Simon & Garfunkel
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 7, 2001
Simon & GarfunkelThe Columbia Studio Recordings 1964-1970 (Columbia Legacy) The enduring legacy that was Simon & Garfunkel rang true last September when Paul Simon performed "The Boxer" on Saturday Night Live in tribute to a wounded New York City and a devastated America. Missing was Art Garfunkel's vocal sweetness, the necessary sugar to Simon's salty lyrics, a combination remembered with much warmth, affection, and plenty of bonus tracks on the duo's 5-CD The Columbia Studio Recordings 1964-1970. The five albums that comprised their six-year history are a remarkable body of work, a standing stone in rock history. New York-centric debut Wednesday Morning 3AM from 1964 presented a post-assassination generation with a canny mix of traditional ("Go Tell It on the Mountain") and social/cultural commentary ("Bleecker Street," Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changing") that became a hallmark of the duo. It also presented America's alienated youth with an anthem, "The Sound of Silence," a song so powerful and prophetic it was re-recorded as the title of their 1966 album and charted for 143 weeks. Sounds of Silence and equally strong Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme defined Simon & Garfunkel as estimable cohorts of Dylan et al., the fey "Scarborough Fair" weaving the angelic blend of the two singer's boys-choir harmonies into the fabric of the Sixties. In PSRT, Simon's songwriting sharpened with radio-friendly tracks ("Homeward Bound," "59th Street Bridge Song") and jabs at society ("A Simple Desultory Philippic," "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night"). Bookends, from 1968, likewise spawned more singles ("Mrs. Robinson," "Hazy Shade of Winter") along with the evolving craftsmanship of Simon's writing ("Overs," "At the Zoo"), but it was '70's Bridge over Troubled Water that made the ultimate exit. More massive singles ("Cecilia," "The Boxer") and an anthem for America in the title track made it a perfectly realized recording and an honorable farewell. So, why "The Boxer" for NYC 30 years later? Why not "Bridge Over Troubled Water" or even "America"? Here's why: "In the clearing stands a boxer and fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of ev'ry glove that laid him down, or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame, 'I am leaving, I am leaving,' but the fighter still remains ..." Everlasting words for a time when looking to the past makes it easier to face an uncertain future.