The Paul Simon Songbook
The Paul Simon Songbook is obviously a Simon solo album, but it’s part of the Simon and Garfunkel narrative; after the commercial failure of Wednesday Morning 3 AM, Paul Simon relocated to London. A performance in a Soho club created a groundswell of public interest which resulted in The Paul Simon Songbook.
Songbook is essentially a collection of demo recordings, with just Simon and his guitar, delivering stripped back versions of songs which would mostly appear on Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. ‘A Church is Burning’ and ‘A Side of a Hill’ are competent songs which never appeared on any other Paul Simon album, although the lyrics of ‘Side of a Hill’ were woven into ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticle’. The embryonic version of ‘A Simple Desultory Philippic’ with markedly different lyrics is also noteworthy, while even the awkward ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ is enhanced by the stripped down treatment.
The Paul Simon Songbook is a difficult record to grade – on one hand, it’s more consistent and more coherent than Simon and Garfunkel’s first two albums, but on the other hand it’s essentially demos and it’s lacking Garfunkel’s beautiful harmonies.