SIMON & GARFUNKEL: SOUNDS OF SILENCE (1966)
If you want to make the case that Sounds of Silence ranks fourth out of five on S and G’s album list, I won’t argue. Paul Simon, as much as any songwriter in pop music, proves that greatness and perfection are not the same thing. Simon is the most eclectic of all great American singer/songwriters.
That eclecticism has led to masterpieces like Graceland, and it has led to missteps. S&G’s albums that came after Sound of Silence (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme – Bookends -- Bridge Over Troubled Waters) each have an extraordinary number of gems. And they are all plagued by minor miscalculations. Bookends remains my favorite S&G album despite the unfathomable inclusion of Art Garfunkel’s “Voices or Old People,” – a track that I have always skipped.
By saying this, I do not mean to suggest that Sounds of Silence is a minor achievement. Every track is first-rate, from the opening title track to the concluding “I Am a Rock.” Simon could write simple, beautiful ballads like “Kathy’s Song” and “April Come She Will,” as well as ironic short stories like “Richard Cory” and “A Most Peculiar Man.” He could be bitter, but he never failed to be engaging. The album even has one of the few acoustic tracks Simon recorded – his cover of Davey Graham’s “Anji.”
In a sense, Sounds of Silence should have been a perfect album because a lot of the songs had previously been released on Simon’s “Songbook” album, or had been reworked from other source material. But I don’t hold that against it. It just resulted in the most cohesive collection of songs the duo ever released.