All of Paul Simon's solo albums ranked

Every Paul Simon solo record reviewed.

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No. 14 - ONE-TRICK PONY (1980)

One-Trick Pony grew out of another mostly failed theatrical production. Simon had been present in movies dating back to The Graduate in 1967, and when Art Garfunkel began to have some success as an actor, the desire to be on screen bit Paul too. He wrote and starred in Robert M. Young’s story about a faded musician trying to get a new album out. Roger Ebert loved the movie. Not many others did.

As with Songs From The Capeman, Paul released an album. Though it has the same name as the movie, and though some of the album’s music does appear on screen, this was meant to be a stand-alone album, with a different collection of songs that grew out of the film’s story. And for half the album, he delivers some gems.

As usual, Simon surrounded himself with outstanding accompanists. That is immediately evident in the album’s lead single, “Late in the Evening.” No single musician may have been more important to Paul Simon’s sound than super-drummer Steve Gadd. His iconic groove in “Late in the Evening” helped launch the song into the Top 10 on the Adult Contemporary charts. He follows it up with some slinky blues on “That’s Why God Made Movies,” and a live version of the bluesy title track. He also scores big with “Oh, Marion” and another live recording of the funky “Ace in the Hole,” with a major assist from guitarist/vocalist Richard Tee.

Unfortunately, the other half of the album does not live up to these high points. This is one of the only Paul Simon albums that contains what sounds to me like filler. Even when I don’t like experiments on other albums, I usually appreciate the effort and the ambition. About half of One-Trick Pony is simply lightweight and kind of dull.