The Concert In Central Park

Simon & Garfunkel

Warner Brothers Records, 1982

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In 1981, the reunion that many thought would never happen, actually did. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel reunited for one night, in front of a large audience in New York's Central Park, performing many of their old favorites and some selections from their solo careers.

Ah, but reunions, even one-shot deals, are fickle things; one doesn't know what the passage of time will do to the music you know and love. In the case of The Concert In Central Park, the two-record set from this show, much is lost in the translation from studio efforts of over a decade past to such a large setting.

Sometimes, the case is a slight shift in the original arrangement of a song ("Mrs. Robinson"). Other times, it's the lack of instrumentation that one remembers on the track ("Bridge Over Troubled Water"). And while I might not have been alive when these songs were in their prime, I did grow up listening to them, and found these live versions to pale next to their studio brethren. I'm sorry, but the rich arrangment of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters", a song that can still bring me to tears, is sorely missed here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another problem I have with The Concert In Central Park is that it often does not seem like a true collaborative effort by Simon and Garfunkel, instead turning into the Paul Simon show. No less than eight of the nineteen songs on this set are Simon solo pieces... uh, last time I checked the spine of the record jacket, it didn't say Paul Simon only! Garfunkel does get one or two pieces from his solo career in there as well - a number that's a little easier to handle.

And the sad fact of the matter is that Simon's solo pieces, for the most part, don't translate well to this particular live band. The groove of "Late In The Evening" is totally lost, while "Slip Slidin' Away" lacks some of the fanciful touches that made the song a hit.

As for the actual Simon and Garfunkel material here, it's not until the last portion of the album that the whole concept starts to jell - and by that time, it's almost time to go home. Sure, some early numbers like "America" and "Scarborough Fair" capture the magic as well, but those are few and far between.

"The Sounds Of Silence," the final song on the album, is the example of how this show should have gone. The magic was clearly there for those few minutes that the song was played - and then were lost as the house lights went up.

Truth be told, The Concert In Central Park was not well thought up - and this is a complaint more about the actual event than the album. Had the focus of the music become less self-centered (read, less of a Paul Simon show-off... what's the matter, Paul, couldn't wait ten years for your own live show?) and more focused on the music that helped reshape American folk in the text of rock music, this would have been a killer album. Think about it: where's "I Am A Rock"? "El Condor Pasa"?

Prior to The Concert In Central Park's release, there was no official live release from Simon and Garfunkel. Now, there is no definitive live release from this duo. One can only hope that someone will discover a long-lost performance that will blow this effort away.


Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.