You have to sympathize with anyone asked to select a one-disc sampling from almost 50 years of the work of a musical genius for a retrospective. There is no way include all the things that adoring fans would think should be there. There is no way but to leave out somebody’s favorite song. Indeed, if you want your compilation to be representative, you may have to leave out one or two of your own favorites. It has to be a thankless task at best; at worst an aesthetic Sophie’s Choice.
Over the Bridge of Time: A Paul Simon Retrospective (1964-2011) is a case in point. Even though the CD is chock full of wonderful Simon tunes, 20 to be exact, the immediate reaction is where is “Scarborough Fair?” Where is “Mrs. Robinson?” Where is “Graceland?” Where is… well, you get the idea. It’s one of those ‘you can’t please all of the people’ propositions. So with that caveat, let’s begin with postulating the impossibility of the task and recognizing that this new release from Sony Legacy does as good a job at culling as many of the gems from the extensive Simon songbook as any reasonable music lover could expect.
As Jesse Kornbluth’s liner notes explain, Simon divides his creative output into three periods: the Simon and Garfunkel period, the pre-Graceland solo albums, and Graceland to the present. There are six songs from his early period and seven each from the other two. There will be those who object to the distribution, especially those of us around back in the ’60s who have paid little attention to the composer’s last period, but those objections would be little more than the ‘get off my lawn’ ranting of bitter old men. Simon’s music was great back in the day and it continues to be great even in the new century.
These are the songs of a generation: “The Sound of Silence,” “The Boxer,” “American Tune,” “Still Crazy After All These Years,” “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes,” and on and on. It is only necessary to hear the title and the tune plays on the iPod in your head. From the gorgeous melodies of his early work, as in the hugely successful “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” through his energetic expeditions into world music rhythms in songs like “You Can Call Me Al,” to his more recent personal expressions in ”Everything About It Is a Love Song,” his songwriting gives voice to his age. Indeed, these are the songs of many generations.
If you can’t afford the 15-disc release Paul Simon – The Complete Albums Collection, which includes his 12 studio albums and both of the live concert recordings, Over the Bridge of Time will do you nicely until Legacy decides it’s time to build a second bridge over time.