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Simon and Garfunkel: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection

Nenad Georgievski By

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Simon and Garfunkel
The Complete Columbia Album Collection
Music on Vinyl
2015

Probably the most celebrated duo in pop folk music, Simon and Garfunkel, were the essence of harmony. The duo's voices are definitely one of the most cherished sounds of the '60s. Their harmonizing game, where their voices sang complementary melodies that were joined by rhythm, phrasing and tone, all blending into a new melody, was truly supernatural. Influenced by the Beatles, the sounds of English folk music and the sweet harmonies of the Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel continually expanded their horizons. With Simon's deft use of acoustic guitar, beautiful lyrics and Garfunkel's falsetto, a Simon and Garfunkel song was a masterpiece, assisted by state of the art production.

Paul Simon and Arthur Garfunkel, three weeks his junior, came to know each other well as schoolboys in Forest Hills, New York, and it was at this time that they began to perform together at school, as well as at venues such as private parties and bar mitzvahs. As they grew into their teen years, they listened to the early rock and roll music that was popular in the late 1950s and Simon became interested in writing his own songs. They began to frequent the music publishers' offices in New York, and at the age of 15, performing as "Tom and Jerry," they had an early chart success with the chuggy rock and roll number, "Hey Schoolgirl." When all of the follow up songs failed, the duo split and Simon continued to write songs for others to sing. While attending different universities in New York, with Garfunkel majoring in architecture and Simon studying English, they both continued to be on the fringes of the music business.

At the time, Simon felt that the folk circuit in Britain offered a better avenue and in 1964, after finishing college (and a brief stint at law school) to traverse the clubs around England. He found that the musical traditions of the urban folk movement provided great inspiration and he incorporated these styles into his own writing. Over two periods in 1964 and 65 he would write some of his first great songs, like "Katie's Song" and "Scarborough Fair," which were immensely influenced by the folk guitar styles of guitarists Bert Jansch and Davy Graham. During this time, Bob Dylan's producer Tom Wilson was excited enough by some of their demos to offer them a chance at recording.

Simon and Garfunkel
Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
1964

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. has a strong folk feel with its combination of traditional gospel/folk tunes ("You Can Tell the World," "Go Tell it on the Mountain") or "proven" songs by other writers, a Bob Dylan cover ("The Times They are a Changin'") and Simon's original songs. The debut has a tag "exciting new sounds in folk tradition by.." and in general it has a folk café to it, but it shows a certain stylistic variety inspired by current trends in folk and pop music of its time. Despite that it did not achieve any success at all when it was first released. As a result, the duo split and the discouraged Simon returned to London where he continued writing new music and eventually releasing his first solo record The Paul Simon Songbook. One of the most overlooked gem of a song in their oeuvre can be found here on this record in the form of "Bleecker Street." It's a street in Greenwich Village in NY, where they used to play often to enthusiastic crowds during the '60s folk revival movement. The song is a beautiful ballad with lyrics imbued with symbolic meanings sang over very fine guitar workings.

While the album is too polished and was considered a flop, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. did have its moments of brilliance in the form of one great song, "The Sound of Silence." Inspired by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it captured the silence and the shock of the aftermath. The key to its success is the simplicity of both melody and words which speak of youthful alienation. But above all it's the haunting sound of the duo's voices singing the opening lines "Hello darkness, my old friend" that is making the impact that something is happening in this song.

The song served as a premonition for what was to come. Interestingly, it had the same fate as Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" years later when a song from a rejected album resurrected as one of the most popular songs ever. While Simon was in London, unbeknownst to him and Garfunkel, Wilson got some Bob Dylan sideman and rocked up "The Sound of Silence" aiming for the "folk rock" sound. Interestingly, it happened on the same day that he produced both "The Sound of Silence" and Bob Dylan's milestone "Like a Rolling Stone." The result to that was a top charter within a month of its release and a major success. It's a folk-rock milestone that really paved the path for the success of their career together.

