Simon & Garfunkel: The Complete Albums Collection released in 2014 contains all the albums, the duo’s greatest hits, plus four live albums. The live albums were all released after the duo broke up in 1970 so in the box, they appear all in a row. One of the last Simon & Garfunkel official releases was one of the earliest, the Live from New York City, 1967 album.
This album was recorded at New York’s Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center on January 22, 1967 but was not released until July 2002. The album starts with a fine version of “He Was My Brother” from the duo’s debut album before turning in an excellent rendition of “Leaves That Are Green”. “Homeward Bound” is the first hit song to appear and receives enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Art Garfunkel describes “The Dangling Conversation” as one of their favourites before edgy versions of “Richard Cory” and “Hazy Shade of Winter” that would later appear on the Bookends album. A long and amusing recounting of their photography session for first album Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. precedes “A Poem on the Subway Wall”. Towards the end of the album, Simon & Garfunkel show their skills on three of their most beloved tracks – a less defiant than the album version of “I Am a Rock”, their breakthrough hit “The Sound of Silence” and a stunning Garfunkel vocal on “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her”.
The recording of the concert is impeccable as it sounds like the duo are singing right into your ear. Simon’s guitar playing is the only instrument heard is wonderfully rendered with several intricate passages. While missing a few popular songs, most notably “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”, Live 1967 acts as a greatest hits of their first three albums. At the end of the concert, the crowd is more vocal and can be heard shouting for more, showing the duo’s popularity and performing prowess. Live from New York City, 1967 is a fine document of where the duo were at in that stage of their career with several very good takes on many of their better early tracks.
During the last few months when the world was in lockdown, people like Ryan Holiday spoke of alive vs dead time. What can you do during these downtimes to make a difference in your life moving forward. Whether it be working out, reading books, going for walks, working on relationships or various other projects. For Taylor Swift, that meant using the time that was meant for touring her Lover album and instead working with longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff as well a new working relationship with The National’s Aaron Dessner.
Swift’s eighth album, folklore appeared virtually out of nowhere on July 24th and was quickly followed by first single “Cardigan”, the first in a three song story about a teenage love triangle. The second in that cycle, “August”, co-written with Antonoff who called it the best thing they have ever done together. Here, it sounds like a track with other Anotonoff favourite Lana Del Rey with an earworm chorus. “Betty” takes on the point of view of a relationship from the male’s point of view as he tries to apologize for being a crap partner on his girlfriend’s doorstep.
On “Exile”, Bon Iver takes on the lead role of male in a song about a love falling apart. The piano takes centre stage with strings in the background, the production on the voices in the chorus is staggering. “The Last Great American Dynasty” sees Swift singing about Rebekah Harkness who previously owned a house that Swift bought and was constantly in the town’s gossip while she lived there. Swift turns the lyric on it’s head in the last chorus – “There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen/I had a marvelous time ruining everything”.
“Mirrorball” sees Swift sing the type of song that soft indie pop singers would kill for. “You’ll find me on my tallest tiptoes/Spinning in my highest heels, love” “This is Me Trying” is a heartbreaking song where Swift’s voice hits an emotional high point as she pleads “I just wanted you to know that this is me trying/(at least I’m trying)” Her vocal inflections put in a good turn on “Invisible String” while “Mad Woman” tells of the men who drive the lady to madness behind the scenes.
Last year, the “Lover” duet remix with Shawn Mendes was a standout track. A warm and touching song that Swift duplicates here many times over. On folklore, she makes it sound so effortless to hit so many high points on various styles and emotions. Working with great producers certainly helps but she is the spark that lights the fire. This is a wonderful and story driven album that shows what Taylor Swift did during her alive time.
Back in late March, Bob Dylan released the nearly 17 minute single “Murder Most Foul”. The track acts as an elegy for John F Kennedy as it focuses on his assassination. “Right there in front of everyone’s eyes/Greatest magic trick ever under the sun/Perfectly executed, skillfully done” The song then touches on pop culture that was occurring at that moment including The Beatles, the British Invasion, Thelonius Monk, etc. Similar in tone to Van Morrison with just piano and strings, the song has a dreamy quality of a man looking back upon his life.
In several places on Rough and Rowdy, Dylan’s 39th studio album, he mentions his contemporaries and other historical figures including Anne Frank and The Rolling Stones on “I Contain Multitudes”. The lead track is about living a life of contradictions with multiple layers. A phlegmy growl powers the bluesy “False Prophet” where the man sings, “I’m first among equals/Second to none/The last of the best/You can bury the rest”. Most of the 70 minute album has a slow to mid tempo speed. “My Own Version of You” adds a bit of jazz noir to the proceedings in a track about putting body parts together to create something new.
Dylan’s voice is clear on “Crossing the Rubicon” and follows the a style that appears on a few other songs of having many verses with the name of the song featured in the last line of the verse. “Goodbye Jimmy Reed” mentions the blues legend on a rollicking track about religion. Lyrically the album is a dense lyrical wonderland but tracks like “Mother Of Muses” give the listener the chance to listen to the legend strum and sing a lovely little tune. Similar in tone, “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)” mentions “Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac” and that the “radio signal, clear as can be/I’m so deep in love that I can hardly see”.
On a personal level, I’m familiar with most of Bob Dylan’s 60s albums plus a few others. This is the first Dylan album that I’ve purchased when it actually came out. Upon purchasing the The Complete Albums Collection Volume 1, I’ve gone back and started to review his albums in order, with a long way yet to go. As Dylan turns 80, he makes it all seem effortless on a collection that is a wonderful addition to his discography. Rough and Rowdy Ways is one that will endure beyond just being a late period footnote.