Monday 27 March 2017

Simon and Garfunkel: Live/Compilation/Film Soundtrack Recordings Part One: 1968-1988

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"Live In New York 1967"

(Columbia/Legacy, Recorded January 1967, Released July 2002)

He Was My Brother/Leaves That Are Green/Sparrow/Homeward Bound/You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies/A Most Peculiar Man/59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/The Dangling Conversation/Richard Cory/A Hazy Shade Of Winter/Benedictus/Blessed/A Poem On The Underground Wall/Anji/I Am A Rock/The Sound Of Silence/For Emily Wherever I May Find Her/A Church Is Burning/Wednesday Morning 3 AM

"It's a still-life watercolour of a now-late afternoon"

The earliest surviving concert we have of Simon and Garfunkel dates from three months or so after the release of 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme'. Like all Simon and Garfunkel concerts (until the reunions at least) it's a low-key affair and features just two voices, one guitar and an already pretty classic songbook to choose from even though S and G were quickly becoming one of the biggest acts on the planet. Fans of the complex, densely arranged studio records might be in for a shock as detailed full-band and often orchestral-based arrangements of songs like 'Dangling Conversation'  and 'I Am A Rock' are delivered with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. Simon and Garfunkel clearly weren't built to be a live 'band' - their perfectionism and eye for detail make them a natural in-the-studio-for-months act if ever there was one and you can almost hear the pair's frustration as they make the occasional mistake other acts simply wouldn't notice, coming in a split-second too early or fluffing the odd line. You wonder what the mid-twenties Simon and Garfunkel would have said over their older 70-odd selves letting some of these recordings out the vaults (or, it has to be said, why they were recorded at all: knowing Simon and Garfunkel it was probably to monitor their performances to see what areas they could 'improve' on and nothing more).

Yet if you know the original records really well and have those as a basis to compare these concerts to then these live performances can be a fascinating parallel world where Simon and Garfunkel made every record the same way they made their first album, simply directly and with nothing to sustain them more than clever lines, memorable tunes and belief. In many ways it's like a longer version of 'The Paul Simon Songbook' with Art guesting. On this concert especially their telepathy and synchronicity is exceptional: all those pre-fame years' worth of practice staring at each other's mouths so they could work out the exact second to come in on the same line is extraordinary. Arty never sounded sweeter or purer than here, where his vocal is a 'leading instrument' no longer buried by elaborate productions while Paul is free of all the 'calcium deposit' troubles that will limit his guitar playing in later years proving himself to be a player of real skill. Though five concerts by the duo are now available, to differing degrees (three in their prime and two reunions) this is by far the most essential, with Simon  and Garfunkel still very much good friends by this point and still hungry enough to do their material justice.
The concert is impressively long considering that it is literally two men and a guitar throughout, with nothing to take the pressure off them. The show was in fact too long for a single CD so a song had to be cut out (a fun version of 'Red Rubber Ball' sadly, which had already appeared on the 'Old Friends' box set in 1997 alongside 'A Poem On The Underground Wall' 'Blessed' 'Anji' and 'A Church Is Burning'). The material is pretty evenly split between each of their first three albums: six tracks from 'Wednesday Morning 3 AM' (highlighted by a swinging 'He Was My Brother' at the very start), six from 'Sounds Of Silence' (highlighted by a sparse, slower lamented version of 'I Am A Rock') and oddly only four from most recent album 'Parsley' (where period single 'Dangling Conversation' works best, freed of the pretentiousness of the orchestral arrangement and a rather more 'heartfelt' performance in this version). There's also a rare chance to hear a Simon and Garfunkel version of the 'Songbook' tune 'A Church Is Burning' (which would have fitted onto the 'Wednesday' album nicely) and it's one of the highlights of the set (as is 'Ball' if you can find it, a silly Paul Simon original given away to 'The Cyrkle'). It's not all great: rogue single 'Homeward Bound' is a little perfunctory and a preview of a new single 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter' is rather down on power compared to the full band recording and a rare version of its B side 'You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies'  is nice and bluesy, but a little rambling. This is also perhaps the weakest of all the multiple versions of 'Sound Of Silence' around, a little too rushed and thrown away (the duo will do it better justice when they see just how much the song means to people on tours like this one). However for the most part Simon and Garfunkel are on-form this January New York night and get a lot more things more right than they get wrong.

It's not just the songs though that make this concert special, as odd as that might sound. Arty especially, reveals a talent at speaking to the audience (usually to cover his partner's tuning) and is a great story-teller, informing the audience why 'A Poem On The Underground Wall' was written (after a rather lurid graffiti message was discovered on the wall behind the 'tube train' shot of the duo for 'Wednesday Morning 3AM' 'which was precisely what we wanted for the cover of our LP!') The interaction between the two is also genuinely warm and full of affection, in contrast to the rather more barbed atmosphere of the next couple of tours. This is a welcome souvenir of a time when Simon and Garfunkel really were 'old friends' and a highly impressive addition to the five Simon and Garfunkel records.

