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"Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind"
|Main Category:||Folk Rock|
|Also applicable:||Pop Rock, Singer-Songwriters|
|Starting Period:||The Early Years|
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Aren't they lucky, these two little (one of them very little, as a matter of fact) gentlemen from Queens. Sissy and wimpy to the core; commercially successful to the max; and still hip even among the most discriminating crowds. Maybe it's just because fate has chosen them to be the first among endless divisions and battalions of wimpy, commercially successful singer-songwriters with battered acoustic guitars, scraps of literary education, and bleeding hearts-a-lot. But then you could ask practically the same question about the Beatles, too.Fact is, Simon & Garfunkel were a pretty odd outfit for their times. They weren't exactly a band, not even after they jumped on the "electric music" bandwagon; I guess they were rather what, in these modern times, you'd be calling a "project", and thus certainly stood out in those band-heavy times. They certainly weren't generic Greenwich "folkies", not since their second album at least, nor were they individualistic spiritual gurus a la Bob Dylan. In a way, they weren't even they, because Paul Simon was consistently filling up the position of top idea-maker, top songwriter, top arranger, top player, and part-time vocalist. But then would "Simon & Garfunkel" ever hold the same spot were they just "Simon"? By all means no, as proved by Paul's subsequent solo career. History books tell us that back in the day, S&G were generally tagged as "bleeding intellectuals". Much as they themselves hated that kind of definition, it's essentially true, if not necessarily all-comprising. "Bleeding" would probably hint here at a significant social conscience in addition to the general tormented-artist-related stuff; and there's no use denying that Simon did position himself as a speaker for his generation. While Dylan, upon going electric, placed a torpedo under his "social protest" barge and thereupon only occasionally toyed with isolated floating remains, Simon & Garfunkel were still singing about old lonely people and out-of-work boxers. And even the "character assassination" routine, left behind by Bob after the motorcycle accident, was upheld by this duo better than by anybody else - the subtle poison of 'Mrs Robinson' is still going strong after all these years. This is not to say, of course, that Simon & Garfunkel were some sort of a minimalistic equivalent of Country Joe & The Fish. By being able to carefully interweave those motives with far more personal ones they managed to combine the anthemic with the introspective in a unique way. Sometimes within the same song - ever noticed how naturally the humbly muffled verses of 'The Boxer' fit in with the bombastic reprise? For all the broadness of Simon's vision, he is equally able toconcentrate on the individual, and when he does, it's not always a pretty sight, because that individual can be pretty bleak. Loneliness, alienation, melancholy - maybe just the right thing to expect when you are reared in Queens, yet raised on Emily Dickinson, but unsettling all the same. "Intellectuals" - well, I have no idea just how much musical, literary, artistic (and, in case of Art, architectural) education these fellows had sucked in, but one thing is for sure - Simon never shyed away from rubbing that in his audience's faces. I'd bet you anything that after going to a S&G show and hearing them ten meters away singing 'and you read your Emily Dickinson, and I my Robert Frost' many a young aspiring gentleman/lady would boost up the sales of classic poetry volumes. (Provided there were people still unfamiliar with Dickinson and Frost at the duo's shows - and there must have been, because, after all, they used to pack concert halls). The sophistication and elegance of Paul's lyrics, no doubt, owes a lot to Dylan, but out of the two, Paul was always the straight-faced one, and his lyrics tend to be more "serious" (i.e. have to be taken at face value), and thus, more pretentious. Curiously, he usually pulled it off. So - smart, caring, occasionally depressed, and ultimately non-trivial. None of that would matter if the songs weren't good. They are. In his solo career, Simon is mostly known for Graceland, his major "ethnic" breakthrough from 1986, usually quoted as a major milestone in "world music" or whatchamacallit. What is left unmentioned is that Simon's explorations in the world of tradition began more than twenty years before that date and progressed constantly. Disregarding the lads' early forgettable playing experience as "Tom & Jerry" (late 50s), each of their albums featured some sort of advance over the predecessor, incorporating some new style, technique, sonic landscape. The first - completely acoustic - album was pretty straightforward Greenwich Village territory. Then came Paul's trip to England and a deeper acquaintance with ye olde Anglo-Saxon roots, already reflected on the second album. Then came rock, pop, and even psychedelic influences. Then - Latin influences. One thing you can say is being around these lads is never boring, and that's much more than just a silly whimsy statement, because the basic image of Simon & Garfunkel just screams "boring" to one's eyes. Yet somehow, without being Syd Barrett or Jimi Hendrix or John Lennon, Paul Simon manages to be almost as interesting as all of them. Besides, genres and arrangements apart, the tunes are memorable. Not all of them - this isn't formula-generated pop music, after all. There's plenty of tricky acoustic musings in the catalog that mostly get by on atmosphere, lyrical wisdom, and general charisma. But they are cleverly outbalanced by all the pop hits, equipped with bouncy, uplifting melodies, strong vocal hooks, and the kind of commercial appeal that does not really grate on even the most demanding listener. To cut it short, just take a look at all the hits - from 'Sound Of Silence' to 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', Simon's all over them as one of the Sixties' most-major-est songwriters, and it was a tough decade competition-wise, especially if you were aiming for the big time. Easily the most seductive thing about these lads, of course, were always their vocals. And I don't just mean the skilful harmony construction or the bedazzling overdubs of the 'Parsley, Sage...' variety; I mean the very voices, the tones, the pitches, that sort of thing. Garfunkel is the sweet one, working in the break-yer-heart department, frequently on the point of breaking - technically, his voice is very weak and shakey, but he regularly manages to present it as an advantage, constructing this harmless, frail, romantic persona, more vulnerable than anyone before him and much easier to identify with than all the seriously trained vocal powerhouses. Simon, by contrast, is the "humble sage", sort of an accessible, easy-on-the-ears variant of Bob Dylan. In the end, it's impossible to dislike them unless it's not so much a particular dislike for them as it is a dislike for quiet "sissy" music in general. That said, I don't really find them as consistent as I'd like to. To misquote Paul, I'm still not crazy after all these years, and I still think that the best way to enjoy their music - if not necessarily to "understand" it - is via a compilation. (One of those, briefly reviewed at the bottom of this page, used not to leave my CD player for days). These ears of mine still do not think they have ever recorded an LP-form masterpiece that they really deserved, and what the ears convey to the brain the latter interprets as Simon's overestimation of his forces. It is quite obvious that he constantly worked according to the "this one for the charts, this one for my artistic pleasure" principle, and much too often, his artistic pleasure consisted of writing a sophisticated - or quasi-sophisticated - piece of lyrics and setting it to whatever acoustic tinkle he would come up with at the given moment. And since he had little of that spontaneous, supernaturally-fed energy flame that kept, say, the already mentioned Dylan afloat for such a long time period, it's only natural that these acoustic tinkles are liable - to put it very mildly - to lull you to sleep right before the big catchy hit comes up next. To make matters worse, there was very little question of "quality control": despite all the seeming humbleness and meekness, Simon was always used to having it his own way and nobody else's, certainly not Garfunkel's. Yet the irony of it all is that today it is S&G's collective work that firmly stands the test of time - whereas Paul's subsequent solo career, consistent and occasionally brilliant as it is, is generally held in much lower esteem. Serves him right, I say. Next term on Earth he'll think twice before ditching somebody like the singer guy on 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'.
