Simon and Garfunkel were one of the groups I listened to more than most when I was in my childhood/tween oldies phase. I want to blame that for why I have such a hard time with them as an adult but I think it’s mostly because I find Paul Simon to be perhaps the most overrated American songwriter of his generation. (That’s not to say he’s bad, just that the adulation he has received seems out of proportion to me.)
Like much of the consciously radical music of the late 1960s, the more experimental music here has not dated that well. Sometimes you can excuse that fact because the dated radicalness is what makes it important. I don’t think “Save the Life of My Child” is very good but I can’t deny it’s one of the first uses of a Moog in a popular music context. (It may well be the first.) And so I must acknowledge that. But some of the other experimental stuff doesn’t have that pedigree.
The good news is that a bunch of Simon’s very best songs are on this record. And when they incorporate the studio trickery into his good songs (such as on “America”), or they forget it altogether (as with the most famous song here, “Mrs. Robinson,” perhaps because it was recorded for a movie instead of this record), the record is much stronger and the run of strong songs on the second side is enough to make you nearly forget about the experimental first side, much of which sounds soooo 1967. (Far out, man.)
I feel like 7/10 is generous given how much of a mixed bag the new material is, but there’s enough of their best stuff here that I think anything less might be unfair.
All tracks written by Paul Simon, except “Voices of Old People” by Art Garfunkel.
- “Bookends Theme” recorded 1968; 0:32
- “Save the Life of My Child” recorded December 14, 1967; 2:49
- “America” recorded February 1, 1968; 3:35
- “Overs” recorded October 16, 1967; 2:14
- “Voices of Old People” recorded February 6, 1968; 2:07
- “Old Friends” recorded 1968; 2:36
- “Bookends Theme” recorded 1968; 1:16
- “Fakin’ It” recorded June 1967; 3:17
- “Punky’s Dilemma” recorded October 5, 1967; 2:12
- “Mrs. Robinson” recorded February 2, 1968; 4:02
- “A Hazy Shade of Winter” recorded September 7, 1966; 2:17
- “At the Zoo” recorded January 8, 1967; 2:23