Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme paid homage to Simon & Garfunkel’s folk heritage, but its foundation underscored a move toward a pure pop sound. The album, however, is rooted in the 1960’s. The anti-war protest songs were the equal of anything that was being produced during this period yet Simon & Garfunkel would escape much of the criticism directed toward such artists as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Phil Ochs as their message was cloaked in a lush sound with perfect harmonies that were an easy listen. Teenagers, young adults and their parents embraced the music as S&G were a rare combination of hipness and reality.
Paul Simon would hit his songwriting stride with this album. The imagery and the poetry were outstanding and revealed him as a writer of depth and passion. Art Garfunkel’s beautiful voice not only engaged in wonderful harmonies but also soared above the mix. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is the first truly modern and mature Simon & Garfunkel album.
“Scarborough Fair/Canticle” begins the album by weaving two songs together. The anti-war message is subtle and the music is as delicate and beautiful as any ever produced. “7 O’clock News/Silent Night” bookends the other side of this release. The song may seem dated today but it sent a powerful message in the 1960s. A news report pasted against the Christmas hymn “Silent Night” was unique while it supplied protest in a very explicit manner.
“Homeward Bound” would prove to be a memorable song of loneliness and travel expressed with such beauty and poetry that it just flows through the mind. “The Dangling Conversation” is satire at its best; it even leaves the listener dangling. This is one of those songs that make you realize that Paul Simon is just smarter than most people, that his mind works differently.
Paul Simon does lighten up in places. “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” is just a fun and goofy song. His humor usually had many layers to it, so this is a unique composition. “Cloudy” is another one of those S&G songs that is lost in the brilliance of their catalogue. It is upbeat and joyful and, further, any song that mentions both Tolstoy and Tinker Bell is way ahead of the game. “The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine” is another up-tempo, hand clapping tune that in this case belies the message.
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme had stiff competition when it was released. Blonde On Blonde, Pet Sounds and Revolver were its contemporaries. I remember wondering at the time if it was possible for Simon & Garfunkel to get any better. The answer would be a resounding yes!