Simon & Garfunkel – The Essential Simon & Garfunkel

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

My first Simon & Garfunkel album was (a dubbed copy of) The Concert In Central Park. For many years, this was the only Simon & Garfunkel I owned, so it was a shock to me later when I heard the studio versions (and also when I learned that the Simon solo songs from the show were not Simon & Garfunkel songs). I still think of the Central Park versions as the relevant lodestars. One more thing. Simon & Garfunkel released five studio albums. They employed an ampersand for the first two (Wednesday Morning, 3AM; Sounds of Silence), switched to an “and” for the third (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme), reverted to the elegant symbol for Bookends, and then ended things back on the “and” (Bridge Over Troubled Water). This ambivalence – or carelessness – is fucking inexcusable. Just so you know, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel met in elementary school and started out as a duo called Tom & Jerry.

What I Think of This Album

It turns out that you don’t really need that much Simon & Garfunkel. I assume any Greatest Hits comp should suit almost anyone’s needs. This one is fine. Notably (and properly), it pulls almost half of its 33 tracks from Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water. And even then it cheats because the final song – “My Little Town” – is not really a Simon & Garfunkel song and they use a live version of “Overs” instead of the studio version from Bookends. So really, they use 17 songs from two albums out of a total of 32 legitimate Simon & Garfunkel songs. Frustratingly, they end up having to split the Bookends tracks across the two discs.

Implicit in this decisionmaking is that much of the early stuff is pretentious crap. I don’t know who decided to group “A Most Peculiar Man,” ”I Am a Rock,” and “Richard Cory” together – I sort of hope it was a cruel joke – but it makes me want to say “I. Get. It. Let’s move on to a different theme, please. Message received.” Also, “A Dangling Conversation” is embarrassingly terrible and all my life I have HATED “Scarborough Fair/Canticle.”

The best of the early stuff is obviously “The Sound of Silence,” “Homeward Bound,” and “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” and even this last one is sort of a squeaker. Which is not to absolve the later material. Paul Simon is consistently an affected wannabe poet. “Overs” is silly and “Bookends Theme” is stuffy. “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” would be more annoying if it wasn’t so boring.

Bookends is an album that one could arguably justify owning (and I did at one point). “Hazy Shade of Winter” is fantastic, and I love “At the Zoo” (especially the harmony near-scream towards the end). “Mrs. Robinson” (later covered by the Lemonheads) is unbeatable and “Old Friends” is pretty good. “America” is also a stone-cold classic – just gorgeous. But again, you could just get a comp and make things easy and more economical for yourself.

There are a lot of live tracks on this – eight – but none of them is a song that matters. Some of the early material was produced by Bob Johnston (Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, the Byrds) and Tom Wilson (Dylan, the Velvet Underground, Sun Ra).

The Best Thing About This Album

Making me realize that Simon & Garfunkel are overrated.

Release Date

October, 2003

The Cover Art

Did somebody order somebody else to find the picture of Simon and Garfunkel in which each of them has the worst haircut of their life?

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