Thursday, November 11, 2010

Storytellers In Song And Season: Bookends By Simon And Garfunkel

The Good: Lyrics, Voice, Good balance of instruments
The Bad: Short! Interspersed dialogue clips
The Basics: Solid lyrics and stunning vocals rock this enjoyable and listenable album, despite its short duration.

Back in the day when music was written, played and sung by artists, there was the original boy band, Simon and Garfunkel. Remember the days? I don't; I wasn't alive when they were at the tops of the charts. So, why are they worth listening to now?

Quite simply, they are that good. Bookends is an excellent example of their strengths as musical artists. The twelve-track album is often truly great and displays a profound understanding of human emotions. It's best classified as 60s rock; today it might be considered folk. Folk, in today's culture, is defined as "well written music played and sung by an artist with amazing lyrical powers, but is utterly unmarketable because it's too intelligent for the masses." Strange that quality lyrics are so far removed from popular culture now.

Enjoy Bookends then! The guitars range from pounding ("Save The Life Of My Child") to sensually picked ("Old Friends"). The guitars are used as a tool to accent the voices of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel and despite their sometimes over-noticeable presence, they are never overbearing. In fact, all of the musical instruments: guitars, drums, tambourine's, etc. serve only to complement the vocals, never drowning them out, never asserting more importance than the voice.

What are Simon and Garfunkel singing about? What's so great about their voices? Well, the answer to the latter question is smooth. Simon and Garfunkel are instantly comprehensible, their voices are instruments and they know it. They blend together wonderfully and the only word to truly describe their sound is smooth. Their voices have a quality of satin.

Bookends ranges thematically from songs patriotic ("America") to sad lamenting ("Old Friends") to upbeat and fun ("Mrs. Robinson"). The strength of the lyrics is in the vocabulary; they have a wide range and it is utilized well. Moreover, they are insightful. Their lyrics speak to the overwhelming emotions and concepts that drive us as people. They know what they're singing about.

The weaknesses of the album are few. The first is the addition of clips of dialogue to a few of the tracks. In fact, track five "Voices Of Old People" is just that. It's dialogue from old people. It breaks up the momentum of the album and it such a departure from the rest of the album that is serves only to distract.

Bookends is a sterling example of why old records should be condensed when being remastered. At barely a half hour, this album is a tremendous waste of the c.d. medium. Two Simon and Garfunkel albums could fit on one c.d.! It's a huge disappointment that the amazing lyrics don't continue that long.

Then again, I ought not to complain; had no one remastered the album into a c.d. at all, I'd never have heard the fine lyric "Wish I was a Kellogg's Cornflake. . ." (Punky's Dilemma). The strongest track is the tear-jerking "Old Friends," the weak track is "Voices of Old People."

For other male vocalists with wonderful lyrics, please check out my reviews of:
Wonderwall (single) - Oasis
Actually - Pet Shop Boys
Minutes To Midnight - Linkin Park


For other music reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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