Saturday, May 16, 2009

May 16: Paul Simon, "There Goes Rhymin' Simon"

Artist: Paul Simon
Album: There Goes Rhymin' Simon
Year: 1973
Label: Warner Bros.

Few artists have enjoyed such long lasting success as Paul Simon. Whether as half of the legendary "Simon & Garfunkel," working solo, or attempting to create Broadway shows, Simon has found success in every area he pursued. After breaking up with Art Garfunkel in 1970, Simon took two years off before starting his solo carer. After releasing a self titled album that, in essence, picked up where Simon & Garfunkel left off, Simon began exploring new musical territory. Then, in May of 1973, Simon released what may be his best solo effort ever, the sensational album, There Goes Rhymin' Simon.

Throughout his entire career, Paul Simon has proved to be one of the finest lyricists ever, as well as the owner of an amazing voice. What sets this album apart from the rest of the Paul Simon catalog is that, with There Goes Rhymin' Simon, he begins to explore new music styles, ranging from R&B to gospel to blues. With the help of musical giants like Quincy Jones arranging strings and Phil Ramone helping with production, it is little surprise that the album turned out as good as it did. The albums' first single, the immortal "Kodachrome" reached #2 in the U.S.A., yet went unreleased in the U.K. due to strict trademark violation laws (if you look at the liner notes from the U.S. version, Kodak required Simon to list the trademark). The album gained similar success, and remains Simon's most commercially successful album to date.

The fact that a majority of There Goes Rhymin' Simon was recorded in Jackson, MS, provides a clear reason as to the sound and feel of many of the songs on the album. With guest vocalists, The Dixieland Hummingbirds, contributing throughout the record, there is a more soulful, almost Motown feel to a majority of the record. This places in stark contrast to the simply, folky pop songs that Simon had been singing for nearly a decade. Using multiple guitar and keyboard tracks, full horn and string sections, and a handful of backing vocalists, the group effort on There Goes Rhymin' Simon further contributes to the album sounding like nothing else in Simon's catalog. Though there are still a few tracks that go back to Simon's "guitar and vocals" roots, it is the musical exploration on this album that served as the catalyst for later albums in which he would be comfortable in exploring foreign sounds.

The soft, steady voice of Paul Simon in many ways defined the folk-pop movement of the 1960's. Truly unmistakable, the calm beauty of Simon's voice has enabled him to have universal appeal throughout nearly five decades. Lyrically, Simon is nothing short of a genius when it comes to penning brilliant lyrics. Whether he is turning cliché likes like "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor" into a clever song or flipping rhymes about his childhood, Simon is almost peerless when it comes to writing "American anthems." Nearly all of the lyrics of the aforementioned "Kodachrome" are "American classics," perhaps the most notable being the opening line, where Simon sings, "...when I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all." Statements like this still stand the test of time, as there are few generations that cannot relate to such vivid and universal thoughts. It is this limitless lyrical appeal that has helped Paul Simon to remain relevant for nearly fifty years, and brought similar success to the sales of There Goes Rhymin' Simon.

Releasing chart topping hits since the early 1960's, Paul Simon is one of the most recognizable figures in the history of music. From his simple, folk roots to the polyrhythmic AfroBeat inspired records of the 1980's, to his foray into Broadway in the 1990's, Simon has found success in every avenue he has explored. With one of the purest, most classic voices of all time, and a pen the likes of which have rarely been seen, Paul Simon is truly a musical giant among men. As his solo career began to flourish, Paul Simon began to push the boundaries of his own musical sound, incorporating the styles of gospel, R&B, soul, and many others. Expanding his backing band in both size and scope, Simon fused the sound that made him famous into countless new directions, yielding amazing results. The beginning of these experiments occurred in 1973, with his album, There Goes Rhymin' Simon, and the record remains a stunning and beautiful musical release to this day.

Standout tracks: "Kodachrome," "Something So Right," and "Loves Me Like A Rock."

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