Are 36 songs enough to truly encompass the "essential" items in the catalog of a master craftsman like Paul Simon? Probably not, but it's a healthy dose, and a damned fine anthology regardless. Roughly chronological in sequence, THE ESSENTIAL PAUL SIMON focuses exclusively on the folk-rock hero's post-Garfunkel days, and follows his maturation as a songwriter and record-maker. In retrospect, it quickly becomes apparent that the cross-genre concoctions of his celebrated 1986 album, GRACELAND, had been part of his modus operandi all along: see the reggae lilt of "Mother and Child Reunion," the salsa flavor of "Late in the Evening," and the gospel glow of "Loves Me Like a Rock." Whatever the musical mode, every song on this satisfying collection is powered by Simon's rocket-science harmonic know-how and vivid poetic imagery, making this a powerful musical snapshot of an artist constantly in motion.
Q (Magazine) (p.153) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Several fine songs from 2006's SURPRISE prove that Simon still remains a master of his craft."