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Simon and Garfunkel

Dude, It's still a lot cooler of a name than 'Tom and Jerry'

Introduction
Wednesday Morning, 3AM
The Sounds Of Silence
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Bookends
Bridge Over Troubled Water
The Concert in Central Park
 

That's right, brothers and cousins, the Folk-Rock duo known as Simon and Garfunkel first recorded in the late 50's as 'Tom and Jerry', releasing one song ('Hey Schoolgirl') that went to the top 50 and then...erm, hitting a bit of a sticky patch for about 6 years. Can you imagine Paul Simon sitting around there in his early 20's, telling folks that he actually had a song in the top 50 some years back? And then, like, his boss tells him to shut up already and get on with sucking the old grease out of the fryer because he's gotta get up early tomorrow morning, and he's not gonna have some stubby Jewish kid wasting his time. Or something like that.

Actually, that probably never happened. I mostly imagine Paul and Artie sitting around in vintage bookstores in dark grey turtlenecks (just like on the Bookends cover), thinking about Picasso and where their next cup of tea is going to come from. Because if there were ever two dudes that scream out 'We Went To College!', its Albert Einstein and Lemmy Kilminster (oh, c'mon...I bet Lemmy rode his Hog through a campus at least once or twice, if only to plunder sorority chicks). But if there were ever two guys who wanted you to think they went to college, it was Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. These guys are, like, the most earnest folks in rock. They got started singing their Bob Dylan/Pete Seeger/Woody Guthrie/Carter Family/Troggs folk tunes in the early 60's, seeing just cool it was to act all 'rootsy' even though it was obvious they spoke a little quicker whenever they had to actually step foot in Brooklyn. Thing was, the guys' voices matched nicely together, and really there's few things less offensive than a well-sung and well-played folk album like the boys' first effort Even had some decent originals thanks to the poppy pen of Paul. But still, no one caught on and they broke up. End of review.

But wait! A year or so on down the road their Producer, Tom Wilson, was listening to the radio one day and came upon one of the Byrds' chimey, rocking folk covers that was selling out the jukebox at that moment. BONANZA! RAWHIDE! HAWAII FIVE-OH! Tack some of those guitars on 'Sounds Of Silence' off Wednesday Morning, 3 AM and you've got yourself a pocketful of diamonds and gold, man. So the careers of Mssrs. Simon and Garfunkel were resurrected, again, and they went on to become a huge-selling bridge between respectability and freakiness. Sure, they looked and sounded cleaner than a whistle, but, by way of Simon's interesting lyric writing, were somehow able to tap the pulse of the street and show people the television shows they wanted to see at any particular time but WITHOUT MAKING IT CORNY! Wow! Try that, Bee Gees! No one else could've scored the soundtrack to The Graduate, the movie for reasonable intelligent young folks, too scared to drop out but still not quite ready to vote for Goldwater, feeling lost in late 60's America. But they also sometimes didn't know what was cool and what was jive, and when they stink, they resembled a sewer drain on a hot day. And they liked to be 'cute' and 'clever' just like the sophomores they were, so watch out.

So, though their limitations are obvious to all who wish to peer inside, Simon and Garfunkel were able to score some catchy, timely, and over all that, intelligent songs for their time. And just because they look like pompous Ivy-League English majors and talk a lot about New York doesn't mean you shouldn't love 'em just a bit.


Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. - Columbia 1964.

I was expecting this record to be much worse than it is. But it's still not so hot. Check it out: in 1964, the words of the prophet were written on the subway walls, and those words were 'Blowin' In The Wind'. And Bob Dylan was the prophet. No one could touch the guy after he put out Freewheelin', but everyone wanted to at least put their attempt in at copying the guy. And when you get two nice guys together whose voices mix better than Southern Comfort and Royal Crown, I don't care how many corny folk cliches they throw at you, it's at least going to be a soothing listen.

Man, oh, man...if only they'd been just a little more inventive with their choices of 'American Folk Standards' to cover. Bob Dylan laughed the thing out like one long joke, but S&G slide 'Peggy O' out in this dorky over-reverent tone. You gotta save the reverence for when you're squealing for your very soul by kissing the ass of the Lord through song, man. Like on 'You Can Tell The World'. Or, even better, 'Go Tell It On The Mountain'. The do it like they mean it, much better than when they tried to make us sing this in second grade music class, until some kid's parents complained because of some poop about separating church and state. I say let's separate church and planet, and send all the 'true believers' off to Mars or some place even more remote and less protected from UV radiation, and then they can thump their books and poke their noses into each other's private lives till their heart's content (which means probably until their hearts have stopped cold in their dead, soulless carcass).

