It seems like EVERYONE is doing covers of tunes by either Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan if Baby Boomer material is ever deemed worthy to be investigated. The dynamic duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel has been sadly ignored, and this 12 disc sleeve-jacketed collection of their studio and concert albums might hopefully cause a positive re-evaluation of their songwriting skills.
During their heyday, Simon and Garfunkel were one of the most important songwriters of the 60s along with Stevie Wonder, Dylan and Mitchell, with their sounds and lyrics being possibly the most reflective, subtle and sophisticated of all. While they actually emulated the Everly Brothers in terms of harmony, their actual lyrics on tunes on famous pieces like “Sounds Of Silence,” “Leaves That Are Green”, “Richard Cory” “Homeward Bound” “I Am A Rock” and “The Dangling Conversation” are simply highlights of 20th Century prose. Anthem pieces like “The Boxer”, “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” have a mix of cerebral intellect and visceral allure that is rarely even approached these days.
The classic albums Bookends, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and Sounds of Silence are surprisingly short, but like bossa nova records of the same era, the concision of the genius makes it all the more delectable. Along with their essential studio albums come a handful of concert recordings, some culled from yearlong tours and others from a single gig, most notably the famous concert in Central Park from 1981 and a post-breakup discovery of a ’67 gig that was also in NYC. A collection of shows from 1969 as well as from their 2003 reunion tour when the two gents finally repaired any old arguments and Art Garfunkel finally got enough therapy to recover from one of the most disastrous career decisions when he departed from his long time friend and partner, as well as creative cash cow. The latter day concerts are benefited by the addition of Simon doing some of his stellar solo work such as “Slip Slidin’ Away” and “Kodachrome” as well as the tribute to their inspirations with “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up, Little Suzie.” All of the live performances have a casual coolness to them that can either be considered “mellow” or “boring” depending on which side of the James Taylor fence you stand, but either way, the songs and genre hold up extremely well, particularly in this present age of what was once termed “emotions with no feelings.” A great anthology of Americana at its most thoughtful and thought provoking.