PAUL SIMON – The Paul Simon Songbook (1965)

Review by: Charly Saenz

Album assigned by: Ifran Hidayatullah

After recording Simon & Garfunkel’s first album, Paul Simon decided to take a trip through Europe, playing in clubs here and there (sometimes with Artie), to find his own inspiration and in the process also finding his first muse, Mary Chitty (whom we’ll know as “Kathy”), a sweet and shy seventeen year old girl he fell in love with. 

It was 1965 and he recorded this solo album where Kathy even appears in the cover, including some songs that later would become part of the S&G repertoire. 

So this is it, a bohemian solo album of self-discovery and young love. There we find the gorgeous ballads, the most interesting probably being “Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall” (highly enhanced by the duo’s version a year later) “Leaves that are green”, about the passage of time from the view of an old man aged 22 and the S&G classics, “April Come She Will” (where I probably miss Art Garfunkel a bit) and of course, “Kathy’s Song”: Mary should be proud.

The two great classics for the duo, next year’s “I Am A Rock” and “Sound Of Silence” in these naked performances add another dimension to the folk rock versions we know so well. The first one sounds more defiant every second as Paul reaches the conclusion and “Sound Of Silence” (in singular) becomes a protest song instead of a lament over miscommunication. In the same lyrical line, there’s “A Most Peculiar Man” (it will work better in my opinion in the “Sounds Of Silence” album, also after the great “Richard Cory”, the tracklist order matters, you know). 

“Side Of The Hill” is probably the jewel of the collection; a fantastic song on its own right, would later become the “Canticle”, somehow lost in the beauty of the classic “Scarborough Fair”. That song and the fantastic “Patterns” would be part of “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” in 1966. I think the “political” songs work better here than in S&G’s first album, where the production didn’t really help, and no production is better than inadequate production. “He was my brother”, specially has a perfect tone. “A Simple Desultory Philippic” sounds like a live recording, and that does work for the acid and informal tone of the song (a sincere attempt at a Dylan style, who’s even mentioned in the song). So this album, in songwriting terms, would be the base for the real success of Paul and Artie next year. All of the songs were here. Just needed that “folk rock” blessing (thank you, Byrds) and a witty producer. Kathy would not sit well with fame and would leave the boat, but the songs will stay forever and the mindless promise of love and only love… 

“And so you see I have come to doubt 
All that I once held as true 
I stand alone without beliefs
The only truth I know is you.”