Listenability: 3/5. I
can't call Paul Simon a 'master of hook' - he only offers us the hooks
in, say, 50% of the cases...
Resonance: 3/5. Paul's pretentions get in the way a bit, but where Paul can fail, Art will lift him up.
Originality: 3/5. Loads of touches here - musical, lyrical, personal fronts, whatever.
Adequacy: 4/5. Don't tell me Bookends is an adequate album. It's NOT. The rest more or less are, though.
Diversity: 2/5. Occasional venturing into adventuring ('Save The Life Of My Child', etc.,) but mostly sticking with the folksy formula.
Overall: 3.0 = C on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1964
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10
It sure is a long way from Greenwich Village to Graceland. But you do have to start somewhere.Best song: THE SOUND OF SILENCE
Track listing: 1) You Can Tell The World; 2) Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream; 3) Bleecker Street; 4) Sparrow; 5) Benedictus; 6) The Sound Of Silence; 7) He Was My Brother; 8) Peggy-O; 9) Go Tell It On The Mountain; 10) The Sun Is Burning; 11) The Times They Are A-Changin'; 12) Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.
A nice and strong beginning for the duo (not counting, of course, their justifiably conceal-able early history as Tom and Jerry) which, after a certain period of evaluation, consideration, and verification, we can nicely and strongly reserve for the wastebasket. The only thing that sets it apart from every other record released by one or more nicely combed intelligent-looking folk-loving young gentlemen with a passion for acoustic guitars and South Manhattan in 1964 is that Paul Simon, already at this point, had certain songwriting ambitions and was able to adequately satisfy at least some of them. Well, then there's another thing - namely, Paul and Art's lovely way of harmonizing, but I'm pretty sure they were far from the only examples of lovely harmonizing around Soho. (And no, I don't have Bob Dylan in mind, so away with your accusations of rabid fan-boy-ism!).Most of the album's importance lies in the history department. Its being released in 1964 places Simon & Garfunkel among the bearded veterans of pop music; they were there almost from the very beginning, not having emerged out of nowhere by jumping on the nearest bandwagon. It shows their strong ties with the folk revival movement and the grim-faced Pete Seeger-led protest crowds of early Sixties' New York. And what's even more important, it shows they weren't afraid to travel by subway in the middle of the night! No, wait, let me rephrase that. They weren't afraid to mingle their interpretations of traditional folk anthems with stuff of a much more personal, individualistic character. History has preserved us at least three undeniable classics from this record. First is 'The Sound Of Silence', of course, here present in its original acoustic version which is - surprise surprise - just as stunning as the revamped electric version if not more so, because the song's main strength lies in the gradual intensification of the singing, which is, of course, more prominent when it's backed by a quiet acoustic part than when it's overshadowed by a loud electric rhythm section. It's curious, too, now that I look at the lyrics, to realize that this is easily one of the most pretentious songs Simon ever wrote - and, coincidentally, one of the first songs he ever, if not wrote, then officially released. And yet it works so perfectly. Then there's the sad, melancholic 'Bleecker Street', which, through its atmosphere, seems to beg you to replace the second 'e' of the title with an 'a'; and the title track, slightly more upbeat in terms of rhythm but just as depressing through its lyrical message. Neither of the two contains the kind of irresistible hooks that would soon characterize every second song written by Simon, but both achieve their goals, and both are good examples of independent songwriting. Let's not forget, actually, that even Bob Dylan on his first recording only had, like, two originals, neither of which displayed any signs of genius. (Voice of Bob Dylan fan: "Yeah, but he did that in 1962! That was, like, two years earlier!") (Voice of Simon & Garfunkel fan: "Yeah, but it's not like originality and independence were far more widespread in 1964 than they were in 1962!") (Voice of Bob Dylan fan: "Of course they were! Bob Dylan was recording nothing but originals in 1964!") (Voice of Simon & Garfunkel fan: "Stop being so dumb! We're not talking Bob Dylan here!") (Voice of Bob Dylan fan: "Stop being dumb yourself! How can we guest on a Simon & Garfunkel page and not talk Bob Dylan?") (Voice of Simon & Garfunkel fan: "It's an insult to talk Bob Dylan when we're talking Simon & Garfunkel! Art could wear a gas mask and still sing better than Bob!") (Voice of Bob Dylan fan: "Oh no, not that kind of cheap argument again. If not for Bob Dylan, your precious Art would still be playing Jerry, singing miserable Everley Brothers covers in NYC gay bars!") (Voice of Simon & Garfunkel fan: "Oh yeah, right, like they'd ever invite Mr Wheezy-Voiced to write the soundtrack for The Graduate!") (Voice of Bob Dylan fan: "Did I ever tell you Dustin Hoffman is overrated?"). (Voice of Simon & Garfunkel fan: "Who cares if he's overrated? The underwater scene was groundbreaking!"). (Voice of Eddie Murphy: "Are we there yet????"). It's too bad the rest of the album just ranges from uninspiring to unenlightening. I normally have nothing about generic spirituals, despite not exactly harbouring a secret hillbilly past, but they have to be confined to a suitable environment, like Oh Brother Where Art Thou and suchlike. Meanwhile, putting joyful musical sermons like 'You Can Tell The World' and 'Go Tell It On The Mountain' next to personal anthems of desperation like 'Sound Of Silence' is one of the oddest things to do ever; considering that I can't even begin to imagine anybody forcing S&G to put these things on record, I'll have to assume they liked performing this kind of material, which further confirms my suspicions of Greenwich Village being more than just a little screwed up after all. At least these traditional chants are vaguely interesting from a compositional point of view, but surely it's impossible to say the same about Ed McCurdy's 'Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream', probably the blandest number ever tackled by these guys. Much better is their take on Ian Campbell's 'The Sun Is Burning', a song so perfectly fitting into the general paradigm of Simon's own writing that I was actually quite surprised to found out it was a cover after all; but then they blow it again with the inane cover of 'The Times They Are A-Changin'. Well, I guess we could add in their defense that no one has ever done a successful cover of that song. Certainly