Simon & Garfunkel: Bookends (1968)

I've always had mixed feelings about S&G. Obviously their vocals can't be denied; when it comes to incorporating harmonies into rock & roll, they are as essential as the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, and CSN. And Simon wrote a tremendous number of timeless standards. At the same time, each of their albums is flawed by the inclusion of some tracks that just don't hold up (if they weren't already dated at the time of their recording). Still, I do love to pull their records out, particularly Bookends and its follow-up, their 1970 swan song Bridge Over Troubled Water.  And while the high points of the latter are higher ("The Only Living Boy in New York," "The Boxer," and "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" among their finest moments; the title track, while not my style, is obviously a wonder), Bookends is probably my favorite, even if there are parts I skip over.

Side one of the record was ostensibly some sort of thematic suite about old friends; personally, I find it the weaker half of the album. "Save The Life Of My Child" is a wonderful, frenzied rocker, perhaps the closest they ever got to Sgt. Pepper-derived psychedelia, a studio tour de force; and "America" of course is one of those gorgeous standards only Simon could craft. But I can do without "Voices of Old People" (which is exactly that) and the more treacly "Old Friends."

Side two is more interesting. Sure, you've got the ringer "Mrs. Robinson" jabbed in the center. But "Fakin' It" and "Hazy Shade of Winter" are both terrific pop tunes as well (as the Bangles demonstrated with their faithful cover of the latter); and "Punky's Dilemma" is one of Simon's Dylanesque indulgences that actually works. Album closer "At The Zoo" may be slight, but fits in well with the album's vibe. 

Here's an audio rip of "Save The Life...":
Here's a live "Hazy Shade" from one of the reunion gigs:
...and "America" from a different reunion gig:
...and a short clip of "Punky's Dilemma" from 1970: