Monday, April 16, 2018

Sounds of Silence

Gaia would play it over and over, maybe not because she liked it that much, but it was one of just a handful of LPs she had. See, there was this stereo/mono thing. If you played a stereo LP on a mono player, the stereo version was forever downgraded to monaural. To this day I don't know if it’s true. Doesn't seem likely. I don't want to look it up; some of life has to be a mystery. 

So she could only play certain LPs in her room and she'd play Sounds of Silence all the time. The only other albums I can remember in her room were Richard Harris with "MacArthur’s Park" and Grateful Dead. So Sounds of Silence was one of those LPs that I know every part of, every little nuance. Once, on a Saturday, my mother and Carl were away and I was sleeping over in the guest room, but we put on our pajamas and got to listen to music. I was 12 and her flannel PJs made be uncomfortable and Gaia, said “Do you think I’m pretty?” I did. I didn’t answer and, embarrassed, looked away. The song was "April, Come She Will."

Drawing mostly on material from an album Paul Simon recorded during his time in England, The Paul Simon Songbook, there is little on Sounds of Silence (AM6+) that hadn't appeared in some form previously with only "Blessed" and "Richard Cory" completely new material. "The Sound of Silence" is the same track as on Wednesday Morning 3.A.M.but with the inspired addition of electric guitars that make the song even more powerful, with Simon's and Garfunkel's voices now blended together amidst  a hypnotic drumbeat and bass line; the original acoustic guitar aided by the melancholic jangle of the electric. The lyrics ring out clear and true, and they are among the most celebrated and highly regarded of Paul Simon's efforts, with the famous "The words of the prophets/Are written on the subway wallsbeing the peak of his poetic output. 

"The Sound of Silence" is the most well-known, and best, track here, a haunting stream of words tied to one eerie little riff, but it’s followed closely by the equally peerless "I Am a Rock:" ("I am a rock/ I am an island/ And a rock feels no pain/ And an island never cries.") the two tracks acting as bookends to the album, none of it as inspired, but all in place, all the perfect listen late at night (in our case 9:00pm); quite, simple folk, like folk's Abbey Road. (
While the bookends are pure misanthropic pop, "Richard Cory" and "A Most Peculiar Man" are intriguing as back to back tracks, two consecutive songs about men who commit suicide.) Sounds of Silence is a testament to the pair's combined talents, but their real magic was not yet realized.