not the Beach Boys, at least. To make matters worse, not every song written by Simon works on here, either. At least once he engages in straightforward protest writing ('He Was My Brother', copyright 1963 instead of the usual 1964 and most probably representing Paul's earliest attempts at becoming a professional writer), with pretty dire results - the lyrics are muddy (it's hard even to understand why the brother in question was shot) and the melody not too memorable. Likewise, 'Sparrow', Paul's attempt to write an "authentic" folksy tell-tale ballad, is just mildly cute, but can't even come close to something like 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' or whatever "imitations" of authentic folk balladry Dylan was doing at the moment. The interesting side of the matter is you can see fairly well all of the duo's potential strengths (to be developed later on) and weaknesses (to be dropped whenever possible later on). Strengths: introspective original songwriting, pretty vocal harmonies. Weaknesses: copycat songwriting, lame choice of covers. Oh, and I guess the fact that the album is all-out acoustic also has to count for a weakness; be a purist if you will, but I will always maintain that S&G's "going electric" was a major blessing (as was their general exploration of different types of studio trickery - surely you would always prefer the vocal cobwebs of 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme' to a potentially "clear" version of same song?). Oh, and Garfunkel's liner notes suck, too, because it's always very unnerving whenever a writer tries to give a direct interpretation of the symbolism of his own writing. Besides, is there really such a desperate need to shove their college upbringing into our faces with phrases like "the author sees the extent of communication as it is on only its most superficial and commercial level"? Thank you, Art. I knew there must have been something buried under the lyrical vagueness of 'Sound Of Silence'. Now that you put it so accessibly and straightforwardly, I can just tell what the song is about.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1966
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12
Fully matured as folkies, kiddie-behavoured as rockers - in other words, one of their least boring albums.Best song: I AM A ROCK
Track listing: 1) The Sound Of Silence; 2) Leaves That Are Green; 3) Blessed; 4) Kathy's Song; 5) Somewhere They Can't Find Me; 6) Anji; 7) Richard Cory; 8) A Most Peculiar Man; 9) April Come She Will; 10) We've Got A Groovey Thing Goin'; 11) I Am A Rock; [BONUS TRACKS:] 12) Blues Run The Game; 13) Barbriallen; 14) Rose Of Aberdeen; 15) Roving Gambler.
Sounds Of Silence is sometimes dismissed as a hastily assembled collection of half-baked songs quickly thrown out onto the market after the success of the electrified take on the title track - but, as is nearly always the case, the story's just a wee bit more complicated than that. Concerning the famous electrified version of 'Sound Of Silence', it wasn't even Simon's (not to mention Garfunkel's) own idea; the re-recording was based on the same vocal tracks that were used for Wednesday 4 A.M., the backing band was the same outfit that created Dylan's first electric album, and the mastermind was the duo's original producer Tom Wilson. Nobody even asked Paul's permission - apparently wishing to save on long-distance calls to England where the latter was staying at the time.Still, career-wise it was a brilliant move, even if its impact today is easily overlooked. I mean, it's rather obvious, isn't it, that the song's main strength is in the lyrics and the way they're delivered, never in the musical backing. Who the heck cares if there's a rhythm section and a shrill electric tone to the guitars? It makes pretty little difference. But in those days, that's exactly what it took for making a piece of music transgress its Soho borders and become a nation-wide hit. In fact, technically speaking, it's not even the electric guitar that matters - it's the drums and how they give the song its toe-tapping sheen and emphasize its catchiness. This is stuff you can blare out of your car windows without necessarily looking like a moron. Now then let's take a closer look at the dates, so conveniently added for our convenience on these brand new Columbia reissues. Apparently two of the most blatantly electric numbers - 'Somewhere They Can't Find Me' and 'We've Got A Groovy Thing Goin' - were recorded as early as April '65, which is a whole five months before Wilson's stealthy modernisation trick, and these sure don't sound like they've undergone any late-period electrification to me. Would that mean that Paul and Art were actually planning to go electric all along? Or is there some weird chronological warp here that I'm unaware of? Sometimes, indeed, it's better to stay away from printed figures. Whatever be, it should also be noted that out of the remaining eight tracks, only three are actually electric. In the long run, I don't think Simon & Garfunkel ever considered "going electric" as some sort of serious initiation procedure. They simply didn't make it a matter of principle. Naturally, the electric guitar is LOUD, so electric songs make for better hit candidates; obviously, it's POWERFUL, so if you wanna raise a little hell, you'll crank it up once again. For matters other than this, there's always the old trusty unplugged approach. But that's about it - and that's maybe why I've never heard of any violent stories connected with S&G's "selling out" or involving threatening letters and rotten tomatoes. Unless I'm most severely misinformed, which is always a possibility. As for the "hastily assembled" tag, well... three months are lying in between the success of 'Sound Of Silence' and the recording sessions, and during these three months - or maybe these and the few before them - Simon has come up with a full collection of original tunes, reflecting his poetic and musical vision, featuring his songwriting and arranging style, and what else is needed? Oh, right, to periphrase David Coverdale, "big fat hits and everything". Well, there's two of these, 'Sound Of Silence' and 'I Am A Rock', and then I've always thought that demanding audiences always had this penchant for albums with non-hit material over overtly commercial ones. Here you got yourself a nice balance, then. To cut a long intro short, Sounds Of Silence is my second favourite S&G record. Still a little raw, still a little shy when it comes to tricky overdubs and atmospheric touches, but relatively heavy on the hookline and displaying personality-a-plenty. And all that even despite the fact that it features the ugliest - in my opinion - tune ever recorded by the boys, the ridiculously clumsy "limp-rocker" 'Blessed'. It might have worked as forgettable folksy filler on the previous album, but the loud, droning electric backing, giving the song extra pomp and pseudo-power, swiftly shifts accents from "forgettable" to "outrageous". It's an interesting lyrical statement, no doubt - lines like "blessed are the meth drinkers, pot sellers, illusion dwellers" might have tickled some people's nerves back in the day considerably - but it has next to no melody, the guitars are hideously out of tune, and as an example of "folk-punk" this doesn't even begin to work. A misstep that they fortunately never repeated. Other than that, the magic is firmly and fully in place this time. A song like 'Leaves That Are Green', for instance. 