"The Graduate" (Film Soundtrack)

(Columbia, January 1968)

The Sound Of Silence (Electric)*/The Singleman Party Fox Trot/Mrs Robinson*/Sunporch Cha-Cha-Cha/Scarborough Fair-Canticle (Interlude)/On The Strip/April Come She Will*/The Folks//Scarborough Fair-Canticle*/A Great Effect/The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine**/Whew/Mrs Robinson (Reprise)**/The Sound Of Silence (Acoustic Re-Recording)**

* = Simon and Garfunkel performances taken from earlier recordings

** = Simon and Garfunkel performances unique to this album

The rest is incidental music written by Dave Grusin for the film

"Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes"

'It's very comfortable, just to drift'. 'The Graduate' is a game-changer in more ways than one, the 'graduation' of Simon and Garfunkel from cult figures to musical heroes. The duo had been getting along quite well anyway: two charting albums, respectable sales for singles 'The Sound Of Silence' 'I Am A Rock' and 'Homeward Bound'. But the release of the film 'The Graduate' in late 1967 helped their music appeal to a whole new audience who had never heard of them before, turning them into chart regulars and household names everyone knew rather than a band whose talents were spread by word of mouth. Many many fans joined in with the Simon and Garfunkel story here and still view the pair through the filters of the film: as a voice for disaffected youth told to work hard at college but offered only the worst role-models to aspire to when seeking jobs and where their lives are laid out for them. For a million college kids of a certain generation who'd spent the 1960s learning how to do things separately to their parents and yet were still expected to toe the line anyway graduation was a make or break moment - and the Graduate film and soundtrack tapped into a growing unease about 'us' and 'them' that had never really been explored in film or music before. Or at least not in this sort of a way before: perhaps the biggest change 'The Graduate' made to the film world was that the younger messed-up characters (represented here by Dustin Hoffman's put upon Benjamin) are the ones morally in the 'right', led astray by their elders (portrayed superbly by Anne Bancroft's cougarish Mrs Robinson). This is more than just your average teen exploitation flick though and one of those films where everyone comes out losing, with no real monsters or villains, just frustrated lonely middle aged people preying on messed up youngsters. It clearly needed a better soundtrack than your average generation gap band could offer and a rare group who could afford to be kind to both sides. Cue Simon and Garfunkel.

It wasn't their idea to be heard in the film at all but director Mike Nichols, who'd fallen in love with the duo after hearing 'The Sound Of Silence'. A keen collector of all their LPs, he referred back to their music time and time again to get the 'mood' of what he was shooting just right and used their music in place as a 'holder' in the soundtrack before hiring the 'proper' people in to make the music, choosing older songs from their first three albums he sensed fitted best. You can see why too: who better than Simon and Garfunkel to fit what the original album sleevenotes describe as the film's main dramatic thrust: 'That the young now seem to be so much more severely serious than the old'. As time went on, though, he grew more and more fond of S and G's recordings and realised that he was going to struggle to replace them, so he got in touch with Columbia to see about licensing the songs. This was pretty much unheard of at the time, when rock and pop music was only used sparingly in films, heard over end credits or seen over title sequences - certainly no other act had ever dominated a film that they'd had no hand in writing or starring in. Columbia were enthusiastic and already talking about a soundtrack album if the film proved to be a success, but figuring that people might not buy the 'new' material negotiated with the duo to provide three new songs for the film. For a while this was a sticking point: S and G had moved on a little too far from the teenage angst and alienation of their earlier years and the music Paul offered Nichols was reluctantly rejected (to be fair he'd have had a hard time fitting 'Punky's Dilemma' into the film). In the end he took just one new song: a track named 'Mrs Roosevelt' that Paul had just written about former president Franklin D Roosevelt's wife, a bitter sideswipe at nostalgia and how former first Lady Eleanor had lost her influence over politics and activism, dying virtually un-noticed in 1962. Paul hadn't yet decided on the name completely and as with most of his early songs was swaying between lots of different names and ideas during the early drafts. Nichols heard one of them where Paul was playing around with names and chanced upon 'Mrs Robinson' and pleaded with him to keep his leading character's name. In the end it was a lucky accident: the final 'Mrs Robinson' single shares very little with the character in 'The Graduate' but the sense of generational decay and falling from grace once out of the limelight reflects well Mrs Robinson's jealousy at her daughter's relationship with Benjamin and her struggle to step aside for another generation. It's the perfect souvenir from the film and an instant success when used as a single, even if in truth it lacks the depth or power of most of Paul's earlier songs.

Simon and Garfunkel were contracted for two more new 'songs' but in the end agreed to provide two new 'recordings' instead: re-recordings of 'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine' originally heard on 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme' and given an added screaming backwards guitar lick and a looser, bluesier feel. It's sense of something 'wrong' in the machine of the business world makes it a decent fit for the scenes early on in the film when Ben is being 'headhunted' by companies he doesn't want to be a part of though it doesn't quite match the sheer roar of the original. The duo also re-record 'The Sound Of Silence' yet again, making this the fourth version of the song around following the 'acoustic' 'electric' and 'Paul Simon Songbook' versions. This new version, used powerfully over the closing scene of Mrs Robinson's daughter getting married to someone else as a broken Ben tried to stop the wedding, is another acoustic version performed perhaps a little too fast compared to the 'classic' versions and by a duo who clearly know the song so well they can sing it in their sleep compared to the real feeling of any of the originals. They even start humming over the fade, which seems the antithesis of the song's dark brooding alienation. Still, it's hard to go wrong with a song as classic as this one and 'Silence' works well as the thoughtful conclusion to the film. Elsewhere Nichols chooses to use the 'Sounds Of Silence' album version of 'April Come She Will', adds some flutes to the finale of 'Scarborough Fair-Canticle' and there's a final minute long burst of 'Mrs Robinson' in its early stages as a song with a single verse, sing slower and less sarcastically, which soon breaks down into ragged guitar chugs (useful for placing in the film during a 'chase' sequence'. However that only resulted in half an album and half an album's worth of material.

