CK Retro Review: There Goes Rhymin’ Simon by Paul SimonPosted: September 6, 2013
1973’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Paul Simon’s second solo album after his split with Art Garfunkel, saw him continuing to explore diverse sounds and lyrical themes that veered seamlessly from the playful to the confessional. Yet unlike his self-titled solo debut from the previous year which had music that tended toward the exotic, this album is filled mainly with American tunes, at times upbeat and rollicking, at times wounded and soulful. Here is a song-by-song review.
10. “Learn How To Fall”- If there is a problem with the album, it’s that certain songs don’t have much of an identity. Besides the dueling guitars of Simon and Jerry Puckett, this one is non-descript musically and full of pat bromides lyrically.
9. “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor”- It tries to work up a lather in the middle section, but it all seems a bit busy. The song might have been better off building off the tense piano part played by Barry Beckett that bookends it.
8. “Was A Sunny Day”- The island vibe seems a little out of place with the rest of the more earthbound tracks around it. The episodic nature of the verses anticipates future triumphs like “Slip Sliding Away,” but here, although pleasant, everything is a bit slight.
7. “Take Me To The Mardi Gras”- With an appearance by the Onward Brass Band, lovely vocal help from the Reverend Claude Jeter, and a shout out to Jelly Roll, Simon certainly has the right guests on board and the particulars in place for a tribute to Mardi Gras. His lyrics are smooth, but it’s all a bit subdued for a song about one of the biggest parties on Earth.
6. “St. Judy’s Comet”- It’s a rite of passage for every rock star to write a good-night song for their kids. Simon’s is typically understated and humble, especially the way he frets about how it will look to the world if his powers of songwriting fail to knock his kid out. Musically, it’s a little bit sleepy, but, considering the subject matter, I suppose that’s apropos.
5. “Tenderness”- “There’s no tenderness beneath your honesty,” Simon sings, suggesting that the truth hurts if it’s leveled with disdain. Paul Griffin, a veteran of a million great records, adds some jazzy piano on the periphery, while The Dixie Hummingbirds second Simon’s emotions with fathoms-deep backing vocals.
4. “Love Me Like A Rock”- The two lead singles from There Goes Rhymin’ Simon were big hits, and they still get airplay galore on oldies channels today. They lack, however, the grandeur of the Simon & Garfunkel hits or the ingenuity and pep of the two big hits off Paul Simon. They’re still really enjoyable though. In the case of “Love Me A Rock,” Simon slips into its gospel setting without losing his songwriting voice, creating a buoyant noise with The Dixie Hummingbirds at his side.
3. “Kodachrome”- Again, it’s not the most profound thing in the world, nor Is it dripping with inspiration. But it does have one of the potent and incisive opening couplets in rock (“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school/It’s a wonder I can think at all”), a galloping beat that’s impossible to resist, and a refrain that’s meaningful nonsense. The Muscle Shoals magic rubs off on the track as well, right down to the hoedown finish.
2. “Something So Right”- Dreamy keyboards from Bob James and silky strings arranged by Quincy Jones are the perfect trappings to this soulful ballad, but then finding the right accompaniment for his musings has always been one of Simon’s finest qualities as a recording artist. But let’s give credit to the songwriting on this one, as Paul manages to pull off that oh-so difficult task of writing an affecting love song without getting goopy. He achieves this by letting people hear the loneliness and pain from whence his narrator came in the verses, making the redemptive relationship highlighted in the chorus seem like a well-earned triumph.
1. “American Tune”- Simon takes a good look at himself and his countrymen and sees similarities: Yearning, restlessness, wounds that don’t heal but maybe dull a bit with time, probably heading in the wrong direction without knowing just why. “I don’t have a dream that’s not been shattered,” Simon sings in that timeless melody. “Or driven to its knees.” The cinematic middle section is powerful as Paul recounts a vision of the Statue of Liberty sailing away from all those looking to it for comfort. Simon set the bar pretty high in the category of songs about his country with “America,” but “American Tune” meets that standard with flying colors.
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