Album Reviews

Simon & Garfunkel – The Complete Albums Collection

(Columbia/Legacy)

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SG_CAC_FRONT_COVER-1024x1024Their entire studio output barely spans two-and-a-half hours, but the whole of Simon and Garfunkel’s discography is simply timeless.

As we celebrate 50 years of the songs and memories these old friends crafted for the world, the time is right and ripe for the every iota of recorded music from this dynamic duo to come back into the limelight and put us all in joyous listening sphere.

Simon and Garfunkel’s musical journey, albeit short, is a Robert Frost-esque trip down the road less traveled. Starting as straight folkies, Paul and Art then add some electric oomph behind their sound, all while spewing forth poetry worthy of Chaucer and Shakespeare. Eventually they begin painting pictures of the American young person’s experience – travels, trials, tribulations, triumphs, included – to become the biggest act stateside and abroad.

And then in a flash their magnum opus – their final studio album to date – is unleashed and becomes their biggest seller, exemplified by Garfunkel’s gorgeous wail soaring through the title track’s final lyric. But by then, it’s too late. The friends drift apart, each to achieve their own solo fame, before reuniting – on average once a decade.

Balancing their studio albums with four live albums and The Graduate soundtrack, The Complete Albums Collection is a must-have for any music fan, and really anyone who appreciates the strum of an acoustic guitar or a lush vocal harmony. Even though their debut album Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. (1964) lacks any percussion, you know you’re hearing the next big thing, especially once those harrowing strands of “The Sound of Silence” perk up.

The next two albums, 1966’s The Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, put the pair in a groovy place musically as they sing of love and innocent experiences. But by the time we get to 1968’s Bookends, the group is already thinking ahead – literally. Here, they create a concept album reflecting on old age and the experiences that define oneself up to then (and this from two guys in their late-20s at the time!).

And then, of course, there’s Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), which, unlike the duo’s debut album, is rife with production. It also is filled with tension and strife as the pair only sing together on a handful of tracks. Simply put, this classic marked a bitter end to a beautiful group.

Fortunately, time heals all wounds and through thick and thin the boys from Queens reunite. With this collection we also get to hear them in live settings, mainly on several New York stages – their commercial peak with just voices and guitar at Carnegie Hall; their joyful 1981 reunion in Central Park; and ultimately their 2004 success at Madison Square Garden. As thousands chant along with the lie-la-lie chorus of “The Boxer” during the latter, you come to realize just how many people truly listen to what this pair communicates through their songbird voices. This collection ensures our listening continues for eternity.

As it rightfully should.

– Ira Kantor

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