One of the great unsung things about the 'Graduate' soundtrack album is the bit everyone always skips - the classical interlude pieces by Dave Grusin. However these too represent something of a breakthrough in film soundtrack terms as around half of his seven pieces are based around existing recordings by Simon and Garfunkel rather than the other way around, as had been in the case in almost every other soundtrack. Much like the story in the film, the 'older' generation's music is deemed subservient to the 'younger' generation' and the classical reading of 'Scarborough Fair' in particular (pure and innocent, but contrasted with 'Canticle's alternating melody line played by some scratchy horror movie strings) is awfully good. However it remains a sad fact that the modern Simon and Garfunkel fan who already owns the duo's five albums (including the finished 'Mrs Robinson' re-used on 'Bookends' later in the year) are effectively buying a full album for songs they already know, recordings they already know (barring two lesser re-recordings and a minute long 'Mrs Robinson' fragment) and half an album of incidental music. There's a reason you still see this soundtrack album in the bargain bins quite so often: it's not quite as essential as many fans have been led to think it is in purely musical terms.

'The Graduate' remains, however, a key moment in the Simon and Garfunkel canon. If nothing else the release of 'The Graduate' finally gave Simon and Garfunkel the one thing they'd hadn't had since 'The Sound Of Silence' became a hit: perfect timing. Once again an outsider had stepped in to present Simon and Garfunkel in a way that they'd never imagined before and delivered exactly the right Simon and Garfunkel product when they needed it; no more arriving unfashionably late to metaphorical folk or rock parties or missing the bus that over bands were riding; suddenly Simon and Garfunkel were the party and their sense of polite intelligent rebellion is perfect not just for the film but the times. People who'd never bought a Simon and Garfunkel record, put off by their marketing as overgrown choir-boys or folk-rockers suddenly 'got' it and couldn't wait to go back and find what else they'd been missing (in this album's wake all their back catalogue began to double in sales figures, with 'Wednesday Morning 3AM' actually making the charts for the first time).The sudden instant success for nothing more than a slight tweak in the lyrics to 'Mrs Roosevelt' to make her become film protagonist 'Mrs Robinson'  and the recycling of some old songs must have seemed crazy to Simon and Garfunkel though, who'd been fighting hard all their lives for a sliver of this album's instant success, whose easy money and the extra pressure that comes with fame they seemed to resent more than appreciate. It's notable that they will never do a film soundtrack together again (or apart until Paul's own 'One Trick Pony' a decade later, despite Arty's secondary career as an actor across the 1970s) and that the clock to their demise starts ticking in earnest from this point on. 'The Graduate' was just too big a deal for them to cope with in the end, but it was too perfect a 'fit' for them to say 'no' to either.  

"Live In Vermont 1968"

(Columbia/Legacy, Recorded October 1968, Released as part of the 'Old Friends' Box Set November 1997)

Overs/A Most Peculiar Man/Bye Bye Love

"Now there's no more time, just The New York Times..."

The second of the mini-concerts included on the 'Old Friends' box set is a three track concert  recorded at pretty much the mid-way point between 'Bookends' and 'Bridge'. As be-fits this rather bleak period there's less 'fun' in this mini-show, with Simon and Garfunkel performing sparse acoustic versions of two of their bleakest songs before showing off an early version of Everly Brothers singalong 'Bye Bye Love', a different live recording to the one used on 'Troubled Water' a year late (but using the same arrangement). This is the only live recording we have of 'Overs', Paul's acerbic break-up song that sounds aimed very much at Arty tonight, who still sweeps in oblivious in the second half of the song, starting off-mike as if he was as far away on stage as possible and had to rush back for his cue (neither singer ever returned to it on the stage). On that score it's interesting, though as the 'Bookends' version of that song was just the pair with a guitar it's not that different either. 'Peculiar Man', a setlist regular, sounds particularly good tonight though played at a very slow moody tempo that brings out the best in the pair's harmonies if not the tune. 'Bye Bye Love' is a little bit low-key though, with the audience only joining in with the hand-claps halfway through (were the band wildly trying to excite them from the stage?) and taken at a slower less fun tempo than the version that made the album. Though not as strong as the S and G gigs from the previous year, this is still a nice mini-show to have and leaves you hoping that the full show might be released one day. 

"Live 1969"

(Columbia/Legacy, Recorded October-November 1969, Released March 2008)

Homeward Bound/At The Zoo/59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/Song For The Asking/For Emily Wherever I May Find Her/Scarborough Fair-Canticle/Mrs Robinson/The Boxer/Why Don't You Write Me?/So Long Frank Lloyd Wright/That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine/Bridge Over Troubled Water/The Sound Of Silence/I Am A Rock/Old Friends-Bookend Theme/The Leaves That Are Green/Kathy's Song

"Like a memory it falls, soft and warm, continuing..."

