Maybe the Essential Paul Simon Collection should hve been titled, The Definitive Paul Simon since it is the most definitive collection of all his single and double C.D. collections. All previous collections either completely omit the songs, Duncan and American Tune (both radio hits) or else substitute them for live versions. In fact, this collection presents these two songs (and all others) in their original, album-length, studio versions. Also included here are the minor hits, Gone At Last (with Phoebe Snow) and Stranded In A Limosine, both largely ignored songs on other P.S. compilations. It is interesting that one of the P.S. "fan favorites." Take Me To The Mardi Gras, was released as a U.K. single, simultaneously with the U.S. single, Kodachrome. Both became top ten hits in their respective countries. It is nice to see all the single A-sides from the seventies included here.
One caveat is that Paul Simon songs from the early eighties are sparsely represented here. Only one of the three singles from One Trick Pony is represented (Late In The Evening, of course). And strangely, NO singles from the 1983 album, Hearts And Bones were included, despite the fact that Allergies was a moderate, radio hit. Hearts And Bones was originally intended to be a Simon and Garfunkel reunion album but that conception of the album never materialized. However, three key tracks from H & B are included: Train In A Distance (one of my favorite P.S. songs and is still played in malls across America), the title track (another favorite) and The Late Great Johnny Ace (a tribute to rock and roll legends with a coda performed by Philip Glass). There was ample room on disc one to have included another song, perhaps One Trick Pony, Think Too Much (b) or Rene and Georgette Magritte....
On the other hand, songs from the albums Graceland and Rhythm Of The Saints are well represented in the collection. And of course, it was the Graceland album that drew attention to the African musical group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo (their Shaka Zulu album is very fine, especially if you like Graceland).
Paul Simon's diverse, musical influences are very apparent in the song selections. These musical styles range from reggae (Mother And Child Reunion),to Gospel ( Loves Me Like A Rock), to Latin-American (Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard and Late In The Evening), to zydeco (That Was Your Mother) to South African (Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes), ro rockabilly (Graceland). Even with all his diversity of musical styles, my preference leans toward his pop ballads, especially from the seventies and early eighties.
While the sound quality of this C.D. is not crisp in its detail, it does have a warm, clean and natural sound. This C.D. was released in celebration of Paul Simon's acceptance of the First-ever Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, from the Library of Congress. I highly recommend this collection!