'I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song/I'm twenty-two now but I won't be for long', Simon sings, but the funny thing is, it's exactly the kind of song he'd still be writing at the age of 22, 23, 24, 25... still writing it, I believe. A subtle bouncy acoustic pattern, a voice so quiet you'll have to glue your ears to the speakers, a nice extra touch of some sort - in this here case, a gentle playful harpsichord - and some sad, poignant, personal tale with the word "I" mentioned enough times for you to understand that it isn't really about you at all but for some inexplicable reason you should care all the same. That's quirky Simon magic. Then you can tweak the melody around a bit, swap the singers, and get stately Garfunkel magic - like on 'April Come She Will', which is pretty much the same song as 'Leaves That Are Green' except it's completely different, but you know what I mean. It's often tough to understand the S&G division of labour principle, i.e. which criteria were used for assigning lead vocals to either one of the singers, but the general tendency seems to be that Simon is the more down-to-earth guy where Artie is the untouchable angel one. So maybe for Garfunkel to sing 'I was twenty-one, but I'm twenty-two now' isn't considered nearly as appropriate as to sing Victorian lines like 'August, die she must/The autumn winds blow chilly and cold'. Either way, the effects are cool, and both songs are equally, but differently beautiful in their own rights. On the "louder" songs the boys either just duet around each other or the vocals don't matter all that much anyhow, because the groove is somewhat more important. And yeah, true to its name, 'We've Got A Groovy Thing Goin' is pretty groovy - a cool pop tune that could easily be mistaken for a minor catchy single from one of those contemporary American beat bands like the Gestures or somebody like that. 'Somewhere They Can't Find Me' is hardly worse, featuring a superbly memorable 'fly down the highway' chorus which is, essentially, all that is required from a tune like this. But there's also the darker loud material - above all, the grim epic 'Richard Cory' which is still, I believe, one of their more underrated songs (curiously enough, it was revived by none other than Paul McCartney & Wings on their big 1976 American tour). This one comes to combine catchiness with stereotypical social critique in a way all its own, and packs as much vitriolic aggression within its three minutes as Simon could ever muster. Along with a classy bassline, too, and I like the organ work, too. In a way, it's actually fun to see all the different ways they're trying out to make the electric elements sit at home with the acoustic ones. There's plain Byrds-fashioned jangly riffs. There's overkill, of the 'Blessed' type. And then there's also some really odd stuff, like the frantic chuggin' rhythm that goes along with the harpsichord on 'Leaves That Are Green' - next time you hear the song, pay close attention to the left channel where the player, whoever he is, chugs and choogles along like he's forgotten he's working for Paul Simon and imagines he's working for James Brown instead. Big puzzling question, though - what's 'Anji' doing on here? Not only is it an acoustic instrumental - and thus, entirely unsuitable for the S&G mindset - but it's also credited to Davy Graham, and probably played by him, as well, whoever he is. (No, you find it out, buddy. I've done enough research already). Bigger puzzling question - why does 'Somewhere They Can't Find Me' start by sampling 'Anji' and only then going into its main groove, so you get two songs in a row starting with the exact same acoustic riff? And I'm not at all saying that 'Anji' is a bad acoustic instrumental - far from it - in fact, I'd rather these questions remained unanswered for mystery's sake, but I can't resist asking them anyhow. And it all comes to a close with 'I Am A Rock', probably the most uplifting ode to misanthropy ever recorded. Man, can I ever identify with that one. The oddest thing about it is that it's not necessarily negative in its portrayal of the character - it just tells it the way it is. 'I touch no one and no one touches me' - might not necessarily be such a bad idea, especially if you have your books and your poetry. And the greatest irony about it, of course, is how it managed to become such a notoriously anthemic Simon & Garfunkel hit. Every time I hear it performed live, I feel funny at the thought of a horde of people singing along to the lines 'I am a rock, I am an island'. One of those great con jobs of history. The Columbia reissue might be interesting for a bunch of bonus tracks - such as the acoustic outtake 'Blues Run The Game' (sounds pretty much like the title suggests), and three folksy demos from - if the liner notes are to be believed - a much later epoch (namely, July 8, 1970, probably the last session Paul and Art ever did together), but which fit in with the overall sound nevertheless. Not that any of them are crucial, though; if you happen to have an older CD pressing that includes a live version of 'Homeward Bound' instead, you might as well stick to the old horse. But do be sure to own some copy - Sounds Of Silence strikes a more positive balance between the duo's poppy and artsy sides (and, for that matter, their gloomy and cheerful sides as well) than anything else I've heard by them.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1966
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11
Fifty percent unsurpassed vocal harmonies and fifty percent bland acoustic strumming.Best song: THE 59TH STREET BRIDGE SONG (FEELING GROOVY)
Track listing: 1) Scarborough Fair/Canticle; 2) Patterns; 3) Cloudy; 4) Homeward Bound; 5) The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine; 6) The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy); 7) The Dangling Conversation; 8) Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall; 9) A Simple Desultory Philippic; 10) For Emily Whenever I May Find Her; 11) A Poem On The Underground Wall; 12) 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night.
