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Simon And Garfunkel

  • Wednesday Morning 3am
  • Sounds Of Silence
  • Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme
  • Bookends
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water

  • Album Reviews |

    Simon And Garfunkel

    Related Artists - The Byrds, Bob Dylan, The Beatles
    Related Genres - Classic Rock

    Wednesday Morning 3am 7 ( 1964 )
    You Can Tell The World / Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream / Bleecker Street / Sparrow / Benedictus / The Sound Of Silence / He Was My Brother / Peggy-O / Go Tell It To The Mountain / The Sun Is Burning / The Times They Are A-Changin' / Wednesday Morning 3am

    Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon were a couple of mates who happened to live fairly close to one another and later, appear in a school production of 'Alice In Wonderland'. Hours of practice saw Garfunkel pay close attention to Paul Simon's vocalising, an attempt to ensure the harmonies were as rich as possible. Home recording saw primitive efforts to overdub their voices onto each other and indeed, once they started recording professionally as 'Simon And Garfunkel', many of their recordings, particularly the later ones would in effect features four voices, each singer having their voice in effect doubled. Those hours spent practising paid dividends then, making such a process so effective in the studio. Once signed to Columbia Records, the duo were paired with Tom Wilson (Dylan producer) and engineer Roy Halee. This is worth mentioning because all of the Simon and Garfunkel albums are absolutely beautifully recorded.

    In terms of song-writing, Paul Simon had tutorage with the Brill Building crowd but more importantly, first hand experience of the British folk-revival during two spells he spent in England, learning songs and tricks from the likes of Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy and Davey Graham. Simon would devlop a nice guitar sound of his own and as the sound of 'Wednesday Morning 3am' is just the vocals, Simon's guitar and a bass filling in, that's important. Recorded so simply this album yet show me someone these days who can just get in a studio and sing and sound this good? It's not just about the power of the voices, it's something to do with the acoustics. These days, recordings don't have natural acoustic sound, even simple folk recordings manage to come across as far too clean. Columbia had some talented people working for them of course, but... why can't we get such a special feeling in the 21st century? Recording people out there, please let me know.

    In terms of songs, this album has a smattering of Paul Simon originals surrounded by cover versions, as was much the fashion at the time. Both American and British influences shine through, particularly American is 'Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream', complete with Country style guitar picking. 'Bleecker Street' arguably manages to be the highlight of the entire album, Simon's guitar patterns are melodic, intricate yet easy on the ear. The close-vocal harmonies are exquisite and all this in under three minutes. The Simon penned 'Sparrow' and 'Sound Of Silence' both share a haunting, dark quality and both are songs of superb quality. The latter of course later would become a huge worldwide hit, here it's shorn of any folk-rock trappings and the vocals really come through as a result. Talking of vocals, the Latin hymn 'Benedictus' is a real showcase for what could be done with just two voices interweaving with each other and a good engineer around to capture it. All in all, this is a much overlooked album in the Simon and Garfunkel catalogue. It has charm and it has purity. Yes, it has a rather forgettable version of Dylan's 'The Times They Are A-Changin', a song covered successfully by just about nobody at all. Following a Tom Wilson session with Dylan's band at the time, 'The Sound Of Silence' was about to hit number one in it's new folk-rock Byrds style format. Times would indeed be changing for the duo.

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    Sounds Of Silence 8 ( 1966 )
    You 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

    Sales of 'Wednesday Morning 3am' were disappointing, so Paul Simon recorded 'The Paul Simon Songbook' for £60 in a London Studio. It was released in May 1965 and featured solo versions of many of the songs that later appeared here. I don't know if it was Paul Simon's choice to re-use these songs or more a necesssity as the record label looked to capitalise on the success of 'The Sound Of Silence'. Much of the album then features folk-rock backing but not all of it does. The lead track itself is of course one of the legendary moments in all rock music but listen and you can hear the pace of the vocals are slower than the original and you can tell the backing is simply plonked over the top. Credit where it's due to producer Tom Wilson though, he really pulled this rabbit out of the hat at exactly the right time to save the duo's career. Further hits would follow with 'Homeward Bound' and 'I Am A Rock' and the album would chart at number twenty-one on Billboard and go top-twenty in England. I'm sure Davey Graham welcomed the attention Simon And Garfunkel's take on 'Anji' brought him, yet he was toiling up and down the folk-clubs of Great Britain whilst Simon and Garfunkel were basking in chart glory!

