Sunday, May 22, 2016

Simon and Garfunkel - Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits (1972)

Although rendered redundant by subsequent compilations, Simon and Garfunkel's first greatest-hits LP, released two years after the duo's split, is a fine summation of their evolution from obscure urban folkies to conscientious musical voices that bridged the generation gap.  All their big hits are here, highlighting their sparse instrumentation and solid harmonies.  No, you won't find their more interesting cuts from their five studio albums here, except for the wistful "Bookends," a brief, simple moment of reflection, but the hits speak for why Simon and Garfunkel were so popular and remains so today.  Songs such as "The Sound of Silence" (the electric version is the cut here), "America," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" all speak to the isolation and disconnection many people felt in the sixties, offering a personal perspective on the tumult of the decade.  
The only complaint anyone could have about Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits is that the songs aren't presented in chronological order, so you don't fully appreciate Paul Simon's growth as a songwriter or Art Garfunkel's always-improving vocal arranging prowess.  But its eclectic running order - the more mature "Mrs. Robinson" and "The Boxer" precede the somewhat petulant "I Am a Rock" - just shows how complicated and erratic the sixties were and how Simon and Garfunkel mirrored all of that drama.
For the completists who had all the albums, Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits offered live versions of four songs, all but one of them originally featured on Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme ("Kathy's Song," from Sounds of Silence, is the exception).  These concert recordings are astonishing, delicately played with intricate vocals - Garfunkel's delivery here on "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" is even better than his already great vocal on the original studio version - that underline the connection Simon and Garfunkel had - no, have had - with their audience.  The respectfully warm applause settles the case for the duo in spades.  

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