Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
Album: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection
Release Date: 08/07/2015
Wow. One of the most beautiful box sets ever, Columbia has released all five of Simon & Garfunkel’s original albums (and the sixth, a Greatest Hits) on 180-gram vinyl, not just for collectors, but for those of us who crave the best in sound. Art Garfunkel’s ethereal vocals and Paul Simon’s gifted lyrics and groundbreaking harmonies deserve nothing less, and if you’ve been listening to only a few hits on your car stereo or computer via some streaming service, you owe it to yourself to hear this. Hell, spend about $100 on your partner or BFF and go over and listen to it at their place; you could easily blow that on a steak dinner and have nothing to show but clogged arteries for years to come—but this is a sound investment.
As a productive team, S&G had barely a five-year run, from 1964’s Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.—which at first made no impact until its re-release in 1966, along with Sounds of Silence—to 1970’s historic Bridge Over Troubled Water, by which time the duo had already parted ways, but the five albums the two produced stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best albums ever. In this set we have the best of both worlds: modern-day remastering and the clear, rich, classic sound of vinyl. In case you’ve forgotten, the other albums are Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (1966) and Bookends (1968). Six LPs, with faithfully reproduced artwork and digital remastering from the original analog recordings. Again, Wow.
Then there’s the Concert. By 1981, New York City had been in crisis for some time. Mayor Ed Koch inherited a debt-ridden economy; banking regulations had changed dramatically, sending Wall Street into chaos; crack cocaine seemed everywhere and the city saw an unprecedented homicide rate. People were scared. Central Park was in disrepair and a center for crime. Visionary promoter Ron Delsener arranged a concert with the two New York City natives, to be held on the park’s Great Lawn for the benefit of the Central Park Conservancy, and half a million people showed up, approximately the same number as Woodstock. I attended that concert, and saw people perched in the trees like sparrows.
Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg—who cut his teeth on the British TV rock show, Ready Steady Go! and produced films and videos for the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Wings and many others as well as Brideshead Revisited, etc.—the DVD manages to capture both the grand sweep of the event as well as the intimate performances the duo gave. Let’s face it, S&G were never designed for arena rock like, for example, Metallica, and it took talent and experience to create a film which doesn’t come off as a split personality.
The Concert package comes as a CD/DVD combination, with the CD shy of two songs only on the DVD version. With just over 20 songs, a couple tunes, “Maybelline” and “Wake Up Little Susie,” nod to S&G’s roots, but the rest are certified S&G platinum, from “Mrs. Robinson” to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” and “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” each one having a connection to the city they loved, and performed in the heart of Manhattan. It’s magic.
Both the Concert CD/DVD and The Complete Columbia Albums packages have photo booklets, but to be sure, the Album’s 20-page book (and poster) leaves the CD-sized book in the dust; artwork and liner notes have always been ongoing problems with CD vs. vinyl. The CD/DVD gatefold packaging is cleverly done and first class, but the Albums’ box set (with a library box designed to last) is a work of art. Either way, though, it is the music that’s important, and, as music goes, it doesn’t get much better than this.