Simon and Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon and Garfunkel Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel started their recording career as Tom & Jerry in 1957, making teen-oriented Everly Brothers style pop. After a temporary split, they re-branded as Simon and Garfunkel and re-launched their career as an earnest folk duo. Their debut album, 1964’s Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., was unsuccessful, and a frustrated Simon relocated to London.

A Simon-penned track from Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., ‘The Sound of Silence’, became popular among college students. Producer Tom Wilson overdubbed guitar, bass, and drums onto it, and released it as a single. Simon and Garfunkel were suddenly atop the US singles chart in early 1966 and hastily reconvened, rush-releasing a second album to capitalise on their sudden popularity.

Their golden era of albums started with 1966’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. With more studio time, the duo’s sound is more detailed and ornate, and they continued through their last two albums; 1968’s Bookends and 1970’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. The duo fractured in 1970 over tensions fuelled by Garfunkel filming Catch-22 in Mexico while Simon was recording Bridge.

The pair have reformed for live performances and recorded two songs in the 1970s – ‘My Little Town’ appeared on both of the duo’s 1975 solo albums, while the second release of Garfunkel’s 1977 album Watermark featured a cover version of ‘(What a) Wonderful World’, with James Taylor singing alongside the duo. But their attempt at a full blown reunion album failed – Simon released the sessions as a solo album, 1983’s Hearts and Bones.

Simon and Garfunkel Albums Ranked

#5 – Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Wednesday Morning 3.a.m. Simon and Garfunkel

Despite a handful of strong Paul Simon songs, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. is the odd one out in the duo’s discography. The upbeat folk covers like ‘You Can Tell The World’ and ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ and the incongruously joyful reading of Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A’Changin” are at odds with their usual introspection. Simon’s originals like the title track and the original, acoustic ‘The Sound of Silence’ are the album’s highlights.

#4 – Sounds of Silence

Simon and Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence

The duo’s second album was quickly pieced together to capitalise on the popularity of the reworked single of ‘The Sound of Silence’. There’s strong material like ‘I Am A Rock’ and ‘Kathy’s Song, but also obvious filler like the guitar instrumental ‘Anji’ and rote lyrics from Simon on ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ and ‘Richard Corey’.

#3 – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme - Simon and Garfunkel

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme
is a huge step forward from Simon and Garfunkel’s first two albums; a less hurried schedule allowed them to utilise the studio. There’s brilliance like the beautifully harmonised folk song ‘Scarborough Fair’, and the jazzy groove of ’59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)’ uses Dave Brubeck’s rhythm section. Simon’s lyrics occasionally overreach, on songs like the awkward ‘The Dangling Conversation’ and the dated ‘A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d into Submission)’.

#2 – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon and Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water

The duo’s final album is half brilliant pop epics like ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’ and ‘El Condor Pasa’, and half charming throwaways like ‘Baby Driver’ and the cover of ‘Bye Bye Love’. Some of the throwaways work brilliantly too – the percussive ‘Cecilia’ is one of the group’s most popular songs – but it’s hard for the lesser songs not to be overshadowed by tracks like ‘The Boxer’ and the epic gospel of the title track. Two movies released in 2017 were titled after songs from Bridge; ‘Baby Driver’ and ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’.

#1 – Bookends

Simon and Garfunkel Bookends

Simon and Garfunkel’s most consistent work is a concept album about ageing; at least on the first side, the second side is leftovers from their soundtrack for The Graduate. ‘Mrs Robinson’ and ‘America’ are the most well-known songs, but there are plenty of great album tracks like ‘Punky’s Dilemma’ and ‘Overs’.

Do you have a favourite album from Simon and Garfunkel?

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  1. Unaccustomed as I am to agreeing with the vast majority, I have to say Bridge Over Troubled Water is the best S&G album. Leaving aside the portentous, anthemic (or perhaps overblown and tedious are the words I’m searching for) title track, it’s the one where Simon finally gets his identity sorted out after the false starts of the previous three albums.
    The Only Living Boy In New York is a beautiful combination of wistfulness and power that is worth the price of 12 inches of vinyl on its own.
    The Boxer is a trademark Simon tale that hints at his future solo work and Cecilia, while rather jagged compared to its stablemates, is kind of joyful.
    But So Long Frank Lloyd Wright is, for me, the masterpiece. I believe it came about when Garfunkel, having established that his friend believed he could write about anything in the world, dared him to celebrate the seminal architect, and Simon rose to the challenge. For me it’s one of those late night, one-more-before-bed songs when you’re reveling in the brilliance of the music you’re lucky enough to know.
    The role of Art Garfunkel in this act always slightly disturbed me. Lovely pure voice, certainly, but if I was Paul Simon I wouldn’t have given someone else my beautiful songs to sing. I would want my own voice to be the one that took “America” to the people. Maybe he was just too nice to ditch his old friend, or lacked the confidence to do it all himself on those early albums. But Dylan was doing it, Joni Mitchell was doing it and Simon managed it later.
    Anyway, that’s beside the point. The pre-Bridge albums all contain some great stuff, but this is the full banquet,

  2. Big S&G fan. I could live with your order or I could flip one and two. Great, great stuff and I’m certainly a fan of Simon’s solo work. We saw him live a few years back and he seems to free himself up to have a little more fun when he’s solo. One of the greatest songwriters of all time IMHO.

    • They were my first favourite band – I found my mum’s cassette of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, and played it lots. Heard it so much that I don’t even need a copy now – it’s kind of burned into my brain.

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