Thursday, 2 August 2018

Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends (1968)


  

Released April 1968

Recorded in New York City

1966-1968 was such an explosive period for music, this album went quietly almost unnoticed for a while, sneaking in the stores in the long, influential wake of "Sgt. Pepper". This, in so many ways, was S & G's Beatles album. The influences are literally all over it. It is a hippy rock album too.

After a brief acoustic guitar introduction with "Bookends Theme", Simon & Garfunkel went all psychedelic with the quite bizarre "Save The Life Of My Child", full of weird synthesiser sounds, played on a Moog, and disturbing lyrics about suicide and a screaming mother. All very odd, as if they wanted to shed the earnest. folky image and show that they too could go weird, man. "America" has such Ringo Starr drums it is untrue, straight out of "A Day In The Life" The recent remastering has a huge bass sound in this iconic song. Beatles drums or not, is a superb, atmospheric and invigorating song. "Overs" is a tranquil, folky return to the sort of song that they had made their name with. Paul Simon on lead vocals, gentle acoustic guitar strumming and sincere lyrics.

"Voices Of Old People" I could do without, to be honest (it literally is spoken recordings of chat from old people). "Old Friends" is a tender, thoughtful and quiet ballad, with some "Eleanor Rigby" cello orchestration. It, totally incongruously, goes all "A Day In The Life" Beatles, with crashing orchestral sounds in the middle. Yes, lads, I know The Beatles were good at that, but stick to what you knew best, eh? Thankfully normal service is resumed after a minute or so. Quite what the need was for that raucous interlude, I don't know. "Fakin' It" has some groovy sixties percussion, Crosby, Stills & Nash-style harmonies and some Byrds-influeced acoustic guitars and drums. Again, some Beatles influence is both the instrumentation and, at times, the hurried vocal delivery of some lines. The brass sections are Beatles-ish too. Will it ever end? There are echoes of The Rolling Stones' "Satanic Majesties" as well, in the cornucopia of sound that hits you.

"Punky's Dilemma" is such a late sixties creation. Harmonised vocals, wry, odd lyrics and some general laid-back vibes. It has a lovely bass line on it. "Mrs Robinson", of course, is known to everyone. It is a magnificent song - airy, melodious, light but hard hitting, moving and cynical at the same time. Along with "America", the other famous song, it is the best on the album. The songs are famous for a reason. They are superb. "A Hazy Shade Of Winter" has a riff straight from "Oh! Pretty Woman". It is a robust, upbeat tambourine-driven rocking, but some swirling, airy hippy passages too. Such an archetypal late sixties song. Apart from the two greats, this is my next favourite.

"At The Zoo" is a very Paul Simon song, a very New York City song. Again it is a very 1968 song, but it wouldn't have sounded out of place on Simon's early solo albums. Simon's lyrics about the various animals are wry and amusing. Incidentally, the bonus track "You Dn't Know Where Your Interest Lies" found fame as a Northern Soul cult classic in the seventies by Dana Valery.

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