Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Live 1969

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

So are Simon & Garfunkel — or at least Paul Simon — suddenly "hip" again? It seems that Vampire Weekend's similarity to at least one of the short guy's classics gets mentioned in nearly every other story on that current buzz band (though I'm not sure I hear it). On the other hand, the recent rerelease of the Lemonheads' It's a Shame About Ray reminded me of that one-time buzz band's cover of "Mrs. Robinson" back in the '90s, following on the heels of the Bangles' hit version of S&G's "Hazy Shade of Winter." The short answer is that Simon & Garfunkel have always been "hip" ... although, in many ways, they were never really "hip." Hell, back in the late '60s, they were the Bad Axe Catholic school nuns' favorite musical artists (I remember it well), while the duo always appeared to skew a little older demographically than other folk-rockers of the era. Whatever the case, Live 1969 proves that — "hip" or not — S&G were a phenomenal musical force.

Originally planned as a late '07 release and now a Starbucks exclusive (proving they're still skewing "old"), the album captures Paul & Artie on their final tour (until a Central Park reunion 13 years later), recorded in several different cities, including Detroit. Flying high on the success of Bookends (their best and most consistent LP), Garfunkel mentions midway through the set that they're "just about finished" recording their new album ... which, of course, would become their Bridge Over Troubled Water swan song. They introduce several songs (including "The Boxer" and the title track) from that album here. Doesn't get any fresher (or more beautiful) than that!

The CD is being promoted as "all previously unreleased material," though I'm 99 percent positive that three of the cuts — "Homeward Bound," "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" and "For Emily Wherever I May Find Her" — appeared on Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits, released in 1972. Doesn't matter. It's great to hear it all in context; even though it's culled from several different shows, it's presented here as a full concert. The first six songs are delivered as an acoustic duo, before they are joined — for the first time ever onstage — by a band, featuring three members of the legendary Wrecking Crew session players, including Hal Blaine, who played drums on more of your all-time favorite songs than many of you even realize. My only regret is, the band isn't brought out in time to play on "At the Zoo," probably my favorite S&G track.

Simon would, of course, go onto other successful things, many sometimes even more pretentious than his now infamous Liverpudlian Beatle accent, used throughout the duo's Monterey Pop Festival performance in '67 (friends still laugh about a late '90s Simon show at the Hollywood Bowl, opening for Bob Dylan, in which a sign language interpreter was onstage for Simon's entire set, leading many to speculate as to whether the interpreter would remain onstage for Dylan's set, thereby throwing her hands up in total bewildered disgust two songs into the legendary mumbler's performance!) Nevertheless, when it comes to Simon, it never got any better than this.

Bill Holdship is the music editor of Metro Times Send comments to bholdship@metrotimes.com.

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