Just what I was talking' 'bout in the opening paragraph. Wonderful, classic gems mixed with boring filler that makes you go to sleep - even though this is one of their strongest efforts. It's really incredible how exactly half of this stuff does NOTHING or, well, so little for me and exactly the other half is among the most BRILLIANT, 'eartwarming, luxuriant acoustic folk/folk-rock ever written; not to mention one good rocker and one bad rocker. Count me crazy, but so it absolutely is.The best stuff here is all built around brilliant, often moving vocal harmonies. The nostalgic, strangely tender 'Homeward Bound' demonstrates the two dudes really know how to make the best of time signature changes, with the melancholic verses wonderfully alternating with that upbeat, optimistic chorus. Simon's vocals are especially pretty on here. Then there's the notorious album opener - the incredibly complex and breathtaking 'Scarborough Fair/Canticle' (the title of the album is taken from its refrain), which is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous arrangements of a traditional folk song ever. The pretty guitar, the majestic harpsichord, and, above all, the incredible twists and twirls of the vocal harmonies, combine to really make this one of the duet's visit cards. In fact, I can hardly remember any other song in the 'pop/rock' field, apart from a couple Beach Boys tunes, that would carry this experimentation with multiple-layered vocal harmonies further than they do here. Surely they shouldn't even try playing this live! Art particularly shines on the short ballad 'For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her'. This one, I think, fully illustrates my theory: I don't even see any interesting melody on here, just sap. But Garfunkel's angelic vocals are worthy just for the sake of hearing them alone, and transform what could just prove to be a mediocre passable tune in the hands (and in the chords) of a less vocally talented guy into one of the most beautiful love anthems ever recorded. All these songs count. They all score. They all rule. They all make me say: 'Hey! What WONDERFUL singers!' None the more so, however, than on the fantastic '59th Street Bridge Song' where they manage to create an absolutely wonderful, mystique, charming and slightly ridiculous atmosphere which makes me just feel happy like a little boy. The subtitle 'Feelin' Groovy' hits the bullseye - if there's anything groovy in the world, it's that song. In all, the best stuff on here is quite worthy of comparison with Sounds Of Silence, maybe even overshadows it. Alas, the other tracks surrounding these gems are mostly somewhat.. err.. somewhat lame, I guess. Well, I somehow favour the Who-like rocker 'A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission)'; certainly the 'heaviest' piece of music the dudes ever submitted to tape, it's almost punkish in style - a heavily distorted riff accompanies Simon's screams about how he's been 'Mick Jaggered, silver daggered' and, well, I don't know if he's serious and all, but it's just oh so funny to hear the little dude let his hair down a little and go for an angry Dylanish protest delivery, sung in a perfect Roger Daltrey-imitating tone. Oh, and there's plenty of Dylan references in the lyrics, too. Plus, he says 'folk rock' in a very important tone as he ends out the song. Funny. Recently I also discovered the pleasures of a couple of songs I considered as absolute filler early on; 'Patterns', for instance, whose nagging beat and cleverly crafted vocal melody finally managed to get to me. 'Dangling Conversation' also turns out to be a nice ballad; incomparable to the better stuff on here, but with some more precious vocal harmonizing - these descending vocal lines in the verses are alone worth the price of admission. The only thing I don't appreciate is the 'college romance' lyrics about 'and you read your Emily Dickinson/and I my Robert Frost'; I knew the guys were snub-nosed, but hey, no need to show this to a folk-loving audience that cares little about Robert Frost. 'Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall' is also nice. However, I simply can't say the same about 'Cloudy' or 'A Poem On The Underground Wall' - nah! These I'd only recommend to diehard-hardcore folk lovers. I just can't get my piece of pie out of anything like that. It's not that they are bad - they are even listenable, and they do not draw heavily on folky cliches (unlike, say, Dylan's early acoustic stuff); but the melodies are not that strong ('Poem'), and sometimes practically non-existent ('Cloudy'). And the stupid fast pop rocker 'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine' can only be qualified as an unsuccessful parody on whatever you like. Oh, well. Geniality knows its limits, too. Anyway, it's not that Paul was in a bad condition for this album - such a situation is quite normal. Every S&G record has its 'Patterns'. A worthwhile purchase by all means, but still, give me Sounds Of Silence over this stuff any time of day. Hey, did I yet mention that the record finishes with a pedestrian 'anthemic' ballad with a bunch of radio news being recited in the background (aptly titled '7 O'Clock/Silent Night')? What a dreadful way to end a record with such an uplifting beginning.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 2002
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11
Put your Sunday shirt on, have a clean shave, sit down properly, you're in for an evening of intelligent, gentlemanly entertainment.Best song: how should I know?
Track listing: 1) He Was My Brother; 2) Leaves That Are Green; 3) Sparrow; 4) Homeward Bound; 5) You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies; 6) A Most Peculiar Man; 7) The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy); 8) The Dangling Conversation; 9) Richard Cory; 10) A Hazy Shade Of Winter; 11) Benedictus; 12) Blessed; 13) A Poem On The Underground Wall; 14) Anji; 15) I Am A Rock; 16) The Sound Of Silence; 17) For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her; 18) A Church Is Burning; 19) Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
When writing reviews, I usually try to abstract myself from my own "turf", trying to operate with notions and values that'd be fairly universal - but I'm going to make this case an exception, and I hope I'll be able to let you see why. What we're dealing with here is an archive release of one of Paul's and Art's live shows; not just any show, but their first ever, and rather famous, performance at Carnegie Hall on January 22, 1967. The date is important: the psychedelic revolution wasn't yet in full swing (particularly not in America, which fed on rumors about the London underground more than anything else), and the lads could still play their hearts out to a crowd not fully "poisoned" by the likes of Timothy Leary or Country Joe McDonald. Hippie-free safe environment! To quote Art Garfunkel himself right after the first song into the performance, 'wow! Carnegie Hall!' (Rip-roaring laughter).What makes this happening so curious for me is that this kind of experience matches, vibe per vibe, sentiment per sentiment, the atmosphere that you could witness in the Soviet Union around the same time - although in the Soviet Union that atmosphere actually remained pervasive until the eve of its breakdown. Since rock'n'roll was completely underground to an absolute minority, illegal and dangerous to quite a few, and virtually unknown to the majority, the musical sector of cultural life was centered around these kinds of performances: young singer-songwriters, many of them unprofessional, with naught but an old battered acoustic guitar and inspiration, romanticism, and idealism a-plenty, with (preferrably) a little bit of humour for balance. This, too, was "clean", intellectual entertainment, rarely looked down upon with favour from the powers that were (for obvious political reasons), but one that was quite harmless and inoffensive on the surface to be legally wiped out (and, even more important, one that didn't require that many efforts to be provided, either; underground rock bands, with their need for equipment and volume, had a much harder time getting their stuff together). Today, idealistic young people are a lonesome, dying breed, laughed at by the majority who firmly believes that there remains nothing in this world that cannot be bought or sold (and, alas, has a good reason to). But some still remain. Maybe even more than you could imagine. Maybe even in Russia, which is generally known as a country far more sceptical and cynical than the US. And these young people still cherish the image of Simon & Garfunkel as captured on the sleeve of this CD: not because Simon & Garfunkel were two versatile performers who wrote catchy pop songs like 'Mrs Robinson', but because they were two humble, pleasant young lads who could convey the feelings of absolute sincerity and disarming naiveness with but two sets of vocal cords and one acoustic guitar. Well, maybe not all; I guess there's a reason they didn't perform 'Scarborough Fair' at this here concert, and the reason is inability to reproduce all the complex vocal overdubs of the original (they'd get over this problem eventually, but at a price nevertheless). Which reminds me that the crucial difference between S&G, on one hand, and 60s-70s era Russian "bards", on the other, was that S&G weren't merely bards; they were also professionals, and it showed in everything - singing, playing, composing, arranging. The spiritual message was important, but it had to be backed with technical credentials. And these guys had plenty, on stage as well as off it (Simon isn't even afraid of a possible embarrassment when he bravely plays 'Anji' for the crowd - and gets away with it!), which is one of the crucial factors for their music having stood the test of time. Whatever be, here you are at Carnegie Hall with these guys. In terms of big surprises, there's not much to speak about. You do get a couple songs that you're unlikely to hear anywhere else (maybe on the boxset if you look hard enough). 