You think that was gross? It sure ain't as disgustin' as the silly The Day After preview of 'The Sun Is Burning', which does us the favor of informing us that Nuclear War is Bad, Man. You know what was creepy about that Day After movie? It took place in MY TOWN! Or, well, 10 minutes from my town. I was SEVEN FUCKING YEARS OLD, and there's this show about what would happen to MY VERY TOWN in the event of a nuclear exchange. And it's not like we're talking about Los Angeles here. Lawrence goddamn Kansas hit just a BIT TOO CLOSE TO HOME, dig? Okay...and I didn't sleep for like, 2 weeks after that. And sure never liked Reagan's cold war bullshit, neither. Made me a radical leftist, it did. To this day.

Okay...then to drive their point home (and tie up All the Loose Ends) they give us 'The Times They Are-A Changin' as if they sing it better than the Kingston Trio....psha! Eh...I think it's pretty dumb to cover two songs your Folk Messiah has already done in just the past year or so. Makes me think that maybe they aren't all that bright yet about this making records thing.

Or maybe they weren't so bad. Simon's three originals, 'Sparrow', 'Bleecker Street', and 'The Sounds Of Silence' outpace almost everything else on the record. C'mon...you're going to tell me that the New York love-song of 'Bleecker Street' is a bit rambling and lacking in melody, and 'Sparrow' (which is dramatically melodic, dammit!) but is just a tad bit too close to Rush's 'The Trees' for comfortable digestion through the colon. And I'll agree with what you say. These two songs come across as if Paul knows how to write a song, like he's memorized the formula, but the guy himself is just a bit too dorky to do anything better. I mean, dorky people write dorky songs. Just look at Neil Peart...if that's not one guy who lacked for dates in high school then I'm not some loudmouthed opinionated asshole. But no dork wrote 'Sounds Of Silence', which is so FAR better than even 'Times' (even in its totally acoustic version) it's a wonder they even put it on the record. The lameness of the rest of it is put in relief. If this song weren't around I'd probably feel a lot better about the rest, but since its here, I go 'Where the hell are the rest of the great self-penned lyrics and melodies on this thing?'

Capn's Final Word: They're on the rest of their records, that's where. And since 'Sounds Of Silence' was later given its own record, there's no real point to buying this group of cheesy covers any time soon.

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Sounds Of Silence - Columbia 1966

Oh yes. If last time they were following just a little bit too closely on the footsteps of Mr. Zimmerman, this time they've been bitten by the Byrds bug. That's understandable for the reason that they'd scored such a huge hit with the grafted-on electrification of 'Sounds Of Silence' from their first record. And just so you don't forget it, that song's positioned as the leadoff track, surprise surprise surprise (hey, did you know I do a REALLY good Gomer impression? I learned how to do it when I was like 6 years old. No one else in Miss Hess's first grade class had a clue as to what I was doing. I was such a smart ass.)

Oh, the great live 'touring is a bitch and I wanna go home' whinefest 'Homeward Bound', the ultra-pretty Art-showcase ballad  'April Come She Will' and the boring instrumental 'Anji' may point to the contrary, but the catchword on here is folk rock, and the chimier the better. The protopsychedelia of 'Blessed' and the super-Byrdsy 'Somewhere They Can't Find Me' and the hits 'I Am A Rock' (oh, and the title track, too. The obvious splice job is distracting but it's still one hell of a song...plus I like the electric arrangements regardless. They did fine work and it really was a brilliant idea.) are some of the most melodic, interesting, and well-crafted stuff you're going to find with the F/R label affixed. Really, really good songs, with only a little bit of a derivative aftertaste. I mean 'Somewhere' is a great song, but its obvious they were trying to get as close to McGuinn's sound as they could.

Problems arise when they don't do the formula very well and end up with mere mush. First thing is, Simon is in his natural element when he's writing these psycho-dramas like 'I Am A Rock' (about a man as an island, and probably the theme song for more than one whiny brat kid who feels 'alienated' because he doesn't like sports and isn't asked out on many dates...problem is that the song is a satire of that way of thinking. Not a very subtle or funny one, neither, but the song is as catchy as gonorrhea.) but falls flat on his nose when he tries a more-or-less normal pop song in 'We've Got A Groovy Thing Going' (pbbllt!). And he's able to rip the Byrds but he's not 100% with his other influences. 'Richard Cory' goes for contemporary Kinks and, though it's not awful, it's not real satisfying...and c'mon, next to 'A Most Peculiar Man', that's TWO songs about suicide right next to each other. One is pushing it, but TWO? Jeez, talk about pushing buttons.

