After starting her career with her sister in the Simon Sisters, Carly Simon rose to prominence in the early 1970s as one of the key figures in the singer-songwriter movement. Thanks to major hits like That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be, Legend in Your Own Time, and the timeless You’re So Vain, she spent much of the decade as a permanent fixture on the charts. Like most veteran performers, her career has gone through peaks and troughs in the years since, but she remains one of the quintessential singer-songwriters of the last 50 years. Here’s how we rank all 23 Carly Simon albums.
23. Christmas Is Almost Here
In 2002, Simon entered into the festive spirit with her first collection of Christmas songs, Christmas Is Almost Here. While it’s not as insipid as some of the Christmas albums we’ve been gifted by other veteran performers over the years, neither is it particularly exciting. Unless you enjoy hearing lackluster renditions of festive standards, it’s best avoided.
22. Spoiled Girl
Hello Big Man, Simon’s eleventh album, may have been a compelling record, but its dismal performance in the charts left Simon once again without a record label. This time around, it was Epic who offered her a home, and in June 1985, she released her first album under the label. It was an epic fail, charting at a lowly number 88 on the Billboard 200 and picking up bad reviews left, right, and center. Somewhat understandably, Epic decided to cut their losses and proceeded to drop her like a hot potato.
21. Another Passenger
For her sixth studio album, Carly Simon bought in a new producer, Ted Templeman, and invited The Doobie Brothers and Little Feat along for the ride. By their presence alone, you’d expect Another Passenger to be phenomenal. It’s not. After five excellent albums, Simon hits a bum note here. It’s by no means a travesty, but the big licks and rocking rhythms supplied by the backup musicians simply don’t have a place on a Carly Simon record. The album stalled at number 29 on the pop charts, signaling the start of her commercial decline.
Simon’s eighth studio album (and her last with her long-time home Elektra) was released on June 30, 1979. By that point, Simon’s days at the top of the charts were over, and the album stalled at number 45 on the pop charts – her worst performing album till that point. While commercial performance is no indication of the quality of an album, here, Spy’s dismal showing is understandable. Despite a scattering of good songs, it’s an underwhelming affair, with slick arrangements and overblown instrumentation that detract from Simon’s strengths as a performer.
19. Never Been Gone
From 2000 onwards, Simon’s albums just seemed to get better and better. Never Been Gone, her 23rd and latest album, was, in comparison to its direct predecessors, a commercial disappointment, stalling at number 134 on the Billboard 200. It’s by no means a bad album, however, and while uneven, there’s enough joy in hearing Simon rework old favorites like That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be and You’re So Vain to keep listeners happy.
18. Come Upstairs
After the commercial failure of Spy led Elektra Records to release Simon from her contract, the singer found a new home at Warner Bros. Her first album with the label is Come Upstairs. A much harder, rockier affair than anything we’d heard from her before, its key attraction is Jesse, a simple but powerful song that showcases Simon’s talents as a songwriter. Released as a single, the song became a massive hit… unlike the album itself, which parked itself at a relatively disappointing number 36 on the Billboard 200.
17. Film Noir
Simon’s 17th studio album (and 3rd comprised of standards) proved a surprise commercial hit, peaking at a respectable number 84 on the Billboard 200 in the fall of 1997. With its smoky vocals, seductive arrangements, and intriguing song choices, it’s a wonderfully intimate affair, with her duet with producer Jimmy Webb standing out as an album highlight.
16. Have You Seen Me Lately
In September 1990, Simon scored a mid-career hit with Have You Seen Me Lately. Described by the New York Times as “superb,” its shining glory is the title track, a heartfelt, tender stunner with poignant lyrics and pointed melodies. The delightful Better Not Tell Her and Fisherman’s Song are also lovely.
15. Letters Never Sent
Letters Never Sent, Simon’s 16th studio album, was inspired by a box of old letters Simon stumbled on which she’d written but never mailed. A passionate, intriguing album with an erotic edge, it features a wonderfully nuanced vocal performance from Simon and a good handful of strong songs, including the utterly beguiling Like A River, which was written in honor of Simon’s mother, civil rights activist Andrea Simon,
14. My Romance
After enjoying a critical and commercial renaissance with 1987’s Coming Around Again, Simon took a couple of years away from the recording studio before returning in 1990 with her 14th album, My Romance. Although it’s not quite in the same league as its direct predecessor, it’s still a very pleasant album, with Simon giving us her best Peggy Lee impression on romantic standards like My Funny Valentine and Bewitched.
13. Coming Around Again
After being dropped by several record labels in response to poor sales, Simon finally found a long-time home with Arista Records. Her first release with the label, 1987’s Coming Around Again, became her biggest hit in years, charting at number 25 on the Billboard 200 and eventually certifying platinum. It was also a critical success, with People noting “Simon remains, even after all this emotional turmoil, perhaps the most interesting of women pop singers. This album proves she is still captivating,” and the New York Times saying that it embodied everything she does best.