Ironically, they were told of this remixing of their song after it was released. It was the period when The Byrds found great success with their version of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and paved the way for folk rock to appear on the charts. While the debut album flopped when it was initially released, it went platinum when it was re-released in January 1966.

Simon and Garfunkel
Sounds of Silence
1966

Simon was quickly rushed back to the US and was hastily reunited with Garfunkel. What followed was the Sounds of Silence album, which was recorded around the new version of the title song. This album sparkled with great new songs that were conceived during Simon's English sojourn including his version of the instrumental guitar piece titled "Anji" (which was written by Davy Graham). The sound of this album is totally different when compared with the debut, which is overtly polished and sweet. He brought masterpieces such as ""Leaves That Are Green" "April Come She will," "We've Got a Groovy Thing Going on, "Kathy's Song" and finally "I Am a Rock."

When compared to the version that appeared on Songbook, "Leaves That Are Green" what they have in common are the upbeat arrangements. What is different are the Garfunkel's vocal harmonies and the folkish sounds of various instruments such as harpsichord sounds. "Kathy's Song" is a beautiful love song devoted to Simon's girlfriend Kathy Chitty whom he met in England while he lived there. Along with "April Come She will" these are some of the most intimate songs that Simon has ever written. The album ends with the masterpiece "I Am a Rock," (another song that first appeared on his Songbook) an irresistible pop song which tells the tale of an emotionally shattered person who is hiding from the world.

"A Most Peculiar Man" was another song that he had written while living in London and was inspired by an article he has read about someone's suicide. Initially it was written as a lament accompanied by a guitar only whereas this is a whole band approach with Garfunkel's accompanying vocals adding tension to the song's overall feel. It's one of those songs that spoke about the alienation of the youth in the '60s, a subject that was often written about by Simon at the time. Clearly the songs on this record were inspired by trends that were popular in the folk rock and pop music genres at the time. This record is considered to be a breakthrough record and it permanently placed the duo in the public's consciousness.

Simon and Garfunkel
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
1966

Released in the same year as Sounds of Silence, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is a marvel of a record. It's a record where they upped the game technically. Since the previous one was "rushed" in order to capture a moment and was made in three weeks, this one was in the making over a period that lasted for three months. The duo teamed up with producer Bob Johnston and recording engineer Roy Halee, who was almost an equal partner in the process of their record making. The duo is known for its studio perfection and their laborious approach to producing songs and this record benefited from this. It was the era that produced sonic classics such as the Beatles' Rubber Soul and Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Almost all of the songs were mostly written by Simon or were arranged by him. The inaugural "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" is a bona-fide sound classic. It's a version of an Irish folk song where their voices weave together and meld in pure tones.

The album features borrowings and reworking of three songs from Simon's Songbook ("A Simple Desultory Philippic," "Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall," "Patterns"), but the album is full of classics such as the playful "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" and the homesick "Homeward Bound," a song that charted in the Top 5 and was their follow—up hit after "The Sound of Silence." "Feeling Groovy" is named after Queensboro Bridge in NY City. It's an antidote to a life spent on the run: "Slow down, you move too fast, you've got make the moment last." "Cloudy" is simply beautiful, both lyrically and musically. It's light and breezy, and full of honeyed harmonies. It's a perfect pop song. The album ends with "7 o'clock news /Silent Night," a collage where they are singing the first verse of the "Silent Night" over a news reel about grim subjects -the death of Lenny Bruce, Vietnam, civil-rights related issues. It's a statement where current ill social issues are contrasted against Christmas sentiments.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is a beautiful record from start to finish. Garfunkel considers it as a career high point. The lyrics are undoubtedly both literate and evocative and the duo weaves elegant and poignant melodies around their voices.

Simon and Garfunkel
Bookends
1968

Equally impressive was their own year—long production job on Bookends, which had its own concept of cycle of songs about passage of life. This record produced a side-long suite of quiet introspection, including "Bookends Theme," "Overs" and "Old Friends." "The Bookends Theme," which opens and closes this darkish record that maps a journey from childhood to old age, starts as a short guitar instrumental and ends side A of the LP as a short song with unique sweet harmonies and poignant and memorable lyrics. It is followed by the disturbing "Save the Life of My Child" with its distracting and rough sounds produced on a Moog synthesizer indicating a straying from their typical sweet sounds and harmonies. "Save the Life of My Child" slowly cross fades into "America" a protest song about two lovers who travel by bus to look for America.

