Still Crazy After All These Years Is the Simon Album RSD Reissue To Buy

Last Record Store Day Sony/Legacy reissued three Paul Simon albums: his eponymous solo debut (not counting 1965's U.K.-issued Paul Simon Songbook), There Goes Rhymin' Simon and this record. While all three are musically fine, if you're thinking of buying just one, my vote goes for this one.

Here's why: All three were cut from analog tape by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound and pressed at RTI. Musically and sonically Paul Simon is an album worthy of any record collection. It has the classic "Mother and Child Reunion" recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, "Duncan" with Los Incas, recorded at C.B.E. in Paris and even a track cut at Western in Los Angeles. Roy Halee and the late great Phil Ramone are among the engineers. Players include Larry Knechtel, Hal Blaine, Joe Osborn, Ron Carter, Airto Moreira, etc.

For fans unsure, this album demonstrated that Simon could sing his own songs and be successful without Garfunkel. The original Columbia pressing mastered by George Horn and released in 1972 sounds terrific. A DCC Compact Classic edition (LPZ-2060) is best avoided because of questionable EQ choices (sorry Steve). The bass is tubby and slow and the upper miss have been noticeably pushed. The original's rhythmic snappiness and transparency is sadly diminished. The RSD reissue is an improvement over the DCC but it falls short of the original. I emailed Ryan and he replied that the master was unusable so he cut from a copy. He cut it honestly so it sounds similar to the original, just diminished.

There Goes Rhymin' Simon was notable for "Kodachrome," which, as I recall it, was the first product placement song in pop music (not counting Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz", which was more of an a cappella throw away) and it does contain some great tunes and superb musicianship too, including "Tenderness" with the Dixie Hummingbirds, "Love Me LIke a Rock", and others plus it was engineered mostly by Phil Ramone and Jerry Masters. However, while it was well-received critically and was a commercial success, in many ways it feels like a transitional album that lacks a center of gravity. The arrangements now sound glib and dated as does the recording, which relied heavily on what sounds like the dreaded Aphex Aural Exciter that put ice around Simon's voice. Still, most artists would be thrilled to have an album this good be a "low" point in a long, distinguished recording career.

The original mastered by Lee Hulko (LH) at Sterling Sound sounds very similar to the DCC Compact Classic edition, both of which are very good, but on my system at least, the new one mastered by Ryan Smith is the best. It offers faster, cleaner transients and much tighter and deeper real bass, greater transparency and wider dynamics. So if you love this record get the RSD version. You get an MP3 download too if you want to travel with it.

That brings us to 1975's Still Crazy After All These Years, which won two Grammys for Album of the Year and Male Pop Vocal Performance and deservedly so. Musically and thematically it's more unified and centered. The title tune hit many boomers hard: "after all these years? We're too young for 'all these years'" but we weren't. By 1975 many had reached or were approaching thirty. It was sobering.

The song and album capture Simon's mood as his marriage ended and he looked back at it and his "little town" reuniting with Art Garfunkel.

The album's darker tone and songs like "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" and "Gone At Last" made it one of Simon's best and one that stands the test of time in every way. The engineering "gloss" on There Goes Rhymin' Simon was also cut back, making the sound too, better able to withstand the test of time. Michael Brecker's memorable solo on the title tune became most of Lenny Pickett's SNL finale music. The arrangements remain intricate and worth considering with each play.

The original was a good sounding record mastered at Sterling Sound (but not attributed to anyone) but this reissue absolutely kills it in every way. "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" should floor you. Ralph McDonald's percussion (sounds like tambourine zils) is "right there" and clearer than ever. Steve Gadd's drums (he devised the part) have an impact and immediacy that the original lacks. Everything about this record is better than the original, except for the cover, which unlike the original doesn't feature raised lettering and picture. But you do get an MP3 download.

Still Crazy After All These Years has never sounded this fine.