Capn's Final Word: Charming more often than not, and be happy they're not 'experimenting' yet, but it's still got some rough spots. Whatever, they were young and needed the money.

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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme - Columbia 1966.

Oh they try so hard on this one. Just listen to their gorgeous rendition of the traditional 'Scarborough Fair', to all those Simons and Garfunkels twisting and turning all inside out each other. Brian Wilson would have been proud, but he was probably too busy hiding from that evil homicidal Phil Spector to ever have heard this record in 1966. (Ever read Brian's autobio Wouldn't It Be Nice? FanTAStic read...makes me wish I owned a Beach Boys record. I'll have to catch up when I get back to the States again.) What I remember most about this song is sitting in 2nd grade music class, and the bourgeois old teacher lady passed this music out and we like totally didn't know what we were supposed to sing. I bet she'd spent so long writing out these lines, too, but we just didn't give a fuck. Give us 'Waltzing Matilda' again!

Hmm, they've moved from chimey folk rock to attempting to be as pretty as possible on all the tracks. Precious, even, like they just want all the mothers in the audience to tell them how goddamned aDORable they both are. 'The Dangling Conversation', 'Patterns' and 'Cloudy' are just lightweight, tuneful, cheaply fragranced air. Like spraying a piece of Wonder bread with a spent aerosol can of whipped topping. Nothing in there. 'Oh SOOO sweet, those boys!'

Grow some balls, already. And 'Homeward Bound' is still whiny.

'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine' is more like it, hey! Fast and stompy and sounds like Pete Townsend's doing the acoustic strumming. Nice! And if you want to be precious, at least have some mojo, like on 'The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin Groovy)'. Though it still sounds like they're so jolly because of a particularly nice macaroon they had with tea rather than that great lump of hash they managed to smoke, but we can't all be cool in 1966. 'Flowers Never Bend Rainfall' (hey, if these song titles are incorrect, blame my Russian CD pirate friends. I'm not going to the trouble of checking these out on AMG, so don't crucify me, okay. I realize my laziness very nicely, thank you very much.) is very similarly enjoyable. And if you're going for sheer beauty, you're not going to beat Art Garfunkel's solo spot, the amazing 'For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her'. That man could sing. Why'd they have to go and double track the guy? He could've done this shit live, for chrissakes!

Dude, 'A Simple Desultory Phillippic' is hip, though. And I've never heard a better rip on Another Side Of Bob Dylan, singing-wise or lyric-wise. I mean, they just go right out there and DECLARE they're mocking/satirizing/attempting to copy the man. And I admire the balls they finally show. The rest of the album is sorely lacking in such masculine attire. The final track, which splits the boys singing 'Silent Night' at the highest possible level of harmony and prettiness and someone reading the news, is DUMB and PREACHY. Fuck, why'd you have to go and ruin a perfectly good newscast with all that annoying howling?

Just kidding.

Capn's Final Word: The Simon and Garfunkel for sissies of all ages and sexes. But don't all of us feel like sissies from time to time? Okay, some more than others. But then again, some of these songs are sissier than others. Not bad.

Adrian Denning   Your Rating:B+
Any Short Comments?:I really love the vocals on this album in particular. 'Cloudy' I especially love, just the sound of their voices. Of course, they were known for their singing almost as much for the songs themselves and I think that's well displayed across this record, even if all the songs aren't always great! A good record, though.

Alan Brooks     Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: 'Simple Desultory Phillipic' --or is it 'Philliphic'?-- has very clever lyrics, for its time anyway (and what progress has been made in pop lyrics since then? Not a whole lot):

 "He's so unhip when you say Dylan, he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever HE was..."

 and:

"I've been Rolling Stoned and Beatled 'til I'm blind; and I've heard the truth from Lenny Bruce, and all my wealth can't buy me
health, and so I smoke a bag of tea a day..."

 

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Bookends - Columbia 1968.

This, friends and neighbors, is what happens when you give two overstuffed creampuffs like Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel the keys to the studio and all the time they want. At first listen, I said to this: 'What the flying fuck is this?' I mean, the first 'proper' song on the album, 'Save The Life Of My Child' isn't so bad lyrically, but it sounds like it was sung by Greg Lake in his over-playful Brain Salad Surgery days. And it's got these synth moans that sound like they were ripped through space and time from the same record! And, what's even MORE mind blowing, they go on to cover Yes's 'America' on the very next tune! WOW!