Who in the audience back in 1969, attending what turned out to be the last Simon and Garfunkel tour for twelve years, listening to their heroes discuss teenage anxiety and philosophy, would have guessed that their heroes would sanction a release of this live recording just shy of forty years later, not through record shops but through a coffee chain? Aside from the rather odd marketing gimmick which so many of our AAA artists seemed to follow at the time (where buying a CD was regular cheaper than buying a coffee), this compilation of six separate live shows finally makes good on the promise shown by the handful of live tracks released on 'Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits' twenty-seven years earlier (be wary in fact: if you own that set and the 'Old Friends' box of 1998 you own nearly half of this set already, but it's nice to hear it expanded into a mock-up of what a full gig would have been). By and large it's another excellent S and G archive live release, with this one's big selling point the chance to hear the pair sing songs from the soon-to-be-released 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' together rather than apart. Many of these tracks are the best here: a slow and lazy 'So Long Frank Lloyd Wright' with Paul offering a 'gruff' counter vocal, a muted 'Song For The Asking', a slightly shakey and rather Everly Brothers-like 'The Boxer', a slightly more 'with-it' version of 'Why Don't You Write Me?' which is less ska and more music hall plus a soaring rendition of the title track which Arty says is his 'current favourite song'. The one truly 'exclusive' song, meanwhile - a cover of Everly Brothers standard 'That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine' - had already appeared on the 'Old Friends' box set a decade earlier. As for the older songs, they're now split in two with S and G playing a typically intimate opening set of six songs with two voices and a guitar and thirteen using a 'full' band for the first time. Though this 'works' in the case of a gloriously messy 'Mrs Robinson', which is about as rough and funky as S and G ever become, the rest of the band tracks feel like they lose something compared to the scruffy majesty and intimacy of past S and G gigs released as 'Live '67' and the half-heard tour of '68. Though it might just be a quirk of whoever's editing this set, it also seems as if S and G are less chatty on this tour, spikier during their few chats to each other ('I feel happy to have finally got near to the end of it' says Arty about the soon-to-be-released 'Bridge' while Paul snaps back 'It's about time') and with a sense of gloom hanging over the CD (then again, bootlegs of a full show in Miami recorded on this tour reveals that the pair were having as much fun as ever - in fact most of that set is better than anything used here, which makes you wish the duo had gone for a 'full' recording of one show rather than a compilation of lots). Still, this is a nice souvenir for fans to have, with S and G sharing that spooky vocal symmetry one last time and providing classics versions of most of their old favourites and a few new ones too.

 S/G "Greatest Hits"
(Columbia, July 1972)

Mrs Robinson/For Emily Wherever I May Find Her/The Boxer/59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/The Sound Of Silence/I Am A Rock/Scarborough Fair-Canticle/Homeward Bound/Bridge Over Troubled Water/America/Kathy's Song/El Condor Pasa/Bookends/Cecilia

"We'd like to help you learn about yourself, look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes"

For Paul Simon this release was an unwelcome distraction from his recently released first album. For Art Garfunkel it was a reminder of just how hard he might he might find it to escape the shadow of Simon and Garfunkel as a solo act. And for the rest of the world it was a reminder of why we didn't want the duo to split up in the first place, with the first ever Simon and Garfunkel compilation reducing their five glorious albums to a mere fourteen songs and setting the standard for the same old songs that have appeared on every compilation since. An instant big seller, just eighteen months on from 'Bridge', what surprises most is how many fan favourite album tracks are here ('America' 'Bookends El Condor Pasa') over bonafide hits, with 'Fakin' It' 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter' and 'The Dangling Conversation' all missing. Four of the songs here are then-exclusive live recordings from the concert later released in full as 'Live 1967', though oddly the record doesn't list this on the sleeve (the tracks are 'For Emily' 'Kathy's Song' 'Feelin' Groovy' and 'Homeward Bound' for the record). The running order too has been messed around with - 'The Sound Of Silence' has never sounded more out of place between the bounce of 'Feelin' Groovy' and the self-pity of 'I Am A Rock' - and in fact none of these tracks feel like they 'belong' together somehow. Still, if this compilation was inevitable then at least it was made with some care and actually features Simon and Garfunkel on the cover this time, with a lovely unseen shot from their late period (which believe it or not is more than you can say about the sequel 'The Simon and Garfunkel Collection'!) Later compilations are better, simply because they're longer, but if the basics is all you want then you can't do better than this really. In an S and G starved world this compilation went on to out-sell all other S and G LPs (yes even 'Bridge' and 'Graceland') and remains the highest selling album ever released by a duo.

Paul Simon "Live Rhymin'"

(Columbia, March 1974)

Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard/Homeward Bound/American Tune/El Condor Pasa/Duncan/The Boxer//Mother and Child Reunion/The Sound Of Silence/Jesus Is The Answer/Bridge Over Troubled Water/Loves Me Like A Rock/America
CD Bonus Tracks: Kodachrome/Something So Right

"I am leaving, I am leaving'...Yet the fighter still remains (and even sings an encore)"

Paul's first live album - the first, in terms of release date, by either of Simon and Garfunkel together or apart - is a typically understated concert that works best on the first half when Paul sits, alone, with his acoustic and his voice – the audience is so quiet and respectful you can hear a pin drop and at last the emphasis of the songs is placed on their greatest aspect: the words. Few people can turn a phrase like Paul Simon and this album is a good example of that, containing pretty much all the best lyrical songs Paul had written up to that time. Unlike some artists going solo Paul isn't afraid of digging deeper into his back catalogue and there are no less than five Simon and Garfunkel songs on this album - and not just the hits either, with fan favourites 'America' and 'El Condor Pasa' making welcome appearances. The joy of this album is hearing these familiar songs delivered in new arrangements so that they sound more like 'Paul Simon solo' songs; the odd thing is you don't miss Arty as much as you might expect, even on the latter's signature piece 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'.

