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Sunday, September 11, 2011

"America"

Simon & Garfunkel - America (1968)




A road map of America from the Midwest to the Big Apple. A dense complex arraignment with so much going on you're sure to miss something. As is pointed out almost every time the song is mentioned it is a popular song with no rhyme scheme. It's more like flashing pieces of a short story set to music. Two people set off together, convinced that love will be everything they need other than a few pies and some cigarette. They laugh and play together, goofing on the other people riding the bus until one falls asleep. Then the one left awake has to struggle with their own sense of alienation, then finally being overwhelmed into silence as they pass onto the New Jersey Turnpike as he sees more people than they ever have in one place.

During the song we hear organ, strings, soprano sax, and of course, acoustic guitar and drums. As the humming intro of the song starts we can just make out the trailing edge of the ominous organ and subway steam hiss of Save the Life of My Child, a song that brings into the light some of the darkness that lives in cities. So we the audience already have an inkling of what the pair in America are heading into. The first verse is guitars and toms plus a little snare and high hat for time keeping. It instills in us the longing that the young have to find something bigger than themselves. These two have found each other, and buoyed by that success are now off on one of the great hunts of the late 60s, to look for America. The second verse adds a high organ that we'll hear all throughout the song. As the verse continues, we build to a big organ sound and louder lead vocals. The third verse features a soprano sax noodling along, reinforcing the fun goof off verse, but then getting a little melancholy, preparing us for the later verses. Verse four is back to the stripped down instrumentation of the first verse. The fifth and final verse brings us back the high organ of verse two. After the loud repeated vocal outro we get a organ solo over timekeeping drums that could represent the hope of the future, or just the twinkling lights of the big city.

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