I don't like this as much as I once did, but it's still pretty good. There has always been something of the stink of guilty pleasure about Paul Simon for me, which extends backwards into Simon & Garfunkel as well, although that turns out to be an act I have found over the years that is actually quite well-regarded in various surprising quarters. The cultural imperialism shtick for which Paul Simon is known nowadays was there from the first seconds of this (nearly) first solo album from way back in 1972. "Mother and Child Reunion" is reggae all cleaned up and decked out for the Los Angeles record producers' ball. Simon gets cute by claiming the lyrics are based on satori-like inspirations of a chicken-and-egg dish he was served in a Chinese restaurant. Be that as it may, the song, and eventually the whole album, is a seductive ambush, with a neat and tidy internal drive like a motor, and melodies that make you feel good just to hear and sing with. I think, in fact, that might be ultimately Paul Simon's most redeeming feature, forever the youth camp counselor who pulls out his acoustic guitar on the overnights and gets everybody singing crazy and silly with him. Paul Simon writes good songs, there I said it, and damn the smug. Paul Simon proceeds mostly by stealth and soft footsteps, recorded low and with the instrumentation there for the inflections as much as anything. It gets reasonably lively at the beginning of each vinyl side—the aforementioned "Mother and Child Reunion" and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"—but then falls directly into lulls of mood. That mood has appealed to me quite a bit in a few intense periods—there have been times when turning to this album on a daily basis has felt like turning on the power. There's something at once so composed and so coiled and yet so tentative about it all, musical to its bones with the friendly melodies and intriguing arrangements and nice blues touches, short and to the point at under 35 minutes yet indulgent with self-pity, and capable of maintaining a mood that endures past the playing time and insidiously calls you back to itself once again. Thus, perhaps, a bit narrow. But perfect for those times one finds oneself fitting snug into the confines of the frame.