No, of course I'm not on drugs, but Simon apparently was. Oh, frig, ideas like recording a bunch of old people bitching about this and that may have sounded just BOSS on that third or fourth Thai stick of the evening, but here it sounds like, well, a bunch of old people bitching. If I wanted to hear old people bitch I'd fucking improve my Russian and go down to the local market and pay attention to those 4-foot wrinkled relics that go scurrying around my knees all the time expressing dismay at the fact that potatoes are now 8 roubles a kilo and how they remember when they were 8 kopeek for all you could stuff in your fur hat. And following that up we've got the sloppy 'Old Friends', which makes me think Simon was dating an octagenarian at the time. Who writes really slow depressing songs about old people? Snot-nosed New Yawk songwriters with too little pressure for a hit, that's what.

Man, the more I go through this thing the more I begin to realize this is some sort of concept album I don't wanna know about. It's even got a recurring 'theme song', the 'Bookends Theme', which is all right I guess. 'America' is about bus travel, and ends up sounding really profound even though its about as interesting as, well, a bus trip. For some reason this song has been pushed up to 'classic' level, and once again people (and by 'people', I mean 'Jon Anderson' and 'the audience at the Central Park concert') are wrong. When will everyone listen to me? 'America' is actually a dumb meandering mess! And I'm not on the vice squad or the floor coordinator or anything, but is that a joint being lit at the beginning of 'Overs'? Whatever it is, its the most interesting part of this log of Tony Bennett outtake-quality shit. The line 'Just a habit...like saccharine' DOESN'T MAKE A BIT OF SENSE, dammit!

On the plus side, and I mean Side 2, 'Fakin It' is lightweight but snappy, and shows that Paul is pretty aware of the low quality of most of his songwriting here, too. 'Punky's Dilemma' is more idiotic marijuana-influenced rambling about everyday stuff that only sounds profound if you're desparately trying to be cool. And only funny if you're high. I'm neither, honestly, and I don't give a good goddamn what kind of jam you like, get me?

Jesus, there's a load of pretentious, in-joke crap to wade through here...knee deep man, knee deep. But there's the highlights at the end of the record...especially for those of us with the intestinal fortitude to sit through the songs about breakfast foods and old people. 'Mrs. Robinson' is just spectacular, melodic, funny, and EXACTLY fitting in with The Graduate. And thanks for including Joe DiMaggio in there, too, even though he never got why he was mentioned in the song. It's because you were a hero, man! Us Americans love our baseball players who got to fuck Marilyn Monroe on a regular basis! And our presidents who did the same thing! But not the playwrights!

Oh, and 'Hazy Shade Of Winter' is a great song, but Bananarama or the Bangles or Bad Brains or whoever covered that song did it better. 'At the Zoo' is a melodic song about zoos, but by this time that's too many irritating songs on dumb themes and I go ENOUGH!

Capn's Final Word: 'Mrs. Robinson' and 'Hazy Shade Of Winter' surrounded by total poop. You so AREN'T funny, Simon.

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Bridge Over Troubled Water - Columbia 1970.

Lo and behold, they've finally reconciled the two sides of their arrangement (the sickly sweet sensitive resovoir tip of Parsley and the clanky profundities of Bookends) and delivered to us their best record (I almost said 'since Sounds Of Silence' but then I realized this is much better than that.) I mean, how fantastic is this first side? Every song's a dang kick in the pants, that's what! 'Bridge Over Troubled Water (the Ted Kennedy Song)', 'El Condor Pasa' (aka the 'I'd rather be a ______ than a _______' song), 'The Boxer', and 'Cecelia' are all on here, just packed at the beginning. Like, isn't 'Bridge' Artie's only good reason for being born? Sure 'nuff! Wotta singer! I'm not saying his other stuff is crap or anything, but if Art Garfunkel had been working at the local A&P bagging groceries, scraped up enough dough to go to his local recording studio and record only this one song then never sing again, it would be his reason to live. His performance is Sooooo Gooood!

I love the upbeat slapback slaphappy slappin' hos 'Cecelia' next best...it's so dang catchy and makes me imagine I'm in the backyard with a bunch of drunken Brazilian guys about ready to go and raise hell and pull chicks. And 'Keep The Customer Satisfied', replete with a full marching band and all, isn't any less fun and blitzy. And not a hint of the idiotic over-maturity they paddled our collective backhinds with on the last one, just good ol' fashioned fun songs blown up like Goodyear Blimps with horns and Moogs and stuff. It's when they regress to simpleness like on 'Goodbye Frank Lloyd Wright' (about the architect? boy, these guys were pretentious. But I also get the feeling that if Michael Stipe would write more concretely, he would write songs just like this one.)