That song is the centre-piece of the much bigger and rather less successful second side. Sensibly figuring that he can't sing that song as well as Arty in the same way, Paul re-invents one of his greatest works, taking it right back to its original inspiration as a 'gospel' song (it's how 'Bridge' might well have sounded without Garfunkel's input and suggestions). While 'Bridge' would never have been as big a hit or had the same impact in this incarnation and this arrangement has divided fans ever since, I for one really like it: special guests The Jesse Dixon Singers add just the right vibe of comfort and hope without turning the track into too much of a religious sermon and the final two minutes of ebbing and flowing to 'I do believe, I really do believe, that I will ease your mind' is quite lovely, perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the song. The other songs featuring the Jesse Dixon Singers fare less well though: 'Loves Me Like A Rock' really is a preaching sermon, an overly gospel 'Mother and Child Reunion' sounds like nothing less than mother-and-child abuse and Paul sounds deeply uncomfortable on both, seemingly regretting every moment, while the less said about the Singers' cameo on their own 'Jesus Is The Answer' (on which Paul is inaudible) the better. Frankly the gospel chorus are too big and too in-your-face for a concert this intimate. Urubamba, the Argentinian troupe (except for Uruguayan drummer Emilio Arteaga) that are used here to fill in Los Incas' role on 'El Condor Pasa' and 'Duncan', are a much better fit and the latter especially works very well with Paul getting into character. Chances are Paul met them through Michelberg, the 'alleged' co-writer of 'El Condor Pasa', who also had strong links to the group and plays as a member of them to this day. The biggest surprise is their role they play on 'The Boxer', giving the song a certain joyful glee that couldn't be less like the record and yet still work very well. Paul continues to offer up the extra verse Simon and Garfunkel played on tour in 1969 too: 'I am older than I once was and younger than I'll be, that's not unusual, after changes upon changes we are more or less the same'.

Paul still works best when singing on his own, though, as heard mainly on the first half of the record, where he turns generational band standards like 'Homeward Bound' and 'America' into cosily intimate affairs. This is despite the fact that Paul assumed early on in the planning stages of this tour that nobody would put up with a full show of just him playing guitar and admitted to being a nervy performer, something that comes over a couple of times here (in the slightly rushed feel of some of the songs - 'Me and Julio' turns from upbeat rhythmical song into a Keystone Cops routine it's played at such high speed - and his lack of interaction with the audience, reduced to a 'few words' following America when a wag in the audience asks him to speak something: his hesitant 'Let's hope we all continue to live...' speech is often hailed as Paul's speed and cleverness, not giving us the punchline we expect and it is a very Paul Simon moment as he makes us concentrate not on how we continue to live but that we continue to live at all, but to be honest it just sounds as if a scared Paul got stage-fright and couldn't think how to end his sentence.) This is, after all, his first time on stage in five years: which might not seem like long now Paul only gives us an album 5-8 years anyway, but seemed a lifetime back then.

Look past  the sometimes too obvious stage fright though, skip the most OTT Jesse Dixon moments and - if you can - buy this set on CD where two extra songs from the same tour which really should have been on the original LP flesh out the running time and you have one of the two best Simon/Garfunkel live album out there. Though the 1991 solo all-singing all-dancing  'Concert In Central Park' is hard to beat, this polar opposite low key and intimate set still cuts it close, capturing for posterity the moment when Paul first learnt to be a 'frontman' (after years of letting Arty do most of the talking) and discovered, to his surprise, just how much audiences still loved him. No it can't match up to the polished perfection of the studio records, but Paul has learnt how to deliver his old songs in a new way for a new age and most of these experiments into the unknown are spot-on.  

Paul Simon "Greatest Hits Etc"

(Columbia, November 1977)

Slip Slidin' Away/Stranded In A Limousine/Still Crazy After All These Years/Have A Good Time/Duncan ('Live Rhymin' Version)/Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard/Something So Right//Kodochrome/I Do It For Your Love/50 Ways To Leave Your Lover/American Tune (Live Rhymin' Version)/Mother and Child Reunion/Loves Me Like A Rock/Take Me To The Mardi Gras

"Let the music wash your soul"

Here's a tip for any of you thinking of setting up your own record companies to release compilation albums. Well, first of all, don't: I already review  enough of these darned things as it is and I'd rather fans be listening to rarer, obscurer, possibly greater material that never gets heard. But secondly and more importantly, don't ever call your new release 'Greatest Hits Etc'. There's nothing more designed to put hip and trendy record buyers off than buying a 'greatest hits' album which doesn't just contain greatest hits. Of course, you can understand why. Paul, suffering from writer's block, was realising that he wouldn't have a new record ready until long after his customary two year gap so it seemed a sensible time for a compilation album - especially one including both sides of his recent and under-rated single 'Slip Slidin' Away' and 'Stranded In A Limousine' (which seem rather incongruous here at the start). The trouble was, Paul Simon had only released three studio and one live albums up to1977 and wasn't about to revert back to using Simon and Garfunkel recordings after spending so much of the decade fighting to put them in the past so that left Columbia needing to do something. Most of this album is more 'Etc' than 'Greatest Hits' to be honest, although this is probably a benefit: songs like 'I Do It For Your Love' and 'Have A Good Time' deserved to be better known than most of Paul's actual hit songs anyway. But fans looking just for the cream of the crop understandably felt a bit short changed, especially with a couple of key decisions such as not including these songs in anything even close to resembling a proper order and offering only the 'Live Rhymin' versions of standouts 'Duncan' and  'American Tune' (soon to be rated 'song of the decade' by Rolling Stone Magazine). A curio then, long outclassed by later longer compilations, but still useful for a few album tracks and a rare chance to hear the period single.