'A Church Is Burning' is one of those old protest covers that were the word of day three years ago, but somehow didn't even make it onto the duo's debut album. Not that it doesn't fit in the general scheme of the concert, which highly relies on material from the Wednesday Morning era; remember, here, on the stage of Carnegie Hall, these two guys are supposed to bring light and hope for the liberal-minded slice of the middle class; no need to play the old Dylanesque game with the audience. On the other hand, the other "new" song, 'You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies', certainly shows that Simon was trying to get into the old Dylanesque game (and so the song, predictably, gets somewhat less aplause than 'Church'). More exciting, actually, are the short jokes, blurbs, and stories that the guys (mostly Art, who apparently had this as sort of a subconscious compensation for not playing an instrument) chuck in between performances. For instance, did you know about the chain of events that led to the creation of 'Poem On The Underground Wall'? I sure did not, and I ain't gonna disclose it to you, just to give you one more incentive to donate some cash to Columbia Records. For the most part, the banter just presents Paul and Art the way they really are - a pair of polite, refined, Robert Frost-influenced college students - but hey, it's people like that who are actually responsible for the world's not having been blown to pieces so far, so give 'em a hand. Big question, though: why is the audience laughing when Simon announces the third song with little else but 'This is a song called 'Sparrow'?' Is Artie out there flapping his hands behind Paul's back or something? As for the track listing, it is more or less evenly distributed between the three studio albums (the two new songs and an interesting "sneak preview" of 'Hazy Shade Of Winter' are the only exceptions). If you have doubts about the ability of a minimalistic setting like this to grip your attention, scratch them out: the important thing is that Art's singing is first-rate throughout, and the lovely flourishes on 'For Emily' are almost threatening the safety of the studio version. In fact, stripping down the proceedings sometimes helps: 'Blessed', for instance, when liberated from its clumsy electric shell, becomes quite palatable - and, a propos, this can't be a coincidence that they play it back to back with 'Benedictus', can it, given that the latter is the Latin equivalent for the former? Damn college influences. Not that I'm saying this is an obligatory purchase or anything; when the fumes of nostalgia fade away, I'm forced to admit that the importance is primarily historical (and as much as the authors of the sprawling liner notes don't want to admit it, it is nevertheless implied in every second paragraph). That said, if you'd rather own a 'sampler' of the boys' work than the complete catalog, then by all means grab this instead of soulless hit packages. Sure you'll be missing some eternal greats like 'Scarborough Fair', as well as everything from the 1968-70 period, but on the other hand, you'll get it all along with the vibe, and this particular vibe is priceless. Believe you me: Live From New York City is as good an introduction into the world of Tom and Jerry as nothing else is. Then again, it might be, of course, that you only like the lads for their radio-friendly craftsmanship, and don't actually care for how the songs are performed (or even for who gets to perform them) as long as you can hum the melody. In that case, you're welcome to get yourself a hit collection - and then get out of my sight forever, you big bright green pleasure machine!!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11
Fifty percent unsurpassed vocal harmonies and fifty percent bland acoustic strumming.Best song: MRS ROBINSON
Track listing: 1) Bookends Theme; 2) Save The Life Of My Child; 3) America; 4) Overs; 5) Voices Of Old People; 6) Old Friends; 7) Bookends Theme (reprise); 8) Punky's Dilemma; 9) Fakin' It; 10) Missis Robinson; 11) Hazy Shade Of Winter; 12) At The Zoo.
A concept album, and the concept is pretty weak - based on the themes of old love, old friends and nostalgy for the days of childhood. Like every conceptual album, it has its worst excesses ('Voices Of Old People' for which the boys have recorded lots of these voices talking about death and such-like - an idea later taken on by Pink Floyd on Dark Side Of The Moon), but, fortunately enough, the concept does not embody the whole record, or else everybody in the world would be bored to death by the likes of the title theme (a short uninteresting acoustic patch) or 'Old Friends'. I can't really imagine how it is possible to love 'Old Friends', to be sincere. The song consists, like, of two acoustic chords and a dreary marsh of banal sappy orchestration! Even the vocal harmonies don't do much for that one. This is where conceptuality got the better of Simon, and he actually forgot to base a good melody around what was probably supposed to be the album's centerpiece. And the strange experimentation with the orchestra, whether this stuff was played live or Paul just tampered with the tapes, doesn't do much good; after all, the song is no 'A Day In The Life'.Fortunately, the record is not entirely conceptual, and there's still a lot to love on it. There are several unmarred songs here, and some are mighty gems that clearly demonstrate Simon's graduation. 'Mrs Robinson' is among the best songs they ever did (it was written specially for the Graduate soundtrack, and just as well as it fits into the movie it is one of the catchiest pieces of art I've ever heard. What were they - inspired by Dustin Hoffman?). 'America' is a half-baked, but arrogant and welcome try at a truly anthemic song, since then covered by God knows how many performers in the business, and Lord knows the number needs little introduction from me. Dreamy, gorgeous and, well, all that kind of stuff. Ya know. Meanwhile, it's simply not true, as some people do suggest, that all of this album is slow and dreary and lethargic: the first side of it, almost entirely dedicated to the 'concept', is, but the second side hides a few somewhat more passionate gems - like 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter', a song that boasts a level of energy and passion that could only be dreamt of on Parsley (the only energetic song there was 'A Simple Desultory Philippic', and it was just a groove at that). The grumbly acoustic riff, moody organ and the duets' 'cyclic' vocal harmonies that finally end the tune on an abrupt note are enough to make the number their second best on this album. The song has a certain autumnal mood, indeed, like the Kinks' 'Autumn Almanac', only here it's much more disturbing and ominous. But if it's too dark and scary for you, 'At The Zoo' is your bet - an incredibly cool cozy little tune that neatly ends up the record on a friendly, humorous, and fast-going note - just what you need after such an overall depressing album. I particularly love the line about zebras being reactionaries and antelopes being missionaries (I wonder why?), but the lyrics are nearly all hilarious and entirely satisfying, whatever 'satisfaction' means for you when applied to a S&G album. Still, there are much too many flaws on this record to grant it a perfect rating. I've originally given this an eight, but I sure was mistaken - the beauty of 'America', the dreariness of 'Hazy Shade', the fun of 'At The Zoo', the catchiness of 'Mrs Robinson' and the groovy innocence of 'Punky's Dilemma', another highlight which roughly corresponds to '59th Bridge Street Song' on the previous record, are all enough to guarantee it a nine. I guess that my main problems on here stem from the fact that Paul and Art have blown the bubble a bit too far on this record, exploding it with a bang on pretentious, much-too-serious filler like 'Old Friends', 'Overs' and the ridiculous 'Voices Of Old People'. Clearly, Simon is one of those dudes that have some serious troubles when marrying solid catchy melodies to their conceptual ambitions - it's either one or the other. Too much emphasis is placed on the 'aural effect' side and too few put into finding new exciting harmonies. Not that such an approach ain't at all justified: for instance, it does result in arguably the most untypical song they ever recorded - the feedback-drenched 'Save The Life Of My Child', an almost prog-rock tune that has has some weird noises a la Pink Floyd (and not the 1968 Pink Floyd - rather like the 1979 Pink Floyd!), more tricky time signature changes, other-worldly female backup vocals in the background, and a weird atmosphere that seems to be shouting out 'EXPERIMENT! EXPERIMENT!' at any given particular second. I have mixed feelings towards that one - it ain't very catchy, but it does sound impressive, at times. I also disapprove of the fact that Art isn't given that much to bother about on this album. Sure, Simon continues to mature as a songwriter, and that's good, but where are those angelic vocals? There's nothing even remotely resembling 'For Emily' on this album - hey, it could have easily passed for a solo Simon project. Bad idea. And what's that with the depressing album cover? Black sweaters? Art sticking his fingers in his ear? Boo. To see how a really good conceptual album about old people should be made, please refer to Arthur by the Kinks, a true masterpiece of the genre.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13
Maturity + diversity = the key to success!Best song: BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER
Track listing: 1) Bridge Over Troubled Water; 2) El Condor Pasa (If I Could); 3) Cecilia; 4) Keep The Customer Satisfied; 5) So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright; 6) The Boxer; 7) Baby Driver; 8) The Only Living Boy In New York; 9) Why Don't You Write Me; 10) Bye Bye Love; 11) Song For The Asking.