'The Boxer' comes on and my mind is forced back in time to my senior year at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, and I'd just put together a band for our May talent show, just a week before graduation. See, I had a three piece, and we ripped nicely through Neil Young songs and whatever else we could load with distortion and feedback (I was playing guitar and screaming), but then our bass player gets the bright idea that we need a better drummer than the one we had (or the guy had to work that night or something...whatever. Andre, you suck.) so we brought in this guy who really could drum (played for our jazz band you see...I was lead trumpet btw), but who also had the biggest head you could imagine. He immediately brought in the piano player and guitar player from the jazz band rhythm section. Again, all these guys could play, but they FUCKING TOOK OVER! Suddenly, instead of tearing through 'Rockin' In The Free World', we were doing the theme song to fucking 'Dream On' and those three assholes insisted on playing 'The Boxer' alone in front of everyone. I was pissed, but I gritted my teeth and played rhythm guitar on 'Hard To Handle' (that goddamn guitarist guy showboated all over his solo. I remember his favorite guitarist was C.C. DeVille. C. C. Deville!!!) Fucking string broke on the first note. I got my share of the $200 prize and that was that. Anyway. 'The Boxer' is a great tune, but I'll never forgive those three jerkoffs for fucking stealing my band.

But I'll forgive Simon and Garfunkel for Bookends! This album just goes from highlight to highlight like Super Mario or Super Bomberman or Super Bad Dudes or something like that. I like just about all the songs here, even on side 2, which begins to inch toward the Adult Contemporary Abyss on tracks like 'The Only Living Boy In New York', but shit, even that song's money.The cover of 'Bye Bye Love' is dumb and obvious! It's 1970! People are tired and confused! Bridge Over Troubled Water gave them hope for the future, much like a card from Hallmark! Or a Million Dolars from your Rich Dead Uncle! And then the group broke up!

Capn's Final Word: I only feel slightly sissy while listening to this, and not at all while on the first side! Dig in, mannish boys! It rules!

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The Concert in Central Park - Warner 1982.

About the highest possible grade I can give to a live album that doesn't do nuthin' on top of the studio recordings, but still, these guys haven't lost a single step off their late 60's heyday. Of course, they totally missed the double live album sweepstakes of 1977 by a few years (eh...Simon didn't though...he hopped right on that gravy train with Live Rhymin'), and what's more, they missed the end of their career by a good 11 years.

Ohhhhh....right. This is a reunion album...oh that explains it. Anyway, the free Central Park gig drew like 400,000 back in the dark ages of the early Reagan administration, when there did actually exist a bunch of ex-hippies who still claimed to remember the 60's. The song selection is pretty much what you'd expect from the ol' S&G, pretty much 100% correlation with the Greatest Hits record I'm not going to review (because I've learned that reviewing compilations is like tongue kissing your sister. You can figure out why that is.)  Oh, Simon throws in some of his own favorite solo hits ('50 Ways to Leave Your Lover', 'Still Crazy After All These Years' and a 'Slip Sliding Away' that lasts about 2 verses too long) like the greedy bastard he is. Oh, check that jazz...in fact I'm grateful that I get to hear Artie sing some parts on those songs. '50 Ways' in particular sounds like a perfect fit for the Bookends record, maybe.

At the end of the day, there may be a few small bitches about this one. There's too much of this damned chorusy electric piano on all the songs (they're better when accompanied by just an acoustic guitar, anyway), sometimes it takes a second or two for their voices to lock together (especially on 'The Boxer', where it pretty much never happens, and on the opening 'Mrs. Robinson', but we'll give 'em a chance to warm up). And I'm not sure of the inclusion of Chuck Berry's 'Maybelline' or the Everly Brothers' 'Wake Up Little Suzie', but then again they do a note perfect 'Scarborough Fair' and Artie gives us a spectacular 'Bridge' and...oh, dang. The concert is as good as you might expect it could be, as long as you're not expecting cathartic noise sculpturing and Rock As God posturing. They were folk rock, man!

Capn's Final Word: A great substitution for the Greatest Hits for both S&G and Simon.

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Capn's Note: First off, yeah, I know I'm missing the soundtrack to The Graduate, which didn't happen to be on my MP3 collection, but I also happen to know that most of the songs off that album are available on Parsley and Bookends, and the rest is a bunch of soundtrack instrumental pooh, so don't worry too much. Now, I did make the mistake of buying my disc about 2 weeks too early, because my good pirates rereleased the thing with the new remixed, bonus-tracked albums now available. Oh well...at least I got Paul Simon's solo albums (AND Art Garfunkel's!! Beat that, fools!) as well...stay tuned.

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