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Album Review: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme Expanded Edition
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme is an album with a lot of their hits and some of their most well-known pieces. Many of the other classics are on here, songs that deserved to be hits but didn't make it. Sounds of Silence had the most songs I could tolerate, with only one track which I truly couldn't stand, but this album has the most songs I really appreciate and enjoy hearing. This album isn't may favorite, simply because it's not Bridge Over Troubled Water, but it comes very close. If I had to choose only one S&G album to listen to for the rest of my life, it would be Bridge, but if I could pick two, this would definitely be the other.

"Scarborough Fair/Canticle" is one of the definitively S&G songs. You can't think of S&G without a few certain songs coming to mind, "The Sound Of Silence," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," or "Mrs. Robinson" being the first, and this one coming to mind shortly thereafter. Very beautiful soft opening. I love how during the middle three verses, things are moving back and forth between Paul and Art. It's really lovely. So is "Homeward Bound," which I feel is Parsley's jewel. It's just beautiful, with some awesome imagery going on, and the boys just make the listener feel like they're the poet and one-man band whose love lies waiting silently at home. Just a really awesome piece. I like the original album cut better than the Greatest Hits cut simply because the tempo is more fun on this one, steady and slow at the beginning, and the picking up speed and anxiety as each verse moves forward, like the train the narrator waits for. I adore this song.

Want more beautiful songs? This album's chock-full of them. "The Dangling Conversation" is elegantly done, both musically and lyrically. Paul's got some awesome imagery and metaphor going on in this one, and the music is just great. The whole thing is very dream-like. More than any other point in the song, it's in the last half of the final verse where you can really, really feel it just through the tone of voice: "And how the room is softly faded / And I only kiss your shadow / I cannot feel your hand / You're a stranger now unto me." "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" is gorgeous as well, and I highly recommend it.

Then there are the songs that are cooler or more intriguing than they are simply beautiful. And it's funny, because the openings of all three of them are what really gets me. For instance, the first few notes of "Cloudy," a song with some interesting rhythms going on, are so lullaby-ish. And the opening bars of "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" remind me of the opening to Credence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising," though that could just be me. It's weird, sassy, satirical, and fun; and to me, it's very typical of the tone of this album.

Again with the beginning of songs, the first few notes of "A Poem On The Underground Wall" try to convince you that it's going to be a nice slow song. WRONG. The voices and all the other music rapidly carry the setting of the train station all the way through. This is the second shortest piece on the album. Kind of a cool song, I must admit. Listen for the organ (or synthesizer?) playing underneath the rest of the instruments, starting in the second verse. It's a great layer of sound that you almost don't notice.

Notes on the expanded edition bonus tracks:

The demo of "Patterns" doesn't do a lot for me, but it's interesting to listen to for the differences between it and the regular version. There's a lot less going on underneath, both vocally and instrumentally (no drums, for example), and Paul doesn't put that violent little twist on "when the rat dies." The differences are neat to listen to, and that's the value in this track: not its own inherent quality, but the ability to compare it with the regular version.

The demo of "A Poem on the Underground Wall" opens with a conversation between Paul and another man, possibly the producer or sound engineer, but I don't know for sure. I don't think it's Art. Speaking of Art, he's not on this track, but Paul's voice sounds clearer and cleaner on the demo than the final product. Unfortunately, being just a demo, the music's provided only by a guitar, so it's a little folky, and we miss out on the drumbeats and the wonderful organ music underneath the regular version. I do love the way Paul speaks some of the lines, such as "the poem across the tracks rebounding." Again, the value here is based more in the ability to compare than in the actual track itself, but the little conversation in the opening is a great little in-studio gem.

Overall, 4½ out of 5 stars. I could so easily have made at least one positive comment about every song on this album. It's quintessential S&G, the duo at their prime together, and all it could use is a little more coherency.

All reviews © 2000-03 Andrea L. Robinson.
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