The Complete Albums Collection

by: Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel's complete recorded works have been boxed before -- many times, in fact. It all started with Collected Works, a nondescript vinyl set from 1981 that was ported over to CDs in the digital age, but the big overhaul came 20 years later with The Columbia Studio Recordings, 1964-1970, a five-disc set containing new remasters and selected bonus tracks; this was later repurposed in the U.K. as a box called The Collection, which added a DVD of 1981's Concert in Central Park for good measure. Arriving in 2014 in the middle of a rush of affordable complete album box sets, The Complete Albums Collection both expands and contracts the scope of the 2001 box set, cutting away the bonus tracks from 2001 -- a regrettable but not tragic loss, as only Bookends had a major addition in the form of "You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies" -- while adding a whopping six albums not on any previous Simon & Garfunkel box set. One of these is the soundtrack to The Graduate, a pivotal record in the duo's success but one not often included in their regular discographies due to its recycling of album material (plus half of it is devoted to Dave Grusin incidental music), another is 1972's Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits, which is by some margin the group's most popular record but feels redundant in this setting. This leaves four live albums, two of which are archival titles released after 2001 -- Live from New York City, 1967 and Live 1969 -- and two documenting reunion shows: 1981's celebrated one-off The Concert in Central Park and 2004's Old Friends: Live on Stage, a double-disc set of highlights from a new millennial reunion tour. Taken together, these live recordings amount to an ongoing emotional history of Simon & Garfunkel and their audience, tracing the duo from their earnest folkie beginnings (Live from New York City), through their majestic peak (Live 1969), to a temporary tentative détente where Simon had a clear upper hand (Central Park), culminating in the warmer nostalgia of Old Friends. Throughout the records, the canon sounds subtly different in new settings and there are unexpected through lines, like the constant presence of "Leaves That Are Green" and Everly Brothers covers in every concert. Yes, the five studio albums remain the core of Simon & Garfunkel's legacy but these live albums aren't just nice extras, they show how that body of work lived, breathed, and changed over the decades, which is why this box has a slight edge over its predecessors in terms of value. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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