I first became aware of Simon and Garfunkel when I was quite young – as I recall, my brother had the Bridge Over Troubled Water album, and I must have heard it many times as a child. Since then, I’ve heard a lot of their songs, got a compilation or two, and enjoyed seeing the 1981 reunion concert on TV once or twice.
I hadn’t actually listened to them in years, which tends to happen a lot with me – I’ll get into something for a while, play it a lot, then move on to something else, but sooner or later things pop up again. And the latest pop up was this box set, which I spotted in my local HMV at £8. I looked, and couldn’t quite believe what was in the box for that price. All five of their original studio albums and the DVD of the 1981 concert in Central Park.
The CDs are packed in cardboard sleeves that are reproductions of the original album sleeves. That’s quite nice, but the process used to reduce the images has made most of the text on the back of sleeves more or less illegible. But that’s a minor quibble at this price. There’s also a small booklet with track listings and a few photographs. Each CD comes with at least a couple of extra tracks – mostly different versions or demos of tracks on the album, but there are some extra songs. Nothing that probably hasn’t been on other compilations, but this package doens’t really seem to be aimed at the serious collector or completist – this is for anyone who might know a few Simon and Garfunkel songs, and would like to hear a load more, and in that, it does a great job. A normal “best of” CD can be found for around £5, so getting all this for just £3 more is a pretty serious bargain.
I won’t go into complete track-by track detail, but I will point out a few of the highlights:
Wednesday Morning, 3AM
Their first album, released in 1964, and pretty much pure acoustic folk. Notable for the original version of The Sound of Silence, which became a hit after the record company added a more dramatic backing track. The title track is a lovely piece, too…
Sounds of Silence
Includes that “improved” version of The Sound of Silence, and a song that reused parts of Wednesday Morning 3AM to follow up on that song’s story of the young man who has to run away from all he loves. And it closes with what I seem to recall Paul Simon describing as his “most neurotic song”, the quite wonderful I am a Rock
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme
Opens with one of those Simon & Garfunkel songs everyone knows – Scarborough Fair / Canticle, as fine a demonstration of any of the duo’s vocal talents. Another highlight is Homeward Bound.
As they moved on, more and more instruments were introduced, and more backing vocals and more of everything was added. This album is quite a dramatic contrast from the folky first one, but it’s none the worse for that. On this one there’s the repeated Bookends Theme, the really quite classic America, and of course their cover of the Lemonheads’ classic Mrs Robinson.
Bridge Over Troubled Water
The final album, which includes more classic songs. There’s the title track, of course. Then there’s The Boxer, which is quite superb and noted for a great drum sound punctuating the chorus. Great stuff.
The Concert in Central Park
This offers a good selection of their songs, and some from their respective solo careers. Some of the versions are a bit limp, to be honest (The Boxer suffers from lacking that bang after each “Lie-la-lie”), but it’s a good enough show and worth watching from time to time.
However you look at this set – some cheap CDs with a free DVD, a DVD with a load of free CDs, or just a real bargain, it’s worth getting if you’re at all interested in the music of Simon and Garfunkel. I’d have said that at it’s previous price of £15. At £8, it’s a steal.
 I see it’s slightly cheaper than that on Amazon, but never mind
 Just seeing if anyone reads this stuff 
 And in case of any lingering doubt, that’s a joke
 If you’re thinking that there’s really no need for me to explain that, you haven’t spent enough time on the internet. Good move.