Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Simon & Garfunkel 8: Live 1967 & 1969

With a concise catalog and outtakes already mined, how else could Columbia capitalize on Simon & Garfunkel in the 21st century? The answer was so head-slappingly obvious it’s a wonder it took so long: live albums from the archives. Two sets were eventually released, both stepping far up sonically from the bootlegs that had circulated through the decades.
Live From New York City, 1967 expanded on the Lincoln Center peek-in from the Old Friends box, leaving “Red Rubber Ball” as an exclusive to that set. It’s just Artie and Paul onstage, with none of the anonymous session polish, and nearly every song gets something of an explanatory introduction, adding to the intimacy. Most of the set would be familiar to anyone who had the albums, plus “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” was the current hit single. The future B-side “You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies” is something of a surprise, as it hadn’t been finished yet, and “A Church Is Burning” would only be known to those who tracked down Paul’s elusive solo debut. (He switches between six-string and 12-string acoustic guitars depending on the tune, plus you can hear his affected British accent even on the straight intros.)

First released as a Starbucks exclusive, Live 1969 was compiled from a handful of concerts from the autumn of that year. Nicely sequenced, it begins with the boys playing by themselves, joined seven songs in by Wrecking Crew legends Fred Carter, Jr on guitar, Joe Osborn on bass, Larry Knechtel on keys, and Hal Blaine on drums. In addition to adding variety in the song selection, in this case the boys sound energized with a band behind them, and adapt well.
Several remarks are made throughout regarding the album they say they’re trying to finish, and four of those new songs are premiered here, including a stunning performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The crowd welcomes “The Boxer”, the newest song they knew, which here sports the extra verse familiar to us now from the 1982 reunion, replacing the instrumental break from the studio version. The album closes as it began, with only the duo onstage, including an efficiently arranged “Old Friends/Bookends”. (It has since been determined that the versions of “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” and “Kathy’s Song” are the same lovely ones that appeared on Greatest Hits, while “That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine” is not the same one as on Old Friends. The entire set was eventually included in the 40th anniversary edition of Bridge Over Troubled Water, which was of course the album in progress when the shows originally took place.)

Simon & Garfunkel Live From New York City, 1967 (2002)—
Simon & Garfunkel
Live 1969 (2009)—4

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