CK Retro Review: Sounds Of Silence by Simon & GarfunkelPosted: August 16, 2013
Thanks to producer Tom Wilson’s addition of drums and electric guitar to the year-old “The Sounds Of Silence,” Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, who had essentially gone their separate ways, were suddenly a hit. So they hurriedly put together an album consisting of some leftover songs, some new ones, and several that were recorded by Simon for a ’65 solo album. Despite the bizarre way it came into existence, 1966’s Sounds Of Silence is a wonderful collection of insightful, stirring tracks performed with delicacy and feeling. Here is a song-by-song review.
11. “We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Going On”- “Just for fun” reads the liner notes to Sounds Of Silence concerning this up-tempo romp. Maybe the performers have fun, but listeners probably won’t get the joke on this dated-sounding track.
10. “Anji”- An instrumental that Simon presumable learned during his stint in England, it closes out Side One of the album in unassuming fashion.
9. “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me”- Simon was working on the rewrite apparently, taking “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM” and trading its contemplative mood for a more frantic, suspenseful approach. It’s all right, but the earlier version is ultimately more affecting.
8. “Richard Cory”- When in doubt, look to your poetry anthology for inspiration. “Richard Cory” makes a relatively cliched point about the rich having as many problems as the poor. Luckily, the chorus has enough feistiness to atone for that flaw.
7. “Leaves That Are Green”- With a chirping harpsichord providing the musical flavor, this track is reminiscent of a Beatles album cut with its light melodic touch and catchy arrangement. All songwriters find out they’re getting old at some point; Simon reached that realization pretty early in the game but at least doesn’t get too heavy-handed with his lyrics about it here.
6. “A Most Peculiar Man”- Again, this was common subject matter in the 60’s, since most musicians identified with society’s outsiders anyway. It’s has a dreamy melody that could have only emanated from the 60’s, and it has Art Garfunkel’s brilliant harmonies, which lend the lyrics profundity that might not be located from reading them on a page.
5. “Blessed”- Early Simon & Garfunkel often gets labeled as being a bit twee, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any of their contemporaries coming up with something quite as heavy musically as this underrated track. It’s a good fit for Simon’s tale of a guy who somehow falls in between all the different categories of woeful creatures on whom God shines his light.
4. “April Come She Will”- Parks & Recreation fans recognize it is April and Andy’s wedding song. Simon took a nursery rhyme and retrofitted it to evoke a love that runs its course. This is Garfunkel’s one solo vocal on the album, and he delivers it in gorgeously heartbreaking fashion, but what else would you expect?
3. “Kathy’s Song”- One of the most obvious factors that make Sounds Of Silence such an improvement on the duo’s debut is the leap that Simon had already made as a songwriter. These are the kind of lyrics that seem to speak for the hearts of all those who’ve got it real bad for someone else, as Paul touches on the way that all life’s other pursuits become meaningless in the wake of a truly powerful love. There is also darkness in the song, for such a love becomes a hindrance when the two people are separated. “There but for the grace of you go I,” the narrator sings as he contemplates how easily he could have missed out on the redemption this relationship has bestowed upon him.
2. “I Am A Rock”- While the merits of adding the drums and electric guitars can be debated when discussing the title track, there is no doubt that this song could have flown off the rails into maudlin territory had not the fuller musical approach been applied. It allows Simon to capture the defiance of the narrator, who could have come off seeming like a guy in denial, in which case the song becomes too pathetic. This guy seems at peace with his choice of solitude, making it convincing enough as an alternative lifestyle that anyone whose heart has been broken badly enough would have to consider it.
1. “The Sounds Of Silence”- The words are often taught this as poetry, but, to me, that denies the fact that lyric-writing is an art in itself. Simon’s words need to have the music, hushed and reserved at first, increasingly more intense and urgent as the song progresses, for their true meaning to be gleaned. It’s a pretty prescient song as well, since the difficulty inherent in truly communicating with another person has only increased with time. Just an amazing feat to take subject matter so harrowing and make it so prettily palatable to the masses.
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