All right! No more concepts! No more sticking to dark sweaters and acoustic guitars! Something must have clicked in the heads of both of these guys in 1969 - unfortunately, that was the "something" that established their somber egos once and for all, and led them to taking their own roads for the most part of the rest of their lives. But that "something" also led to the creation of this near-masterpiece - the most consistently enjoyable record in the S&G repertoire. Not only is it just as jam-packed (and maybe even more) with hits and instantly recognizable tunes than the rest of their records, even the "lesser" numbers on here are strong and concisely written. Add to this the incessant, almost alarming maturation of Simon as a lyricist and the continuing experimentation with musical styles and textures, and there you have it - an album that's certainly not "better than the sum of its parts", but geez, what amazing parts, eh?I'm not going to pull a stunning individuality complex here; I contend that the three most well-known songs are easily the best on here. The title track is a rare case of Simon fiddling around with gospel influences, and God bless him for actually forcing Garfunkel to sing it - check out Simon himself struggling with the formerly gorgeous vocal melody of the song on Live Rhymin' to see the possible evil consequences of Art's refusal. I don't need to describe it, right? Okay, just to be special, I actually think the third verse of the song ('sail on silvergirl...') is completely unnecessary, and they should have certainly refrained from using that stupid booming percussion sound in the background, and also that I don't think the idea of ending the refrain on a high note instead of a definitive conclusive lower note was that good - the last refrain in particular leaves the feeling of something left unsaid, don't you feel? In other words, the song just flat-out sucks, a worthless imitation of true gospel feeling by two wimps who can't even figure out a half-decent arrangement... ...okay, enough shock value for this review. (Now let's see how long it will take for somebody sending me a flame about this). Then, of course, there's Simon fiddling around with South American Indian influences on 'El Condor Pasa (If I Could)', which has an 18th century Peruvian folk instrumental melody set to a 20th century New York nerd vocal melody - a marriage most certainly arranged in heaven. Is it the catchiest thing ever to come out of Paul Simon's head or what? Well, maybe 'Mrs Robinson' is going to beat it, I dunno. In any case, there's no denying the groundbreaking character of the thing; use of Indian folk in rock music was hardly a common thing as early as 1970. And finally, there's 'The Boxer' - a beautifully created tale of woe and quiet desperation that I wouldn't ever trade in for the entire Springsteen catalog, even if again I find this preoccupation with the 'bash! bash! bash!' percussion rhythms a little too weird. But everything else about the song is beautiful - the interlocking acoustic guitars, the gentle vocals, the subtle lyrics, the cute solo break (is that pedal steel?), the fat little chuggin' brass overdubs which jump out at you when you least expect it, the minimalistic, but oh so intimate lie-la-lie chorus, and most of all - the amazing crescendo at the end, with the vocals slowly drowned out in that ocean of orchestration - and then it all returns back to the wonderful acoustic rhythms. If this isn't an unbelievable example of startling artistic maturation, I don't know what is. And that's only the three "major" tracks. In between and around, you'll also have the hilarious arousing 'Cecilia' which certainly will have you clapping your knees in no time ('jubilation! she loves me again' just cracks me up every time I hear it); the 'Feelin' Groovy'-style upbeat acoustic jingle 'Keep The Customer Satisfied', which predicts some of the better early solo Simon jingles (actually, any fan of this album should make it his due to pick up Simon's solo self-titled debut - which is very close in atmosphere to Bridge); the touching tribute to America's greatest architect in 'So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright', a pretty acoustic ballad punctuated by an inobtrusive string quartet - nowhere near as powerful as 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', of course, but still far more memorable and concentrated than oh so many barebones acoustic songs on their earlier albums; and the energizing shuffle of 'Baby Driver', which is just a great song to learn on your guitar and then play it at every party you're invited to (especially if you have "sex appeal" problems!). And note - together with the hits, that's seven strong tunes in all, and they all come in a row! The best streak of Simon & Garfunkel ever! I sort of start losing interest a little towards the end, because I could never get the particular appeal of 'The Only Living Boy In New York', which doesn't have a strongly expressed hook like six of those seven and is a little bit too overproduced to have the intimate charm of 'Frank Lloyd Wright'. Still, it's got a bit of that romantic mystical mood which is lacking on the previous seven, so it also has a place on the album. 'Why Don't You Write Me' starts Simon's obsession with ska, although it hardly holds a candle to 'Mother And Child Reunion' on his solo debut - still funny, with a groovy brass arrangement. The Everley Brothers' cover of 'Bye Bye Love' (recorded live? why? just to show how the audience liked to clap along with Simon & Garfunkel?) is a little bit pointless, but at least it's a Fifties rock'n'roll hit, and that means it's melodic and catchy and all that - and finally, 'Song For The Asking' closes the album on another sentimental note. It doesn't work on its own, but it certainly works as a pretty "lullaby-style" goodbye to the fans... hmm, so maybe the album is more than the sum of its parts, then? Nah. It's really pretty disjointed. It flows together okay, but the songs in general are "individualities" rather than anything else. Not that it bothers me - it's a great, great collection of songs, with nary a stinker in sight. Previous albums were either a little bit too naive (1965), a little bit too inconsistent (1966), or a little bit too pretentious (1968) - Bridge Over Troubled Water eschews all that and no matter what anybody might say, it is still the band's masterpiece, and it fully deserved that Grammy, too, as well as displacing either Abbey Road or Led Zep II (I don't remember exactly which) off the charts.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1982
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11
A pleasant reunion concert that could even work as a greatest hits live collection if not for some crappy solo Simon stuff.Best song: shucks.
