Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Paul Simon: The Paul Simon Songbook [Columbia/Legacy, 2004]
There's Paul Simon, and then there's Simon & Garfunkel. You don't have to love either. But you have to admit that the constraints of angelic harmony undercut the quirks of Simon's songwriting. Unfortunately, so does the folkie voice-and-strum of this UK-only 1965 collector's item, cut for the fan base Simon developed in London before S&G broke. The duo recorded most of these songs in the '60s, and recorded them better. Significantly, the three they skipped are all protest material: the outspoken "A Church Is Burning," a testy early version of "A Simple Desultory Philippic," and the genuinely rare antiwar sermon "The Side of a Hill." But Simon also suppressed the album for another reason: his true solo debut, 1972's Paul Simon, is about 10 times better. [Blender: 2]