"The Simon and Garfunkel Collection"

(Columbia, November 1981)

I Am A Rock/Homeward Bound/America/The 59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/Wednesday Morning 3AM/El Condor Pasa/At The Zoo/Scarborough Fair-Canticle/The Boxer/The Sound Of Silence/Mrs Robinson/Keep The Customer Satisfied/Song For The Asking/A Hazy Shade Of Winter/Cecilia/Old Friends-Bookends/Bridge Over Troubled Water

"You're breaking my heart! You're shaking my confidence daily!"

This, dear readers, is how not to make a compilation. Released in a hurry across Europe in November 1981 to cash-in on the Central Park reunion gig of just a couple of months before (and released far ahead of that live LP), it's horrifically ill-conceived and mis-judged. Admittedly if you had to pare down the Simon and Garfunkel discography to just seventeen songs then this is as good a selection as any, but why do they have to be included in such a random scattershot order? Why is the packaging so short and blunt it veers on rude? And why did Columbia think it proper to ignore six year's worth of Simon and Garfunkel publicity photos (thirteen if you include the 'Tom and Jerry' years)  in favour of a 'new' photograph of Simon and Garfunkel walking along a beach - a photograph that, if you pay close attention, doesn't even feature the duo but two flipping actors?!  Well, to be fair, Columbia called this is a 'collection' rather than another 'Greatest Hits' - they just didn't say a collection of what. No substitute for the first compilation back in 1972 and outclassed by everything that's come sense, the lack of decent Simon and Garfunkel records in Europe back in the early 1980s still led to this album becoming a far bigger success than it warranted, peaking at an impressive #4 in the UK (in fact it was the 36th best-selling album for the whole year in Britain, which probably says more about the charts of the day than this album). If only 'Keep The Customer Satisfied' or 'Fakin' It' had been included on this LP they would have made for the perfect quote...

"Collected Works"

(Columbia, 'Late' 1981)

CD One: Wednesday Morning 3 AM/The Sounds Of Silence
CD Two: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme/Bookends
CD Three: Bridge Over Troubled Water

"And the moon rose over an open field"

A sensible and cheap if slightly dull way of re-buying all the Simon and Garfunkel albums in one go. At first, in 1981, this meant a straightforward five-vinyl-replica set; however this set was also released on CD as an early fore-runner of 'The Collection' set on three CDs with two albums on each of the first two. There were no bonus tracks and the set was missing the 'My Little Town' reunion single. However, if you were unlucky enough to have missed or not yet been born when the albums were out the first time this was an invaluable way of getting hold of the original records at an affordable price. 

"The Concert In Central Park"

(Warner Brothers, Recorded September 1981, Released March 1982)

Mrs Robinson/Homeward Bound/America/Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard/Scarborough Fair/April Come She Will/Wake Up Little Susie/Still Crazy After All These Years/American Tune/Late In The Evening/Slip Slidin' Away/A Heart In New York/Kodachrome-Maybelline/Bridge Over Troubled Water/50 Ways To Leave Your Lover/The Boxer/Old Friends/The 59th Street Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/The Sound Of Silence

"We talked about some old times and drank ourselves some beers, still crazy after all these years"

Simon and Garfunkel had reunited before 1981 of course, with a 'comedy' moment in 1972, a bona fide reunion single in 1975 and Paul Simon cameos on the Art Garfunkel records 'Angel Clare'  'Watermark' and 'Scissors Cut'. However, in typical Simon and Garfunkel fashion, you had to be quite a fan to even know about these low-key tracks. In contrast the 1981 onstage reunion was to be a big glitzy showbusinessy affair: not really what Simon and Garfunkel were all about in terms of scale and spectacle but which made more sense when you realised that the duo had set the gig up as a New York 'home-coming' and that they'd decided to play to their fans for free, with the money made from a TV broadcast and this soundtrack going to pay for a much-needed renovation of the park. At the time the gig was meant to be a stepping stone to greater things with plans for a full tour (it's not often remembered that Simon and Garfunkel did play a handful of gigs again after this first one, into 1982 and 1983 though never with quite the same impact) and a full record (which ended up reverting back to the solo Paul Simon record 'Hearts and Bones' in 1983). Though by S and G standards this reunion was the longest and most substantial of all their attempts to come back together again, the live album remains sadly the only souvenir we have  of this period.

As a result, fans have rather a soft spot for it - especially those who thought they'd never ever live to see Simon and Garfunkel play on the same stage again. The gig was huge news at the time (bigger than the duo expected: there's a sweet story where they'd been glumly wondering before the show if anyone would turn up when they caught the news at their hotel and saw they were the first item on the news, with the biggest crowds Central park had ever seen already in place hours before the show - this probably didn't help with the nerves!) and the live concert was received with much affection and joy and open weeping in the streets. It remains the seventh most attended concert ever on American soil, with a 500,000 strong crowd even bigger than the one the pair had played to at Monterey in 1967. The live album too, 'rush-released' into the shops just six months later (that's quick by S and G standards) was a huge seller even though the pair sang nothing that couldn't be bought in better form on record.
The trouble is, S and G were never a natural live act and in this period Paul's physical ailments left him unable to play the acoustic guitar for long periods, with only a sweet final encore of 'The Sound Of Silence' played the way the old S and G concerts had always worked best, with just two voices and one guitar. Arty especially was devastated that the duo had to bring a whole big band out on tour with him (and that the band was so heavily weighed to musicians his partner preferred to him), but sadly the sort of cosy intimate half-hour gigs the pair had once enjoyed were no longer practical anymore. Instead the pair played for some eighty minutes, double their old sets, with this soundtrack originally a double album set (though most people today know it better from the DVD, included in favour of a soundtrack album in 'The Collection' box set). You can tell that the pair are already clashing backstage, with tension high throughout and the pair barely looking at each other across the night, never mind speaking to each other and at times Arty looks quite miserable as sound problems, a lack of rehearsal and the loudness of the band all add up to missed cues, the occasional flat harmony and general discontent. He later commented that he'd regretted ever going along with it, while even Paul considered the concert as something of an anti-climax compared to all the fuss. If it's sheer technical perfection you're after then the later 'Live 1967' album is a much better way of hearing Simon and Garfunkel in concert, while Paul's solo reprise of the Central Park free gig idea in 1991 is far more planned and better performed in pure musical terms.

