Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Album: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Genre: Folk Rock
“In the early evening gloom
Impaled on my wall
My eyes can dimly see
The pattern of my life
And the puzzle that is me”
Isn’t it great when you discover something you didn’t think you’d enjoy but found yourself loving it very much? I find myself doing that a lot these days. I think it’s great. It’s not only giving me the opportunity to find and enjoy new things but also allowing me to expand my knowledge on things I love (Mainly movies and music). In the past week I got to watch the Italian Neo-realist film, Bicycle Thieves and despite the lackluster response from the class, it really grabbed my attention. So much that I watched it a second time to see it again. I never knew much about the neo-realist movement in Italy but that film alone made me want to explore the movement and in the span of the next month I will probably be checking out more films.
This album did the same thing. I was never really crazy about Simon and Garfunkel. I kind of entered this album indifferently, no high or low expectations, just another album on the list to listen to. Little did I know I would be surprised by the fact that I would actually love it. I’ve said it before and probably won’t be the last time I’ll say it, but I’ve never really been crazy about folk music. I’m happy to say since I’ve started this list my opinions on folk has changed and I find myself slowly starting to enjoy it more than I used to. I guess I always misjudged it and this album is a perfect example of that.
I wish I hadn’t made some preconceived notions of what I felt Simon and Garfunkel to be. The little I heard of them I honestly found them boring, but as my musical tastes have been expanding and I’ve had more of an open-mind towards all genre, I now realise this duo were much more than I thought they were. What I used to brush off as slow and uninteresting acoustic music was actually emotional and kinda beautiful. These two have managed to create music that connects with you, with underlying themes of alienation, loneliness and melancholia with songs that ask questions about life and meaning. When they’re not taking a more straight-forward approach, singing with haunting vocals and sorrowful guitar accompaniment, they’re taking a page from Bob Dylan and adding that bitter-sweet flavour, upbeat music with sad themes. There’s no denying the duo has considerable talent and this album is a great showcase of what they can do.
Right from the beginning, the listener is met with the incredibly haunting “Scarborough Fair/ Canticle”. The duo sings in the most eerie sounding harmonies, that overlap and come together to make a chilling and beautiful song. From there, the first half of this album did something I really liked, created an amazing progression of musical styles. From “Scarborough Fair/ Canticle” to “The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine”, it slowly grows more and more upbeat instrumentally. It’s a nice steady progression as it builds up becoming more and more exciting as every song goes by. The build-up is done so masterfully and cleverly that it makes the first half one of the most cohesive side a’s I’ve ever heard.
When side B comes along, it’s a little more all over the place, taking elements from all the songs in side A but mixing them up in a different order so it doesn’t flow as well, but still provides some really strong material. One song in particular, “A Simple Desultory Philippic” stands out a bit for being different than the rest. Here, Paul Simon does his best to sound like Bob Dylan and openly satirises pop culture phenomenon that has been happening at the time. Whether he’s openly mocking Dylan or praising him is hard to tell and while the ranting can be humorous at times, you don’t know if he’s against it or just poking fun at it. The side eventually ends with “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night” which mirrors the eeriness of the opening, but this time through collage and juxtaposition rather than haunting harmonies. Mixed in with their pretty vocals of “Silent Night” is news coverage from big events that were occurring at the time (Like the Vietnam War). The contrast of happy Christmas sentiments with the sad news makes for a chilling song, especially as the news reports slowly get louder and the vocals get quieter as the song progresses.
This marked an interesting time for the duo. Their last album was incredibly underwhelming causing the duo to take full control of their music for this one. Unsure of where to go with their music, they decided to take a step back into what they felt was familiar territory and took some of Paul Simon’s old arrangements from a solo project he had years back. Honestly, that was a smart move on their part because the end result was an album that widely connected with the youth, having themes that they could easily relate to and they managed to create an album that is timeless. Although some songs do date them, with references of being super groovy and as a piece of the 60s flower power movement, their few and far between and don’t take away from the rest of the album.
This has been a happy discovery and like Dylan before them, I’m actually excited to see what they’ll have next in store for me (They appear a few more times on this list).
Song of Choice: The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine