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Album features Simon & Garfunkel at best

A new album from Simon & Garfunkel features 17 songs recorded during concert in the fall of 1969 – when the duo was at the pinnacle of their Hall of Fame.

Simon & Garfunkel Live 1969, due out this week, is a compilation of live tracks recorded just before the release of the duo’s classic 1970 album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, which had already been recorded before the tour began.

Taken from concerts recorded between Oct. 31 and Nov. 27, 1969, Live 1969 features versions of four songs destined to become favorites when Bridge Over Troubled Water was released several months later – “The Boxer,” “Why Don’t You Write Me,” “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright,” and the title track.

The tour was to be the duo’s last, as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel decided to go their separate ways shortly after the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water.

“The performances on Live 1969 were impeccably recorded, and that is a good thing indeed,” writes Grammy-nominated rock critic and editor Bud Scoppa in the album’s liner notes, “because Simon & Garfunkel were in absolute peak form at the time, their imminent estrangement notwithstanding.”

Three major differences set Live 1969 apart from its predecessor, the 18-song Live From New York City 1967, beginning with the fact that the latter was a single concert, while the new release is a compilation of definitive performances from different cities (Detroit, Toledo, Ohio, Carbondale, Ill., St. Louis, Long Beach, Calif., and New York City) on different nights.

Second, in purely chronological terms, the 1967 concert was comprised of songs drawn only from the first three Simon & Garfunkel LPs (Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (1964), Sounds

of Silence (early-1966), and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme (late-1966). In contrast, Live 1969 broadens the scope of songs as the timeline moves ahead nearly three full years. Now, the concerts encompassed the release of Bookends in 1968 and the aforementioned Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Third, while Live From New York City 1967 presented an acoustic folk duo on-stage, Live 1969 features Simon & Garfunkel playing what Scoppa calls “the meat of their sets” with four superb and legendary studio musicians who also played on Bridge – drummer Hal Blaine, bass player Joe Osborn, keyboardist Larry Knechtel, and guitarist Fred Carter Jr. (father of country music star Deana Carter).

“When Simon & Garfunkel went out on the road in 1969 on what would be their last tour together for 13 years, the duo’s popularity rivaled that of the Beatles,” writes Scoppa. “Theirs were the quintessential voices of a generation for the second half of the 1960s …. You couldn’t turn on a Top 40 station in those days without hearing Simon & Garfunkel’s restrained, elegantly harmonized songs, right alongside the Beatles, the Stones, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Four Tops and the Beach Boys.”

“They embarked on their tour soon after completing Bridge Over Troubled Water,” continues Scoppa, “the album that would be their crowning glory and biggest seller, but it wouldn’t be released until January 21, 1970, so their sets contained several songs from that album that the fans who packed their shows would be hearing for the first time.

“Several shows on the ’69 tour were recorded in anticipation of what was earmarked to be their sixth album, the follow-up to Bridge. That live LP never came to be (until now, that is); in fact, there was no follow-up of any kind, mainly because Simon & Garfunkel were in the final months of their partnership. Interestingly, the 17 previously unreleased performances contained on Live 1969 bear no trace of the acrimony that was thought to have accrued as they neared their breakup.”

Simon & Garfunkel Live 1969 is on the Columbia/Legacy label.

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