Music Direct Buy It Now

Michael T's picture

I was literally holding this record in my hands almost ready to buy it at a store last night.  I put it back last minute because I was leary of it having been sourced from a digital master.  You must have read my mind!  Now I will go back and purchase it......

John G's picture

This was one of the first LP's in my collection.  I love the music and always thought the sound quality was very good.  Will have to give this a spin today and consider the RSD release.  Great review Michael, I have you to blame for a good deal of my new record purchases.    

recordhead's picture

this record brings back sooo many memories.  I joined the Columbia Record Club when I was in the 2nd grade and this was one of my first records for a penny.  One morning I was in my bunk bed and up through the duct work I heard "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover."  It was my Dad in the basement getting ready for work.  Playing my record!!!  I remember putting my ear to the vent and listening.  


Michael Fremer's picture

Give a damn because we love stories about records and music and memories. I don't think files will ever do that.  

mraudioguru's picture

I bought all 3 of the Paul Simon reissues at Record Store Day last year.  I think they are all wonderful!

JC1957's picture

I've held off buying the 1st self-titled album because I have an original CBS Dutch pressing cut from early Sterling stampers that sounds teriffic, but I was fence sitting on the RSD LP. Looks like you saved me 20 bucks Michael. The other two, I agree sound great. Thanks for the review.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I had been reading a lot of criticism of Still Crazy over on Steve Hoffman's website and couldn't understand why, until the thread on it started to expand and I found out that a lot of forum members had the Sterling pressing and when I checked my UK and Dutch pressings both of them were mastered at The Mastering Lab (TML-M). I decided to buy a US copy just to see what the criticism was about and I couldn't believe the difference. I posted my thoughts on the forum and I got great feedback from forum members who went to the bother of checking out the TML-M version.

I don't expect the reissue to sound as good as the TML version but as always I will put my money where my mouth is and buy it!

James, Dublin, Ireland

PS: AnalogPlant is great for keeping us far off vinyl lovers up to date on US releases!

my new username's picture

I know what they are (what they were, that is) but just now when I read that it, it came across as DCC Compact Cassette. Flashback!

(And no, I never bought into that nor MiniDiscs.)

Thanks for info about these reissues!

soundman45's picture

Ah, Fifty Ways. One of the best  and most original drum patterns ever put on record. I remember a very funny moment back in late 1996 when Steve Gadd first moved back to his home town, I was an assistant engineer back then in a recording session with him and after meeting him he asked me if I could recommend a drum machine for purchase as he was looking to buy one. All I could help thinking was "You are a Drum Machine".

Michael T's picture

Had to pipe in with my favorite RSD 2013 LP release.

It's from Kasey Chambers and (now ex-husband) Shane Nicholson, entitled "Rattlin'Bones".  Originally released in 2009 but never before on vinyl.

I am not a huge fan of  the 'alt-country' sound, but this release is superb.  I bought it, and having never heard it before, kept it sealed for about 6 months.  When I finally opened it up in October 2013, it blew me away.  I still listen to it a couple of times a week.  The songwriting and performances are superb, the recording is excellent, and the Masterdisk mastering is superb, pressed on dead quiet vinyl.

I don;t think it sold that great so it can be had for great prices if you check eBay and Amazon (low as $6-9 for LP on Amazon!!!!)

thirtycenturyman's picture

I have purchased all of the recent remastered Paul Simon albums and they do indeed sound great.  Maybe it's a generational thing, but I have found "Still Crazy..." to sound a little more "dated" than "There Goes..."  By that, I mean that I could guess, within a few years accuracy, when the former was recorded, by the sound of the arrangement, instrumentation, etc.  "There Goes..." was a little more difficult to place.  Maybe that speaks to the overall consistency of Still Crazy?  These were made a couple years before I was born so I've obviously had less time to digest.  

Also, no mention of American Tune.  If the bridge of that song does not give you goosebumps, you have no soul.

