Where To Start With... Paul Simon
Anyone lucky enough to have attended Paul Simon's Hyde Park concert in London this year as part of the annual British Summer Time festival will also have seen the legendary singer-songwriter bring down the curtain on a glittering career spanning more than six decades; the Hyde Park gig was the final fixture on what was to be Simon's final tour, having announced his intention to retire from live performance earlier this year at the ripe old age of 76.
However, while we won't be seeing Simon on the road any more, that doesn't mean he has retired from the business of making music entirely and, as if to illustrate a point, the veteran songwriter makes a return of sorts this week with new album In the Blue Light.
His 14th solo album in total, In the Blue Light is not, technically speaking, an album of new material. Instead, the new collection comprises 10 re-recorded versions of rarities, album deep cuts and lesser-known tracks from across his career, many of which feature new arrangements and, in some cases, even new lyrics.
The new versions have been recorded with yMusic, the New York-based sextet who recently collaborated with Ben Folds on his 2015 album So There, and inclides contributions from other musicians including guitarist Bill Frisell, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and The National's Bryce Dessner.
The album has been produced by Simon's longtime collaborator Roy Halee, who worked on several Simon & Garfunkel albums before producing several of Simon's solo albums, including his 1972 self-titled LP and his 1986 masterpiece Graceland.
You can take a look at the behind-the-scenes process for In the Blue Light in the video below, beneath that we've picked out five key tracks from Paul Simon's long and distinguished solo career...
'Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard'
Featured on the eponymous 1972 album Paul Simon, 'Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard' was reportedly considered by the man himself to be something of a throwaway, but more than four decades after its initial release it remains a fan favourite and was a fixture of his live shows right until the end.
The lead single from Simon's 1973 album There Goes Rhymin' Simon, 'Kodachrome' was originally titled 'Goin' Home' before simon rewrote the lyrics and roped in the famed Muscle Shoals rhythm section to record the track. The son's propulsive rhythms were created by double-tracking the drums and adding the sound of drummer Roger Hawkins doubling the hi-hat pattern by tapping on a tape box filled with paper.
'50 Ways to Leave Your Lover'
Underpinned by an iconic drum groove courtesy of Steve Gadd, '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover' first appeared on Simon's Grammy-winning 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years – an award he accepted by thanking Stevie Wonder “for not releasing an album” that year (Wonder had claimed the Best Album prize in 1973 and 1974 – then again in 1976).
'Late in the Evening'
The opening gambit from his 1980 album One-Trick Pony, 'Late in the Evening' is arguably the LP's standout moment and its rhythmic sensibilities hint toward the direction Simon would eventually take on Graceland. Once again, drummer Steve Gadd plays a large part in the song's inimitable groove, one he developed by using two pairs of drumsticks (one in each hand) to simulate the sound of two drummers playing at once.
'You Can Call Me Al'
We could hardly end this list without including something from Graceland and while we could just as easily have picked the title track or another one of the album's big hits such as 'Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes', but if you're only to going to pick one then it surely has to be this. Accompanied by a video starring Chevy Chase and directed Saturday Night Live stalwart Gary Weis, this remains Simon's biggest solo hit.
In the Blue Light is out now, you can find it here in our online store.