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Simon and Garfunkel

American folk rock

Wednesday Morning 3 a.m

The Sound of Silence

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Bookends

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

 

 

 

Simon and Garfunkel

Wednesday Morning 3 a.m - Released 1964 - 6.5

This first release from Simon and Garfunkel is a beautifully understated album that sets up the golden future that they were to enjoy before the self destruct button took over. It is a mixture of traditional songs such as Peggy-O, Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream and Go Tell it on the Mountain with more contemporary pieces such as Dylan's The Times They are A-Changin and original Paul Simon numbers. And rather than detract, the three elements make it a very rounded album with the vocal harmonies at the forefront and the changes in pace and keys showing that the duo are already developing. Simon is certainly developing as a songwriter and into what he was to become - arguably the greatest poet in folk/rock music and in that I include Dylan. He Was My Brother is a powerful tribute to the lost of war, Bleecker Street and Sparrow set the rules for future songs and of course the sublime Sound of Silence is the highlight of an album that is to bring the duo international recognition.

The Sound of Silence - Released 1966 - 6.5

Paul Simon took the bulls by the horns to write 10 of the 11 tracks on this second album which opens with a more electric version of the title track which first appeared on Wednesday Morning. Simon was fast becoming the most thoughtful and intelligent of songs writers and here tried to vary the feel of his songs with some slightly rockier like Somewhere They Can't Find Me and Blessed with the first of these again using the theme of theft and being a fugitive - something introduced on Wednesday Morning. Obviously the album is primarily remembered for the poetic beauty of what were to become Simon and Garfunkel classics. Songs like Kathy's Song, April Come She Will and I Am A Rock. It has to be said, however, that there are one or two fill in tracks here which prevent the album from reaching folk legend status. If Wednesday Morning was a mixture of classic and original folk, this was the album where Paul Simon began to emerge as a great songwriter.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Time - Released 1966 - 6.5

On virtually every album, Paul Simon's songwriting comes up with a song of such pure poetry it takes your breath away and here they just kept coming. Homeward Bound remains one of his greatest songs. The lyrics are hugely powerful - some of the greatest couplets ever written. This album probably recaptures the feel of the mid sixties more than the first two offerings. I have read reviews stating that this is S and G's equivalent to Surf's Up by the Beach Boys and Sergeant Pepper by the Beatles. I certainly wouldn't go that far as both of those albums have virtually no flaw or low spots. Here the rockier style songs like The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine don't really work, but there is always another Paul Simon classic to follow - beautiful songs like The Dangling Conversation, For Emily Whenever I May Find Her and Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall and the album closes with one of my favourite pieces - the mixing of Silent Night with a 7 O'Clock News bulletin. This is a protest song against the futility of war, the world we lived and still live in and a hugely poignant song. Listening now once again to all the Simon and Garfunkel albums it is so difficult to differentiate between them - hence the similar ratings for the first three.

Bookends - Released 1968 - 7

The fourth album opens with a quiet, peaceful Bookends theme and then gives way to a very dramatic Save the Life of My Child which gives a hint of the songwriting direction that Paul Simon would move into after splitting with Art Garfunkel. Perhaps to date I haven't given Garfunkel his due. A pitch perfect voice, he breathed life into Simon's songs. Nowhere is this more evident than on Overs where Simon takes the lead vocals only for Garfunkel to wade in with some sublime singing of his own. Eventually S and G would release numerous Greatest Hits compilations and the standard of their general output can be gauged from the fact that every album has its fair sprinkling of great songs. On Bookends we have "America," "Old Friends," "Mrs Robinson," and "Hazy Shade of Winter. "If anything this album has a more mature outlook to life and a forward progression that would turn the duo towards one of the most successful albums ever released Bridge over Troubled Waters. Occasionally S and G came up with something slightly over the wall. "Voices of Old People" is exactly what the track suggests and it is difficult to place that within the rest of Bookends until you listen to the following track "Old Friends" which makes sense of the whole thing.

Bridge over Troubled Waters - Released 1970 - 8

Whilst always accepting that Bridge is a classic album I have to admit I didn't own a copy until a short while ago. That was entirely due to the fact that I grew up with the album and seem to know every note of it. These songs have been with me for almost 40 years. If Paul Simon was searching for a torch song, an epic from which to remember him, he came up with it in the title track - a sublime epic that is known by virtually everyone and became the duo's only number one single in the UK. The interesting thing is that after the title track, there's a slightly subdued feel to the remainder of the album. The songs are different to anything the duo had attempted before but I have never quite been able to put my finger on how and why. Everyone knows El Condor Pasa - if not the title and The Boxer is right up there with Paul Simon's greats. Elsewhere we are introduce to architecture via "So Long Frank Lloyd Wright" and the remainder of the album is just beautifully crafted songs that entrance and delight. But it isn't the individual songs that work so well here as the feel of completeness that dominates the album - a true legacy as it represented not only their highest point but also the last of a run of five very strong albums full of great folk/pop/rock songs.