I’d rather be a greatest hit than not a hit, yes I would
Firstly, people need to stop hating on Greatest Hits albums generally. I understand that having a shelf filled with just compilation albums is not the best way to show off your personality. But if you want to argue that it is worth buying separate albums of, say, Guns N’ Roses as opposed to just one album with their ultimate classics, then go ahead, keep lying to yourself. There are bands, which, as great as their contribution to music has been, this contribution is in only a handful of good songs. Not to mention but Greatest Hits are the easiest albums to have a quick listen of to gauge your interest in a band. They’re tacky as, but Greatest Hits albums get too much hate, which brings me to my next point.
Secondly, the best album in the Simon & Garfunkel discography is their 1972 Greatest Hits. Fight me.
It shows their full spectrum, wonderfully exhibits the differences between Simon and Art’s styles, even though Simon wrote all their songs. Though is this a compilation, it flows so seamlessly and truly captures the melancholy whimsy that is Simon & Garfunkel.
This is the perfect album to play in sunny weather, maybe mid-Spring. It doesn’t drag on as much as their LPs seem to at times, and generally makes you feel happy but not exhausted. What’s more, this is a Greatest Hits album with genuinely all the greatest hits. Not one song on there shouldn’t be, not one song feels like a stretch to get the album to the correct length. Is this a testament to how good Paul Simon was of a songwriter? Probably.
Point is, I had spent many years contemplating the hate for Greatest Hits albums, weighing up their pros and cons, trying to reach my own conclusion on the form, and this album was what settled if for me. This is one of my favourite albums, it’s my go-to both when I’m content and when I’m down and need to remember what it is to find slivers of joy in sad things.
I love the transition from ‘Bride over Troubled Water’ (my least favourite Simon & Garfunkel song—again, fight me) to ‘America’ (my absolute favourite Simon & Garfunkel song—and my absolute favourite moment in Almost Famous,). I love how the duo ‘El Condor Pasa’ and ‘Bookends’, which feels like the perfect finish to an album, is followed by the upbeat ‘Cecilia’, a song that immediately makes me cheer up and want to put the album on again, to go through the ride again.
Maybe this is exactly it—the reason why this album is so much better than all the other Greatest Hits albums: it’s curated with care, like an official album. Unlike those horrific The Essential ______ CDs, which genuinely feel like a lumping of a bunch of songs on two discs with the thought of making money off people who unfortunately swapped all their records for cassettes in the 80s (looking at you, Papa Belyaev), this album is well thought out. Or maybe it’s simply because everything Paul Simon writes is delightful and we could create Greatest Hits album after album and they would all be wonderful listening experiences.