Track listing: 1) Mrs Robinson; 2) Homeward Bound; 3) America; 4) Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard; 5) Scarborough Fair; 6) April Come She Will; 7) Wake Up Little Suzie; 8) Still Crazy After All These Years; 9) American Tune; 10) Late In The Evening; 11) Slip Slidin' Away; 12) A Heart In New York; 13) Kodachrome/Maybellene; 14) Bridge Over Troubled Water; 15) Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover; 16) The Boxer; 17) Old Friends; 18) The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy); 19) The Sound Of Silence.
A groovy record. Paul and Art parted ways (or should I say 'paul-arted ways' instead! Ha! Ha!) in 1970, and were living pretty happily without each other, with Mr Simon writing songs and making solo albums and Mr Garfunkel just making solo albums, until they reunited for a concert and a live record (rumours had it that they would go on recording, but Paul 'accidentally' wiped out Garfunkel's vocals off the next record, so I guess there won't be any reunion concerts any more) that pretty much summed up their entire career and more. The performance itself was held in Central Park, New York, on September 19, 1981, as the liner notes kindly tell us, and was attended by about 500,000 people. Pretty mean for 1981, eh?While the performance is surprisingly tasteful and energetic in general, and manages to dsisguise any kind of tension that could exist between the two gentlemen at the time, one thing that puts me off about the resulting record is that about half of it consists of Simon's solo material, and, while the collaborative hits are undeniable, the quality of his solo material is, er, random at the least. As you could see from my solo Simon page, I'm not a huge fan of his solo output, much of which has been too tepid and way too introspective for introspectivity's sake, although, to tell the truth, he wasn't that much more talented in the Garfunkel days - it's just that Art's voice, as we all know, was often enough as a value unto itself to save even a particularly hookless songs. Anyway, while we're on the solo Simon topic, there are some good humour numbers ('Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard', one of my favourite solo numbers of his), some good nostalgic hits ('Still Crazy After All These Years' - what was Art doing while Simon was singing this one? Taking a nap?), some menacing, not uninteresting rockers ('Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover', also a favourite of mine), some boring Bookends-style ravings ('American Tune', a shameless "follow-up" to his own 'America' that is also here), and some commercial crap ('Kodachrome' - yuck!) Whatever. I'm just not that wooed over Paul's solo career - I know he's had his ups and downs, but I also guess they're represented on this album somewhat equally. And I simply don't think that cluttering the performance with his solo material was all that polite in Mr Garfunkel's face. Sheez, there's five solo Simon tunes right there in the middle, with just one solo Garfunkel song ('A Heart In New York')! Also, the oldies' covers on here are also out of the picture ('Maybellene'???? 'Wake Up Little Suzie'? Boy, are we in the wrong place.) Can't deny the hits, though: the most important thing is that the voices and the harmonies are still there, as demonstrated by the terrific versions of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', 'Feelin' Groovy', 'Scarborough Fair' and 'Homeward Bound'. I can just imagine the wild happiness of the public that was finally able to see these two guys doing 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' instead of having to hear Simon's ragged vocals substituted for Garfunkel's heavenly delivery on his live shows. 'The Boxer' doesn't come off as good, with a suffering vocal mix and a somewhat quivering delivery of the refrain, but it's still enjoyable. It should also specially be noted that the closing encore of 'Sound Of Silence' is fully acoustic, following the original version rather than the (in)famous 'electrical re-write'. For some reason they've also decided to include some forgettable filler ('April Come She Will'; 'Old Friends'), but it's not the worst filler piece I've ever heard. And anyway, I have few complaints about severe lackings in the set list. Most of my favourite S&G tunes are here. I would probably like them to have... well, let's see, I really miss stuff like 'At The Zoo' or 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter', and maybe 'Richard Cory' woulds be nice, or something more venomous like 'I Am A Rock', but overall, even if I program out all the solo filler, there's still enough first-rate tunes and performances to brighten my day. Not to mention the "technical stuff". The packaging is neat with a lot of photos and stuff, the backing band is solid (I could have done without the synthesizers on a couple of tracks, but maybe others couldn't), the crowd noises don't usually get in the way, the mix on most tracks is near-perfect - what else would you expect? Not mentioning the mighty pleasant fact that this is a 2-record set pressed onto one CD, so it's also quite an economic buy (especially if you find it cheap). I'm satisfied, anyway. You? P.S. Now that I finally got Sounds Of Silence, I would like to make a correction: 'April Come She Will' is a gorgeous ballad. It's just that this live version didn't let me know this fact. Apologies. And while we're on the subject, 'Kodachrome' also isn't as horrible as I once thought. Come to think of it, I don't even understand why I once thought that 'Kodachrome' was a terrible song. Not particularly great, of course, but... decent.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1997?
Awesome! Everybody needs a collection like this if he doesn't want to spend his money on everything! Me, I only keep it because I haven't been able to lay my hands on about half of their output (yet), but even so, the song selection is near perfect! Okay, they could have easily dropped 'Old Friends' for as much as I care, but 'Homeward Bound'? 'Feelin' Groovy'? 'Scarborough Fair'? 'America'? 'Mrs Robinson'? Yeah, I know it's impossible to imagine a Simon & Garfunkel hit collection without these chunks o' gold, but you never know what to expect of these crazy record companies.The early material includes the forgettable, but nice title track from 1964's Wednesday Morning 3 A. M.; the magnificent misanthropic 'I Am A Rock'; 'Sounds Of Silence', of course, and here you'll also get your 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', 'Cecilia', 'Boxer'... ooh man, these are the songs! The songs! What a pity they also had to pull out such a lot of crap along the way - the Great Consistent Album of S&G had only a chance to come out once (it's no small wonder Bridge Over Troubled Water has a whoppin' six selections on this compilation), and, seeing as the guys aren't in a particular haste about making another one, we'll hardly get a chance to witness that phenomenon again any time soon. So, in the meantime, get your dough out and buy this collection (or one from a million of others). And what a cool, almost impressionistic album photo!
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