However, for all the teething troubles, there is plenty of magic within this set, usually when Simon or Garfunkel are 'guests' on the other's solo work, offering us familiar songs with new harmonies and hinting at what the 1970s Simon and Garfunkel records might have sounded like if the pair had stayed together post 'Bridge'. Arty sounds impressively at home re-living his wayward youth on 'Me and Julio' (now with an added 'salsa break'), gets a whole verse to sing on 'Still Crazy', turns 'American Tune' into even more of a sequel to the classic 'America', has fun on 'Late In The Evening', has even more fun on the silly '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' (now given a brass arrangement) and turns the finale of 'Kodochrome' into a bit of rocking nostalgia with a cover of Chuck Berry's 'Maybelline' thrown in for free. Best of all is 'Slip Slidin' Away', the troubled Paul Simon solo single that had long called out for harmonies and which fits Arty's regretful melancholic air to perfection. In return Paul adds some nice guitarwork to a crowd-pleasing 'A Heart In New York', sadly the only 'solo Arty' song played the whole night (and another source of contention: 'Paul got nine songs on that record! Is Paul really nine times more successful than poor old Arty?!' Garfunkel complained a decade later). Paul Simon harmonies on 'Bright Eyes' 'I Only Have Eyes For You' or 'All I Know' would have been terrific, as would a reprise of their genuine reunion songs 'Mary Was An Only Child' 'What A Wonderful World' or the just-out 'In Cars'. It’s almost as if Paul, still reeling from  the pair’s breakup, is asserting his authority over the partnership all over again, often leaving Art on stage with nothing to do. Paul only gets the one 'truly' solo song, although you won't actually hear it on the album: the biggest moment of drama across the whole set came when Paul was trying to preview a new song he's written, 'The Late Great Johnny Ace', in honour of adopted local hero John Lennon who'd died just nine months before and a few blocks away from where the show was taking place. Paul only gets halfway, though, before a man in the crowd rushes up to him pleading 'I need to talk to you!' before being ushered off stage; a badly shaken Paul, with assassination still in his thoughts, is visibly shaken for the next few songs and will never perform the song live again (cut from this soundtrack LP but available on the DVD). Oddly the duo don't even perform their highest profile reunion single, 1975's 'My Little Town', perhaps fearing that it's pessimistic mood was at odds with the largely upbeat show (which is a shame because sad wistfulness is where this show works best on 'Slip Slidin' Away' 'Old Friends' and 'The Sound Of Silence'; this set is less strong when in 'carnival' mode).

The pair do have some sort of a bond still, however, otherwise they could hardly have got the spine-tingling harmonies on ‘Sounds Of Silence’ or ‘Scarborough Fair’ so spot on.  However it has to be said that, away from the 'newness' of the 1970s material the older songs fare less well than the 1970s tracks, generally speaking. Simon and Garfunkel still sound beautiful when they sing together but they've long ago lost the innocence and vulnerability that made songs like 'Homeward Bound' 'April Come She Will' and 'Mrs Robinson' such fun. Epics like 'The Boxer' fare even less well and are very sloppy by S and G perfectionist standards, while several key songs feel missing despite the longer running time: no 'At The Zoo' 'I Am A Rock' or 'El Condor Pasa' for example.  Arty still sounds great on 'Bridge' and the pair shine on 'America'  and 'Silence', while the old-age imagination piece 'Old Friends' sounds more poignant now that Simon and Garfunkel are in their late thirties. They also throw in a sweet nostalgic Everly Brothers cover in 'Wake Up Little Susie', which suits them far better than 'Bye Bye Love' ever did. There's a lot of reasons to buy this set then, just don't expect the perfection of the records or for Simon and Garfunkel to suddenly become bosom buddies. The Concert In Central Park was billed by fans at the time as a 'miracle' and the most important live document ever made. It clearly isn't that, but even a flawed reunion is welcome to have when reunions are so rare and this is a fitting 'extra' to the five Simon and Garfunkel records, though no substitute for what they created together originally. If nothing else, though, I'm glad the pair got to see that the world and especially their local fans still held them in such vast affection, something that will help spur both men on in their solo careers after a difficult few years. 'We were told we weren't allowed to have any fireworks' quips Paul at one point - 'So let's have our own fireworks!' With the audience's help they certainly do.

