Wednesday Morning, 3 AM

Simon & Garfunkel

Columbia, 1964

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Leave it to two nice Jewish boys to mix religion and politics on the first track on their debut album. On “You Can Tell The World,” Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel do just that and sound pretty darned gleeful doing it too. As with all the other songs on the peculiarly titled Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, the duo only have their acoustic guitars and sterling voices to send their plaintive messages out to the world. This means they have nothing to hide behind and no gimmicks to help sell themselves. As a result, this album went virtually unnoticed when it was released in the wake of the Beatles’ arrival in America. Soft and poetic folk tunes just weren’t going to cut it. Had this debut been released two years earlier, it may have had a chance. On the other hand, it got them out of singing in the New York City subway, so it must have accounted for something in their minds.

Listeners can hear a banjo playing in “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream,” where the pair cleverly point to a future where there is no war. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War still had ten years to go before that conflict would be resolved. By that time, Simon & Garfunkel would have long since broken up to pursue fruitful solo careers. Peace has always been something to aspire to, but one look at the Middle East proves just how elusive such a noble aim has always proved to be.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If you love New York, you’ll surely cherish hearing “Bleecker Street.” The Greenwich Village neighborhood this song depicts was the birthplace of the folk music explosion of the 1960s, as most recently captured in the Coen Brothers’ latest film offering, Inside Llewyn Davis. One of the first hits of this grass roots movement is “The Sound Of Silence,” which can also be found in its fuller version on the subsequent follow-up, Sounds Of Silence. Its weighty subject matter, described by Simon as “man’s inability to communicate with man,” perhaps is best illustrated by the line “silence like a cancer grows.” Even now, in the age in Facebook, we are still struggling to make substantial connections with one another. Strange and sad, but true.

It was a brilliant masterstroke to include Bob Dylan’s instant classic “The Times They Are A-Changin,” but haven’t we always been saying that? It’s like we want change, but have no idea how to bring about lasting change. The cycles do have a way of bringing us back around to where we started. The adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” is more like it when it comes to American society. Some want tradition, others want progress. It’s a generational argument that just doesn’t have an end. Again, Simon & Garfunkel’s words are good in theory, but putting them to practice is another story entirely.

As modern day prophets, (they even dare to cover the gospel chestnut “Go Tell It On The Mountain” – if an artist did this today, they’d probably be laughed out of the room), Simon & Garfunkel proved that you didn’t need to plug into an amp to be heard. Sometimes the quiet, creeping thru the backdoor approach can be even more effective. Granted, after five critically acclaimed albums, they would run out of ideas and patience with one another – fame has a habit of creating sizable egos – but this was an “audaciously hopeful” way to start.

Rating: B-

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© 2014 Michael R. Smith 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 Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.