Today we encounter the folk-influenced duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel for the first time with what was their second studio album, “Sounds of Silence”. This album, bookended by two of their most famous and successful hits, built on the two-part harmony legacy of the Everly Brothers, with a more sophisticated, mature and folk-based sound on the heels of Bob Dylan’s continued success.
The title song, “The Sound of Silence”, is absolutely one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs ever. With profound lyrics, and a building intensity, Art’s high harmony vocal blends perfectly with Paul to deliver a somber yet intense song. This was actually the second version of this song released, as the record company presented a new version of the previously recorded acoustic track, with electric guitar, bass and drums added. The original version was released on their initial album two years earlier. Comparing the two versions, while they are the same basic song, I do think the building surge from this bigger sound definitely takes the song to a higher place with a more powerful impact. Knowing the opinionated mindset of Paul and Art, it must have been an interesting sell at first. Even from the beginning, Paul Simon was the primary creative force and songwriter in the duo, a fact that reappears as a source of tension throughout their complicated history.
The album closes with “I Am A Rock”, a very timely declaration of inner strength that once again reflects the emerging sounds of folk rock, building on The Byrds as they built on Dylan. While not always the case, I do believe these two well-known tunes stand out on an otherwise relatively forgettable collection of songs. Like any artist, Simon and Garfunkel rise and fall based on the quality of their songs, and future creations by Paul will ultimately significantly overshadow this early work.