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Simon and Garfunkel - The Concert in Central Park

Fox // Unrated // August 19, 2003
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Phillip Duncan | posted August 23, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have a long history together that actually didn't start with their self-named collaborations. After meeting at school, they began playing together as "Tom and Jerry" in the late 1950's. Having met with little success, the pair went their separate ways.

They eventually teamed again years later to record "Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m." using the name of Simon and Garfunkel in 1964. Again the pair went separate ways when the album produced little success with Paul returning to Europe and Art finished a degree in math and education.

After Bob Dylan met with greater success by adding an electric guitar, producer Tom Wilson added additional instruments to their earlier acoustic recording of "Sounds of Silence" and it was an instant hit. With success on the horizon, the pair quickly re-teamed and recorded the album "Sounds of Silence" using the same formula.

Their success continued with the release of "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" and "Bookends" in the following years and they had many more hit songs. They duplicated this yet again in 1967 when the contributed the majority of the soundtrack for the film "The Graduate" and the song "Mrs. Robinson" emerged as another hit.

All was not well, as the group began working on the prophetically titled album "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in late 1969. With its release in 1970 the pair went their separate ways yet again while critics and fans alike hailed "Bridge" as a masterpiece. Simon pursued a solo career, while Art dabbled in acting, music and teaching with various levels of success.

They reunited only once before their famous Central Park concert and that was on a song titled "My Little Town" that appeared on solo albums from each artist in 1975. They remained apart and a reunion seemed unlikely until a concert was announced in New York's Central Park in 1981. On that night, in front of over 100,000 young and old listeners, Simon and Garfunkel revisited many of their past hits—including a few of Paul's solo songs—and played an amazing 90-minute set. The tracks include:

  1. Mrs. Robinson
  2. Homeward Bound
  3. America / Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
  4. Scarborough Fair / April Come She Will
  5. Wake Up Little Suzi / Still Crazy After All These Years
  6. American Tune / Late in the Evening
  7. Slip Sliding Away / A Heart in New York
  8. Kodachrome / Maybellene
  9. Bridge Over Troubled Water
  10. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
  11. The Boxer
  12. Old Friends / Bookends / Feeling Groovy
  13. Sound of Silence
  14. Late In The Evening Reprise
This is a great sounding DVD, but not an interesting one to watch as there is little to nothing happening on the stage. Simon plays the guitar and Garfunkel will occasionally cross and uncross his arms or move to the side of the stage. I know their simplicity is part of their charm, but when you're not there live, you need a little more to keep your interested focused on the small screen in front of you.

Another small complaint on this disc is the chapter stops. As you'll notice in the track listings above, some songs share space with each other. Chapter 8 is a reasonable one, as the two songs (Kodachrome and Maybellene) are performed as a continuous medley. However, not all are like this and it would have been nice to have a chapter stop for each song. It seems like and obvious accommodation for a music DVD.

Video: All minor complaints aside, this video looks amazing to be over 20 years old. Granted, being filmed on stage and under the lighting, it was almost perfect conditions, but the quality is still quite high. There are no noticeable flaws, artifacts, or edges apparent on the video. The black levels seem a little soft, but the rest of the colors and lighting pop.

Audio: Big complaint department coming up. Anyone that's read any of my past music / concert DVD reviews will know I'm a big fan of the format for one reason. I love the expanded bandwidth and space that a DVD provides the music. This allows for a higher mastering level and an all-encompassing surround mix. While the levels and mix are perfect, incredibly warm to be exact--with the saxophone and horns sounding perfect—the mix is only a disappointing 2.0 stereo track. I'm not asking for much, but a little bit of mix to the rear speakers would have been easy to accomplish and would have complemented the concert perfectly.

Extras: There are no extras on the disc, not even a discography. It seems like a missed opportunity.

Overall: It's a great concert with a good presentation, but not one that everyone must have. It's a great addition for Simon and Garfunkel fans, but aside from the appeal of watching them sing, there's not much here that can't be had on the CD of the same concert. Therefore, it's going to fall somewhere between a "rent it" and a "recommended" which is sad because it's a great show, but it needs a little more in the DVD presentation.

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