It actually took me two albums to get through today’s album, “Bookends”, by Simon and Garfunkel. I had originally added The Graduate soundtrack (another movie I have never seen), which came out several months ahead of Bookends, but I realized that album was much more “soundtracky” and not a really complete work. In contrast, “Bookends” feels like the band nearing the apex of their career, as most acts have an ascent, a peak, and an inevitable descent. Some are just messier than others.
Side One is a bit more eclectic, written by Paul Simon as a recurring concept of life from cradle to grave. The songs are pure Simon and Garfunkel, mostly limited in instrumentation and lush with their beautiful harmonies. Side Two contains one of their most well-known hits, emerging from “The Graduate”, the American ode “Mrs. Robinson”. Since I was a young baseball fan, I have always resonated with the longing reference to “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio, and the rest of this song is just perfect to me, and always has been. Following is their original version of “A Hazy Shade of Winter”, remade 20 years later by The Bangles. The album closes with the melancholy “At the Zoo”, more of the duo at their harmonic best.
At their peak, Simon and Garfunkel had a tremendous impact on the cultural evolution of the 1960s, with the irony being their delicate vocal harmony as their internal relationship began to fray. If I had one album to play as testimony to them at their best, it is either this or their next (and last) release.