Rug62's picture

Got this today,on the strength of your review and it is spot on.This is a thrilling recording; taking it to a different level entirely for this listener.Agile,rhythmic and syncopated;it sounds brand new.

sanchezj4's picture

I really liked these reissues and was wondering if they were going to continue with his catalog. I need a brand new copy of one trick pony.

williamsims's picture

The first couple of notes of the electric piano introduction to "Still Crazy" flash me back - in the manner of Proust -- to my not-yet wife's bungalow in the Studentenstadt of the Olympic Village in Munich nearly a lifetime ago.

samman's picture

This new pressing blows away my Sterling U.S. pressing in every way. Sounds the way analog should sound. The original U.S. pressing, for some reason, is harsh in comparison. Outstanding reissue.

my new username's picture

For the debut album, I was pondering PC 30750 vs KC 30750 and did some brief research into the bizarre world of Columbia catalog numbers from the 1970s. (It seems the letter designation, PC vs KC became a signifier related to retail price structure, which only indirectly "probably" --but not always-- meant earlier vs. later pressings. Or so the Internet told me.

Someone even showed for auction a 2-eye version, which I wouldn't have thought was a label they were using after 1970-71 ? PC 30750, of course.

In the end I punted, and decided to try a CQ 30750, the quad release for a few bucks more. I have nothing to compare it to, nor do I know if it's a different mix. But the guitars on Julio are gloriously right freakin' there and there's a lot more shimmer than I've heard before on many songs. Vocals sometimes verge on slightly too "hot" but are never really sibilant. Other times they are intimately perfect. (All this from an early, albeit lower end A-T model with Shibata.) My copy is quiet, enough to easily discern when subtle tape hiss.

Wondering Micheal if you've ever heard this pressing.

Dual's picture

Does anyone know anything about the technical lineage of the Collected Works box set of 1981?

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

After an enquiry with the company I have just had confirmation that the EU pressed MOV versions of the Paul Simon titles are cut from 24/96 digital files. Looks like discerning UK audiophiles will have to look for imports.

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

After an enquiry with the company I have just had confirmation that the EU pressed MOV versions of the Paul Simon titles are cut from 24/96 digital files. Looks like discerning UK audiophiles will have to look for imports.

SimonH's picture

After reading Micky's review I thought I would search the US RSD copies out.  Being in the UK and trying to be clever  I ordered them some weeks ago through Amazon UK thrpugh from a US supplier - the price including postage was low - my assumption was therefore they cannot be the MOV copies - I was wrong - and  the research by HFJ is borne out as there is no "sterling" to be seen -  but the MOV sticker still says specially mastered or some such wording - considering the ********** I do find this dissapointing and misleading when you know the truth. Why did Columbia go to the bother of a good re-master to them let someone else should suprise me but alas it doesn't - it feels typical of businesspersons who care diddly squat.

rakalm's picture

Well, picked up a copy today for $9.49 new.  My record shop must be making way for RSD vinyl.  Can't wait to hand clean it and play it tomorrow.  The other titles were $14 but I just got Still Crazy.  Lotsa used vinyl last weekend for $2 a pop.  A mint copy of Court and Spark included (even hand cleaned the linen like cover to look almost new, I am getting good at cleaning covers without removing ink.  Love seeing that art work come to life.) 

  RSD has me less excited this year with what I have been finding used and what's available during the year with many of the same releases.  Live and learn.

Cassius's picture

On the s/t Columbia debut

Looking at the earliest copies the matrices all start 4(letter), and they are hand etched.

Probably working to tame the sibilence that always challeneged people cutting Paul's albums.

Your dead on though Mikey: It's the best.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I was never overwhelmed by the sound of Still Crazy After All These Years (Sterling) until I came across a copy that was mastered at The Mastering Lab. My UK & Dutch copies have TML-M in the deadwax and they sound wonderful! I recommended it to forum members on Steve Hoffman's website and I got a very positive response from people who took my advice. With a bit of luck the reissue will sound as good as the TML copies I own.

James, Dublin, Ireland

teachscience's picture

What a timeless album and the new sound is great. Glad I took a chance. The original was good; this is much better.