his remarkable growth since Simon and Garfunkel days has been the development of a gently wry humor that is objective, even fatalistic, though never bitter.

Thematically, Rhymin' Simon represents a sweeping outward gesture from the introspection of the first album. Simon has triumphantly relocated his sensibility in the general scheme of things; as a musician, as a poet of the American tragedy, and most importantly as a family man. Rhymin' Simon celebrates, above all, familial bonds, which are seen as an antidote, perhaps the only antidote, to psychic disintegration in a terminally diseased society. As an expression of one man's credo, therefore, it is a profoundly affirmative album….

Rhymin' Simon is a rich and moving song cycle, one in which each cut reflects on every other to create an everwidening series of refractions. Viewed in the light of the first album, Simon seems ultimately to be saying that acceptance of death is only possible through our ability to honor our human ties, especially those formed within the family structure. Only through the mutual affirmation of love can we redeem our imaginative powers from despair and be able to live with the breakdown of the wider "family" structure that is the American homeland without ourselves breaking down.

Stephen Holden, "Records: 'There Goes Rhymin' Simon'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1973; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 137, June 21, 1973, p. 62.

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