    So, folk-rock with the title track, bouncy, up-tempo folk-pop for 'Leaves That Are Green' followed by Byrds-type backing for the harder sounding 'Blessed'. 'Kathy's Tune' is just acoustic and vocals, solo Simon in all but name. 'April Come She Will' is sweet sounding guitar plus Art Garfunkel vocals. It's like a nursey-rhyme set to music. More folk-rock for the up-tempo 'We've Got A Groovy Thing Goin' and then to close with the anthemic 'I Am A Rock'. Thing is, the vocals this album around aren't as strong in terms of harmonies as before, perhaps as a result of the nature of 'big business' getting in the way. The songs themselves are largely all excellent, there's not really a weak link. Key point, the production isn't as careful as what would follow or as simple as what came before.

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    Readers Comments

    Ian Gosling Canada
    I'm not going into a detailed description of the history of the making of this LP but Columbia rushed it out so that they could get an LP on the shelves to support their first huge hit "The Sounds Of Silence". And it shows. Two tracks, "We've Got A Groovy Thing Goin' " and "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" were recorded much earlier in May 1965, and have poppy arrangements unlike the rest of the tunes which are more folk oriented. The title track was recorded back in 1964 and was buried on their first LP which quickly hit the delete bins until its resurrection. The rest of this record, including overdubs of drums and electric guitar to “The Sounds Of Silence”, was hastily recorded in December 1965. Because of a lack of new material, most of these tunes were re-recorded from Paul Simon’s first solo LP recorded in Britain in (I think) mid 1965. This record has some fine moments and could have been a lot better had more time been taken to produce it. It deals with many human emotions and activities including alienation on "I Am A Rock" and "Leaves That Are Green" and suicide on "A Most Peculiar Man" and "Richard Cory". "I Am A Rock" is a different recording (the vocal at least) than the later 45 version. They must have re-recorded it for the single which was superior to the version here. Simon & Garfunkel scaled much higher ground with their subsequent releases but despite its flaws this album shows them in the learning process and without the polish of their later material.

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    Parsley Sage Rosemary And Thyme 8 ( 1966 )
    Scarborough Fair / Patterns / Cloudy / Homeward Bound / The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine / The 59th Street Bridge Song/ The Dangling Conversation / Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall / A Simple Desulty / For Emily Whenever I May Find Her / A Poem On The Underground Wall / 7 O Clock News - Silent Night

    The title track was almost certainly learnt from Martin Carthy yet Simon and Garfunkel splice in another traditional tune, 'Canticle'. Recorded over a five-month period, 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme' really shows the benefit an extended time in the studio gave the duo. Absolutely astonishingly lovely harmonies and an exquisite vocal arrangement are showcased well during 'Scarborough Fair'. I particularly adore 'Cloudy' and always have done. Yes, Paul Simon could attempt social commentary and have a go at political songs yet simple songs like this, songs that take you away in fantasy and up-lift you was something Simon and Garfunkel did very well indeed. In essence, 'Cloudy' is another master-class in song arrangement whilst maintaining simplicity, allowing the key musical and vocal melodies to come through. 'Homeward Bound' gives 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme' a needed hit single, the other choice was 'The Dangling Conversation', an odd selection which broke an unbroken run of US top ten singles for the duo since 'The Sound Of Silence' went to number one. Two voices become one in classic Simon and Garfunkel style with 'Feelin Groovy' aka '59 Street Bridge Song'. A jazzy rhythm, a simple folk/pop melody ending with care and wonder with a brief burst of interweaving vocals. 'The Dangling Conversation' is backed with strings and with serious sounding poetry, great poetry - 'The Dangling Conversation' was a clear sign the duo were growing up.

    'Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall', like 'Patterns' dates back to that 'Paul Simon Songbook' LP in origin, given over here to the then folk-rock idiom that was popular. Not sure what the hell 'A Simple Desulty' or 'The Bright Green Pleasure Machine' are doing on the album at all, apart from perhaps lack of material. Both are clear slices of filler, the former an attempt at playful Dylan wordplay that falls flat. Thankfully, 'For Emily Whenever I May Find Her' arrives and ranks alongside the title track of 'Sounds Of Silence' and 'Sparrow' from 'Wednesday Morning 3am' in terms of having a dark, haunting quality at odds with the uplifting 'Cloudy'. This yin and yang of course perfected matched the uncertain times the world was going through. Another slice of filler and then 'Silent Night' interspersed with a news report. A single Piano beautifully and mournfully played, hymnal lullaby singing from Art and Paul and then the news report comes in louder and I was talking contrasts and yin and yang?

    This is an album bookened by Scarborough Fair and 'Silent Night' with some juicy morsels inbetween yet you still couldn't claim Simon And Garfunkel had made a consistently satisfying set of songs from beginning to end.

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    Readers Comments

    Moonzapy Kansas, Texas, New Jersey
    This album should be a 10 in a different configuration. I started listening to it on cassette. I actually put in side 2 first starting with “The Dangling Conversation” and what I find is that it takes you on an emotional roller coaster that climaxes on side one with one of my favorite tracks “The 59th Street Bridge Song”. Try it! It’s a great ride especially in a car.

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    Bookends ( 1968 )
    Bookends Theme 1 / Save The Life Of My Child / America / Overs / Voices Of Old People / Old Friends / Bookends Theme 2 / Fakin' It / Punky's Dilemma / Mrs Robinson / A Hazy Shade Of Winter / At The Zoo

    Another half-an-hour long LP from Simon and Garfunkel two years after the last half-an-hour long LP. Still, 'The Graduate' had turned them into bona-fide worldwide stars thanks to 'Mrs Robinson' and producing themselves (along with trusted lieutenant Roy Halee) out came 'Bookends'. Largely gone is the folk-rock trappings although the music still largely fits into the then contemporary music scene. Edged on no doubt by rapidly advancing production techniques demonstrated in 1967 by the likes of The Beatles and The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel kind of produce their own conceptual long-player, only it isn't and it's still a good ten minutes shorter than albums by the likes of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc, etc. 'Mrs Robinson' was the only big hit single featured on 'Bookends', no doubt both a commercial decision that it was there at all but also a desire to be seen as a serious, album making concern. The recording of these songs, the arrangements and the performances are all top-notch. The format of the duo was already being stretched, the likes of 'Overs' a proto-type Paul Simon solo song of the kind he would soon be known for. Still essentially in the folk-idiom yet with melodies and sounds stretching beyond that. Art comes in with his lovely, high falsetto for a spot of essentially having something to do but also this Art cameo really lifts the song overall.

    I did say there was only one hit single? Well, 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter' I guess didn't do too bad at reaching the Billboard top twenty and 'Save The Life Of My Child' and 'America' both could have been massive hit singles if that was the way artists like Simon and Garfunkel were going at the time. Not sure if 'Voices Of Old People' was inspired by Frank Zappa or what point Paul Simon was making and you see, 30 minutes overall this album. Two minutes of it are this, you have the two 'Bookends' themes taking up another couple of minutes. That leaves twenty six minutes of actual material that resembles songs. You would very well feel short-changed were the remaining material not so damn good. 'Old Friends' links with 'Voices Of Old People' or rather, contrasts with it. Art sings ever so sweetly and those strings, ah, those strings which soar and suddenly, Simon and Garfunkel reach a whole other level of pop-art miles beyond what they'd done before. Whether influenced by 'Sgt Peppers' or not, you've got to admire the construction, the sound, the imagination and the actual achievement here. It flows into the actually quite lovely 'Bookends Theme 2'. End of act one? It kind of is, the remaining songs don't really connect with the previous seven other than being present on the same LP. 'Bookends' is some kind of conceptual mini-lp followed by a regular EP. Taken that way, 'Fakin' It', 'Punky's Dilemma', 'Mrs Robinson', 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter' and 'At The Zoo' make lots of sense. Again, superb production and song arranging are writ large. Something as apparently modest as 'Fakin' It' is taken to pop-art levels, pop music became an art-form and the Sixties gave us some of the best ever music and Simon And Garfunkel played their part with the 'Bookends' LP and songs like this.