"The Art Garfunkel Album" aka "My Best By Art Garfunkel"

(Columbia, December 1984)

Bright Eyes/Breakaway/A Heart In New York/I Shall Sing/99 Miles From LA/All I Know/What A Wonderful World/I Only Have Eyes For You/Watermark/I Believe (When I Fall In Love)/Scissors Cut/Sometimes When I'm Dreaming/Traveling Boy/The Same Old Tears On A New Background

"It's a fine line between the darkness and the dawn"

Arty's first solo compilation suffers from being released perhaps a tad too early. Garfunkel's work load meant that he only had five albums to pull this album from and leaves quite a lot of room for padding even with all the hit singles included. To be honest the track selection seems at time to have been made at random: few fans would rate 'Sometimes I'm Dreaming' or 'I Shall Sing' as the real peaks of Arty's career when top quality songs like 'She Moved Through The Fair' and 'Mary Was An Only Child' are missing. However the inclusion of darker material like the 'Scissors Cut' title track and '99 Miles From L.A.' does give the set a certain gravitas that not all Garfunkel solo collections have. Art's American label passed on the chance to release it, but this set was a big hit in Europe (peaking at an impressive #12 in the UK charts and #4Germany) and has become a regular on CDs around the world. Personally I'd go with the longer career overview 'Simply The Best' which spends more time covering Garfunkel's range than here. but this is an adequate one-stop shop for curious fans who only want the hit singles.


 (CBS, May 1988)

When A Man Loves A Woman/Break Away/Bright Eyes/What A Wonderful World/All I Know/Scissors Cut//I Only Have Eyes For You/So Much In Love/99 Miles In LA/Second Avenue/A Heart In New York/I Have A Love

"Guess my friendly old grin must have started to dim, somehow"

Had things really changed enough within four years for CBS to offer another Garfunkel best-of to the world? Well, there were two extra albums out since 'The Garfunkel Album', 'The Animals' Christmas' (which is, perhaps mercifully, ignored) and 'Lefty', which is thankfully here a lot and represented by its better tracks like 'I Have A Love' and 'When A Man Loves A Woman' too. The problem is, though, the need to make this compilation 'different' to the last one without anything that much new to offer means that most of Arty's semi-hits have been given the push this time around, leaving just the 'core' hits of 'Bright Eyes', 'I Only Have Eyes For You' (what is it with Art Garfunkel and eyes?!) and 'All I Know'. At least CBS think to include the rare single-only 'Second Avenue', with this album still the easiest way to track down this rare song. That's all though: there really isn't enough here that's new if you bought the first volume to make this worth your while and if you didn't then you'd most likely be disappointed at all the Art Garfunkel songs you'd vaguely heard of that aren't here. Give this one a miss.

PS "Negotiations And Love Songs"

 (Warner Brothers, October 1988)

Mother and Child Reunion/Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard/Something So Right/St Judy's Comet/Loves Me Like A Rock/Kodachrome/Have A Good Time/50 Ways To Leave Your Lover/Still Crazy After All These Years/Late In The Evening/Slip Slidin' Away/Hearts and Bones/Train In The Distance/Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War/Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes/You Can Call Me Al

"Why am I soft in the middle? The rest of my life is so hard!"

A mere five months after Arty's second solo compilation comes Paul's second as a solo artist, one that cashes in on the recent success of Graceland and celebrates the arrival of the CD with its extended running time. In fact the set is clearly intended as an 'introduction' for all newcomers who have arrived to the party since then, given that there's only two songs from Graceland tucked away at the end - even the most recent sets tend to include four or five. The problem is the same as with Arty's set: given that Paul had only technically released three new albums since his last best-of (represented here by just six songs) this set seems premature somehow and takes all the 'safe' options, largely reducing earlier albums to just their respective singles and ignoring lost classic 'One Trick Pony' almost entirely. Though the packaging and clever album title (a line from 'Hearts and Bones' title track) are a huge improvement on 'Greatest Hits Etc', actually this compilation loses a little bit of the previous set's fun and unexpected discoveries (such as exclusive B-side 'Stranded In A Limousine', though thankfully A-side 'Slip Slidin' Away' is here) leaving a set that has a distinct sag in the middle. Frustratingly too the tracks 'Mother and Child Reunion' and 'Loves Me Like A Rock' have both been trimmed of a few seconds each to fit them onto an 80 minute CD and it's usually these shorter edits that find their way on to future CDs too (we could easily have lost 'Have A Good Time', the one 'unknown' song still here which feels very much like the odd one out). Later compilations expand on this album's running time and the earlier set was a more detailed career overview leaving 'Negotiations'  sounding rather like it's title, a 'negotiation' over what tracks should be here rather than what a compilation should be: a perfect introductory guide to what an artists is really all about. There's a great cover shot of Paul Simon looking like an extra from 'Bugsy Malone' on the front cover though.

'The Paul Simon Songbook' (PS, 1965)

'Sounds Of Silence' (SG, 1966)

'Bridge Over Troubled Water' (SG, 1970)

'Paul Simon' (PS, 1972)

'There Goes Rhymin' Simon' (PS, 1973)

'Angel Clare' (AG, 1973)

'Watermark' (AG, 1977)

‘Scissors Cut’ (AG, 1981)

'The Animals' Christmas' (AG, 1986)

'Songs From The Capeman' (PS, 1997)

'Stranger To Stranger' (PS, 2016)

Every Pre-Fame Recording 1957-1963 (Tom and Jerry, Jerry Landis, Artie Garr, True Taylor, The Mystics, Tico and The Triumphs, Paul Kane)

Live/Compilation/Film Soundtrack Albums Part One: 1968-1988

Landmark Concerts and Key Cover Versions

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