12. Into White
After enjoying a commercial renaissance with the top ten hit Moonlight Serenade, Simon returned with her fifth album of standards (and 21st overall) in 2005. Into White proved another hit, climbing to number 13 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Top Internet Albums chart. A tranquil, mellifluous, vocally assured album, it’s a must-listen for both die-hard fans and casual listeners alike.
11. Moonlight Serenade
In 2006, Simon released her fourth album of standards. Whether she was expecting it to be a hit when she released it, who knows. But that s exactly what it turned out to be, peaking at number 7 on the Billboard 200 to become one of her most commercially successful records of all time. It fared similarly well on the other side of the pond, becoming her first top ten album since 1978’s Boys in the Trees. Key highlights include the gorgeously theatrical I Only Have Eyes For You and the utterly lovely All the Things You Are.
10. Boys in the Trees
After Another Passenger failed to meet expectations, Simon made a return to form on its follow-up, Boys in the Trees. Released in April 1978, the album made it to the top ten in the pop charts and certified gold shortly after. It also spawned several top ten singles, including the Grammy-nominated You Belong To Me. Described by Rolling Stone as Simon’s “most serene accomplishment to date” it’s a compelling piece, with a beautifully understated performance from Simon and a hushed prettiness to the arrangements.
9. Hello Big Man
After dabbling with both hard rock and torch standards on her previous two recordings, Simon made a return to the folky pop of her earlier albums on her eleventh studio album, Hello Big Man, Although it’s uneven, the album is compelling, with enough of an edge to stop even the most romantic ballads drifting into sentimentality. The title track and cover of Bob Marley’s Is This Love? are particularly addictive.
8. The Bedroom Tapes
Simon’s first album of the new millennium, 2000’s The Bedroom Tapes, may only have reached number 90 on the Billboard 200, but it couldn’t have asked for a better reception from the critics. Hailed by just about everyone as a major return to form, the wonderful vocal performance, heartfelt confessions, and unflinching candor are redolent of her ’70’s peak.
7. Playing Possum
Simon’s fifth studio album, Playing Possum, continued the hot streak that began with No Secrets, becoming her third consecutive album to chart inside the top ten. While not quite in the same league as its predecessors, it’s still a remarkably solid album, with Simon emerging from her sensitive singer/songwriter pigeonhole to reveal herself as a saucy rock diva. Standout tracks include After the Storm, Are You Ticklish, Waterfall, and especially Attitude Dancing, a song Rolling Stone describes as “easily the most exciting Carly Simon cut since You’re So Vain.”
Released in August 1981, Torch, Simon’s 10th studio album, was recorded during a period of turmoil for the singer, with her tumultuous marriage to James Taylor finally reaching its bitter conclusion. Channeling all her emotion into her work, Simon produced one of her best albums in years. Consisting entirely of torch songs, the album is a shot from the heart, with Simon’s poignant vocals and graceful delivery a perfect match for the material
Simon’s second album, Anticipation, dropped just nine months after her debut in November 1971. Like its predecessor, it performed well commercially, charting at number 30 in the pop charts and picking up a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance. Its spirited titular track (which Simon has revealed relates to her feelings while eagerly awaiting a date with Cat Stevens as a teenager) became a massive hit, reaching number 3 on the easy listening charts and the top 20 on the pop charts. The star of the show, however, is the beautifully hushed Our First Day Together, an enigmatic stunner with echoes of Joni Mitchell.
4. Carly Simon
Carly Simon’s self-titled debut is best remembered for the smash hit, That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be, a soft rock masterpiece that earned Simon a top ten hit and a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The rest of the album is equally lovely, with deft arrangements and a gorgeous vocal performance from Simon. Released in February 1971, it soared to number 30 in the pop charts and snagged Simon her first Grammy for Best New Artist.
3. This Kind of Love
After reawakening interest in her career with several splendid albums of standards, This Kind of Love saw Simon back on songwriting duty for the first time since the 2000 album, The Bedroom Tapes. It’s a splendid record, brimming with smokey vocals, quietly stunning guitar work, and intriguing, deeply personal lyrics. Released in April 2008, it became another late-career hit for the singer, charting at number 15 on the Billboard 200.
Following the massive success of No Secrets (and in particular, the mega-selling hit single You’re So Vain), the bar was set almost impossibly high for its follow-up. But Hotcakes cleared the hurdle with ease. Playful and somber in equal measure, it’s a nuanced, perfectly balanced album that still sounds fresh today. Key tracks to revisit include Think I’m Gonna Have a Baby, Forever My Love, and Haven’t Got Time for the Pain, all of which easily rank amongst Simon’s best-ever performances.
1. No Secrets
After two well-received albums, Simon pulled out all the stops for her third album, No Secrets. Any album with a song like You’re So Vain would take our top spot regardless of the quality of the rest of the material, but the remainder of the album is equally sensational. Released in November 1972, No Secrets went stratospheric, spending five weeks at the number one spot on the US Billboard 200 chart and going gold within just a few months of its release.