Paul Simon — Paul Simon / There Goes Rhymin’ Simon / Still Crazy After All These Years / In Concert: Live Rhymin’ 

The accompanying notes state that the albums “feature the remastered sound, bonus tracks and expanded packaging from their first CD incarnations.” Translated: These are exactly the same as the 2004 CD releases, down to the liner notes.

The only reason mentioned for re-releasing these albums is that a licensing agreement recently “brought Simon’s entire catalog of recordings together under the one roof for the first time since the 1970s.” You probably would never notice that the better half of Simon & Garfunkel is going through a reissue project except for this review.

Probably isn’t “definitely,” because a fourth CD in the set, “Paul Simon In Concert: Live Rhymin’,” does feature some cool stuff: namely, a new mastering job and previously unreleased live versions of “Kodachrome” (weak without a live band) and “Something So Right” (a glorious solo performance). Now that’s a step in the right reissue direction. Can’t help but think these would sell better with new material on them, but perhaps Simon hasn’t done enough in the last 40 years to merit that.

If you haven’t heard “Paul Simon,” “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” or “Still Crazy After All These Years,” you should. He is an American treasure, right up there with Bob Dylan in the topmost echelon of American songcraft.

His self-titled release is the most immediate; coming directly after the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel, the songs retain much of the duo’s pop glory. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and “Duncan” are two excellent examples of this, as the latter calls up “The Boxer” references, and the former is a classic that is still covered today.

While “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” features “Kodachrome” (Simon’s enduring contribution to oldies radio), tracks like “American Tune,” “Tenderness” and “St. Judy’s Comet” rely heavily on lyrics instead of melodies.

“Still Crazy After All These Years” is the rarest of the rare: an artistic high point that is also a commercial high point. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is the radio hit, with “Gone at Last,” the title track and a demo of “Slip Slidin’ Away” (the official version wouldn’t appear till years later) providing highlights lyrically and musically. The album neatly straddles the melodic ease of his first and the lyrical precision of his second for a fantastic release.

The live record features a good selection of tunes from his previous act, as well as his own compositions. A gospel choir and a South American band are featured, making for some great variation on the Simon-and-his-guitar theme. It’s a fascinating recording, and worth more than your average live-recording cash grab. —Stephen Carradini

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