Paul Simon – Over the Bridge of Time (review)

Paul Simon – Over the Bridge of Time – A Paul Simon Retrospective (1964-2011) (Sony / Legacy) review

An interesting, but frustrating overview of Paul Simon’s entire career

Over the Bridge of Time marks the first time that Paul Simon’s solo material has co-mingled with his previous work with partner Art Garfunkel.  That, in itself, makes this collection unique.  Yet, this 20-track set barely scratches the surface of Simon’s long career.

The disc kicks off with Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” a surprise hit in 1965 when producer Tom Wilson added electric instruments over the duo’s original acoustic track.  This set eschews the followup hits in favor of the poignant “America” (so, missing is “Homeward Bound,” “I Am a Rock,” and “Mrs. Robinson,” – all top ten hits).  The disc concentrates heavily on the pair’s final album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, culling four tracks – the ubiquitous title track, as well as “The Boxer,” “The Only Living Boy in New York,” and “Cecilia.”  Still, it feels like the Simon & Garfunkel material has been short-changed.

After splitting with Garfunkel, Simon’s musical palette expanded.  The reggae-infused “Mother and Child Reunion” and the percussive “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” are huge leaps stylistically – they sound nothing like his previous work.  Unbelievably, this set leaves off a pair of Simon’s biggest hits – “Loves Me Like a Rock” and “Kodachrome” (both #2 smashes) in favor of “American Tune.”  Huh?

“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” has probably the strangest drum beat ever for a #1 hit, while “Still Crazy After All These Years” is a touching ballad on aging, led by a Rhodes piano.  The gospel tinged “Slip Sliding Away” and the party anthem “Late in the Evening” mark an end to Simon’s more straightforward material.

He then dove head first into world music for his groundbreaking Graceland LP, represented here with “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” and “You Can Call Me Al.”    The followup, Rhythm of the Saints, is featured, not by the album’s single, “The Obvious Child,” but by “Spirit Voices.”

The end of the disc relies too heavily on ballads – “Father and Daughter” off 2003’s No Surprise or “The Afterlife” off 2011’s So Beautiful or So What would’ve picked up the tempo considerably.

The problem with Over the Bridge of Time is that it leaves off too many obvious choices (read: hits).  We are at a time in music when we need to give the people what they want. This could’ve been the “best of” that fans wanted, summing up Paul Simon’s entire career in a single disc.  Instead, we’re left with yet another incomplete collection.  —Tony Peters