    Was 'Punky's Dilemma' influenced by The Beach Boys 'Smile'? Was and is 'Mrs Robinson' ever so slightly irritating pop music in the very fact it's so catchy it probably should be made illegal? Was 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter' harking back to the 'Sounds Of Silence' LP in the sense it sounds folk-rock but has been taken to another level? It's like Dylan crossed with both The Beatles AND The Monkees. Ah, you've got to remember your audience want melodies and seeing as Simon And Garfunkel never, ever really qualified as 'rock', your 'Hazy Shade Of Winter' and the like, those up-beat, 'almost' rock tunes were vital in fleshing out their albums. 'At The Zoo' is another classic Paul Simon excersize in simplicity, the words and melodies easy to grasp yet with enough depth to survive the test of time. Remarkably, for an album that often feels like two EPs stuck together, like a Simon and Garfunkel 'Magical Mystery Tour', 'Bookends' the album has also stood the test of time. True, 'At The Zoo' and 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter' now come across as good Sixties pop rather than being essentially timeless, 'America', 'Old Friends' and even 'Overs' found the duo stretching out and seeing how far they could go.

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    Bridge Over Troubled Waters 9 ( 1970 )
    Bridge Over Troubled Water / El Condor Pasa / Cecilia / Keep The Customer Satisfied / So Long, Frank Wright Lloyd / The Boxer / Baby Driver / The Only Living Boy In New York / Why Don't You Write Me / Bye Bye Love / Song For The Asking

    Selling multiple millions of copies and topping the charts everywhere, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' became both their biggest album and single. A simple two verse ballad designed to showcase Art Garfunkel's voice gained a third verse at the behest of Art Garfunkel and both, together with Roy Halee, then took the opportunity to do a Phil Spector kind of towering inferno of passion. It's a song that lyrically is kind of like The Beatles 'Let It Be' but this huge ending and the overall vocal performance of Art Garfunkel and the sheer excellence of the song - Simon still able to attain simplicity even within such a huge production? Well, I prefer 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' to 'Let It Be', although to be fair both are classics and it's a close run thing. Having achieved said perfection and billions of sales, Simon and Garfunkel decided to split up. Well, being in each others pockets for years, Simon moving into creative directions Garfunkel was unsure of, Garfunkel wanting to act, Paul Simon wanting to disappear - probably. In retrospect, splitting up was exactly the right thing to do at the time, for both of their careers, yes, even Art Garfunkel's. People forget, such was the popularity of the duo that Art had a very good Seventies, several top ten albums topping off the decade with a British number one with 'Bright Eyes'. Paul Simon had a good Seventies and an even better eighties, although waiting for an album to come along by Paul Simon was a task set to test even his most devoted fans.

    'El Condor Pasa' and 'Cecilia' are both top tunes, 'So Long, Frank Wright Lloyd' could be seen as a 'lesser song' but this guitar plus Garfunkel tune is perhaps a Paul Simon goodbye to Simon and Garfunkel. Written about Frank Wright Lloyd, again at the behest of Art Garfunkel (who wanted more song-writing input) the lyrics hint at Simon reflecting upon the duo singing harmony right through the night. 'The Boxer' is an odd sort of song structually yet has good words and good vocals and the 'la la la, lie lie lie' bits are musical gold. I sometimes wonder though where Simon and Garfunkel would have got to without Roy Halee who once again helps them create something almost supernaturally good out of seemingly simple musical components. 'Baby Driver' is a charming Simon and Garfunkel take on a Beach Boys car song at a time when The Beach Boys were commercially dead. Those deep Mike Love style backing vocals can't be a coincidence, then we have the Sax coming in.... for such a serious album, mostly, this is welcome diversion. Oh, thirty seven minutes this time around. They learnt in the end!

    'The Only Living Boy In New York' is yet another Paul Simon classic, wonderfully evocative whilst 'Why Don't You Write Me' in an unsure experiment in song-styles, Simon and Garfunkel go hairy rock? A live take on The Everly Brothers is a nod towards the bands own past and a clever move on an album seemingly full of reflection. The original run of Simon and Garfunkel ends then with 'Song For The Asking', a slice of Paul Simon folk music, again this is very reflective of where he came from, albeit backed artfully by strings as well as his own acoustic. A song with no Art Garfunkel, but for beautiful double-tracked humming. Ah well, it's a sweet end.

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    this page last updated 08/02/14

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