Until a few years ago, I was only familiar with Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘greatest hits’, but then I acquired a set of their albums and discovered I’d been missing out. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (the title referring to a line from the first track) was released in 1966. Most of the songs were written by Paul Simon. I love this album for the smart lyrics, beautiful harmonies, excellent sound quality and variety of moods.
- Scarborough Fair / Canticle. ‘Remember me to one who lives there / She once was a true love of mine’. The soft vocals, delicate guitar picking and chimes ensure that this song is magical and haunting.
- Patterns. ‘Like the colour of my skin / Or the day that I grow old / My life is made of patterns / That can scarcely be controlled’. A dramatic, dark comparison of human lives to those of rats in mazes and a gloomy acceptance of fate.
- Cloudy. ‘My thoughts are scattered and they’re cloudy / They have no borders, no boundaries’. A chilled out tone to this song belies the depression of someone who lacks direction and whose thoughts are like clouds drifting across the sky.
- Homeward Bound. ‘Home where my thought’s escaping / Home where my music’s playing / Home where my love lies waiting silently for me’. Yearning vocals and wonderful lyrics take centre stage in this song about a homesick musician.
- The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine. ‘Do figures of authority just shoot you down? / Is life within the business world a drag?’ Hippy-ish and witty, this commentary on the advertising industry has some funky organ and a fast pace.
- The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy). ‘Hello lamppost, what’cha knowing / I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’. Upbeat and irresistible, this tune is groovy indeed and is named after a bridge over the East River in New York City.
- The Dangling Conversation. ‘And we sit and drink our coffee / Couched in our indifference, like shells upon the shore / You can hear the ocean roar’. A failing relationship is explored in this thoughtful, slow paced and slightly intellectual song.
- Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall. ‘Through the corridors of sleep / Past shadows dark and deep / My mind dances and leaps in confusion’. A very short beautifully sung commentary on pushing the thoughts of mortality aside.
- A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission). ‘I been Mick Jaggered, silver daggered / Andy Warhol, won’t you please come home?’ An amusing parody of Bob Dylan, somewhat of an oddity.
- For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her. ‘And when you ran to me / Your cheeks flushed with the night / We walked on frosted fields / Of juniper and lamplight / I held your hand’. A stunningly beautiful, very short song with a powerful crescendo.
- A Poem on the Underground Wall. ‘And the train is gone suddenly / On wheels clicking silently / Like a gently tapping litany / And he holds his crayon rosary / Tighter in his hand’. A perfectly-worded micro-story of graffiti on a subway wall.
- 7 O’Clock News / Silent Night. ‘Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the hearings when they began chanting anti-war slogans’. Contemporary news bulletins of August 3rd 1966 clash with a sweet rendition of the Christmas carol.
Scarborough Fair has been a long-standing favourite since I was very young. Every track on this album has its merits but my next favourites would have to be Homeward Bound and Patterns.