But prior to releasing this record, the duo received an unusual boost by film director Mike Nichols, who used their music for his film The Graduate featuring Dustin Hoffman in the leading role. The soundtrack featured several previously released songs by the duo including the now anthemic "Mrs Robinson." The story goes that while finishing his film the director asked them if he could use one more song of theirs. Garfunkel proposed they should play him "Mrs. Robinson" which came as a shock to Nichols as they had a song with a title of one of the main characters in the film.

Actually, the original title was "Mrs. Roosevelt" and the lyrics had nothing to do with the movie as originally it was about Eleanor Roosevelt and the passing of a more innocent era. They changed the title and there are two versions appearing on the soundtrack which had very little with the final version appearing on Bookends. Nevertheless, it's a delightful pop song with a catchy guitar melodies and the tenderly-cooed "dee-dee-dee-dees." It was one of the most triumphant songs they have ever written and the song became the first rock song ever to be Grammy awarded.

On this record the duo transcended its own folk roots and with the help of studio technology and the record's own concepts, it yielded songs that revealed their talent in all its glittering and limitless glory. It's this album's success and the Graduate theme song "Mrs. Robinson" that propelled them as one of the most popular acts of its day alongside bands and musicians such as Bob Dylan and The Beatles. But the times when their music was made was tumultuous and bitter. Bookends was released a day before the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and two months later, on the same day Robert Kennedy was killed, "Mrs. Robinson" had reached No1 on the charts.

Simon and Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Water
1970

The duo truly blossomed in the studio as it bolstered their imagination and creativity to dizzying heights. Simon had wanted to go further in achieving what he considered a "total record." With the help of engineer/producer Roy Halee he used two eight-tracks in order to achieve a mini-epic in sound. This process can be best heard on "The Boxer," which starts softly with an acoustic guitar, but eventually it builds up into a string-soaked epic with a huge repeating outro. This song was released as single in 1969, and it was a promise of what was to come with Bridge over Troubled Water.

This record was conceived in the turmoil of the previous year. Simon had conflicts with Garfunkel about the finale of "The Boxer" while Art's growing closeness with Mike Nichols landed him arts in his films, Catch 22 and Carnal Knowledge. Nichols has helped the duo reach super stardom when he used their music for his film The Graduate, but then he unintentionally pulled them apart. In the beginning he planned both of them to appear in the film, but Simon's part was dropped suddenly before the shooting began. His heartache was most evidently expressed in the whimsical "The Only Living Boy in New York." Garfunkel's absence meant that many of the tracks were prepared by Simon and Halee which reflected Simon's love of early rock and roll, ethnic music and folk. This was best expressed in "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" which expressed Simon's interests in musics from various corners of the globe.

He had heard this melody performed by a group from Southern America called Los Incas. Many nights in Paris he would check out the band only to hear this song. The result to that is this classic of a song that is still mesmerizing and beautiful. But the crowning achievement was the title song "Bridge over Troubled Water," a gospel song which was inspired by the massed Phil Spector sound. The process of writing it was easy for Simon, but the process of recording and mixing proved challenging and time consuming. Nevertheless, this song was high-fidelity rock of such grandeur that is made the duo superstars. It features a champion vocal performance by Garfunkel, whose voice soars to awe inspiring heights during the song's climax. This powerful song was released during a period of mayhem that the end of the '60s were and its elegiac nature had a soothing quality. As the album topped the charts for ten weeks and the title song was a No.1 single for six seeks, Simon and Garfunkel split at the zenith of their collective power and saddening millions of their fans.

Apart from the regular album releases this box set also includes the famed Greatest Hits collection which was released in 1972. It was a millions seller and it contains four previously unreleased live songs—"For Emily," "Kathy's Song," "59th Street Bridge Song" and "Homeward Bound." There aren't any other materials such as unreleased songs which were released on Old Friends (Columbia Legacy, 1997). All of the albums were remastered from the original analog tapes and every detail has been carefully preserved, including the albums' original liner notes, the booklet with its kaleidoscope of black and white photographs. There is clarity and depth to the quality of sound on these albums and they all contain their requisite of sonic gold. The Complete Columbia Album Collection is a remarkable document that is tracing the trajectory of this short lived, but unforgettable duo.

Tracks and Personnel

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Tracks: You Can Tell the World, Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream, Bleecker Street, Sparrow, Benedictus, The Sounds Of Silence, The Sounds Of Silence, He Was My Brother, Peggy-O, Go Tell It On the Mountain, The Sun Is Burning, The Times They Are A-Changin,' Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Personnel: Paul Simon: acoustic guitar, vocals; Art Garfunkel: vocals; Barry Kornfeld: acoustic guitar; Bill Lee: acoustic bass.

Sounds of Silence

Tracks: The Sound of Silence, Leaves That Are Green, Blessed, Kathy's Song, Somewhere They Can't Find Me, Anji, Richard Cory, A Most Peculiar Man, April Come She Will, We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin,' I Am a Rock.

Personnel: Paul Simon: lead vocals, guitar; Art Garfunkel: lead vocals; Fred Carter, Jr.: guitar; Larry Knechtel: keyboards; Glen Campbell: guitar; Joe South: guitar; Joe Osborn: bass guitar; Hal Blaine: drums; Al Gorgoni: guitar; Vinnie Bell: guitar; Joe Mack: bass guitar, Bobby Gregg: drums.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Tracks: Scarborough Fair/Canticle, Patterns, Cloudy, Homeward Bound, The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy), The Dangling Conversation, Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall, A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission), For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, A Poem On The Underground Wall, 7 O'clock News/Silent Night.

Personnel: Paul Simon: vocals, guitar; Art Garfunkel: vocals, piano; Hal Blaine: drums; Joe South: guitar; Carol Kaye: bass guitar on "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" and "Homeward Bound"; John Meszar: harpsichord on "Scarborough Fair/Canticle"; Eugene Wright: double bass on "The 59th Street Bridge Song"; Joe Morello: drums on "The 59th Street Bridge Song"; Charlie O'Donnell: vocals on "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night"

Bookends

Tracks: Bookends Theme; Save The Life Of My Child; America; Overs; Voices of Old People; Old Friends; Bookends Theme; Fakin' It; Punky's Dilemma; Mrs. Robinson (From the Motion Picture "The Graduate"); A Hazy Shade of Winter; At The Zoo.

Personnel: Paul Simon: vocals, guitar, production; Art Garfunkel: vocals, tapes, production; Hal Blaine: drums, percussion; Joe Osborn: bass guitar * Larry Knechtel—piano, keyboards

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Tracks: Bridge Over Troubled Water; El Condor Pasa (If I Could); Cecilia; Keep The Customer Satisfied; So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright; The Boxer; Baby Driver; The Only Living Boy in New York; Why Don't You Write Me; Bye Bye Love; Song For the Asking.

Personnel: Paul Simon: lead vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion; Art Garfunkel: lead vocals, percussion; Los Incas: Peruvian instruments; Joe Osborn: bass guitar; Larry Knechtel: piano, Hammond organ, electric piano; Fred Carter, Jr.: acoustic & electric guitars; Peter Drake: Dobro, pedal steel guitar; Hal Blaine: drums, percussion; Jimmie Haskell and Ernie Freeman: strings; Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff & Alan Rubin: brass; Buddy Harman: percussion.

Greatest Hits

Tracks: Mrs. Robinson, For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (Live), The Boxer, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) (Live), The Sound of Silence, I Am A Rock, Scarborough Fair/Canticle, Homeward Bound (Live), Bridge Over Troubled Water, America, Kathy's Song (Live), El Condor Pasa (If I Could), Bookends, Cecilia.

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