Amid the plethora of collections, compilations and compendiums that litter the Simon and Garfunkel discography, the greatest frustration has always been the absolute disdain for the serious collector that shines through the exhumations. True, the release of Simon’s Songbook album, after decades in the dumper, was cause for celebration, but the most recent bonus-tracked remasters of the duo’s five albums could muster no more than another LP’s worth of unreleased material between them, and most of them were mere alternate takes.

Overs does not necessarily remedy that situation. But, across two CDs of radio and TV performances, out-takes and all-round oddities, one gathers up a portrait of Simon and Garfunkel that stands in sometimes stark, and often hilarious opposition to the increasingly po-faced and humorless picture that stares out of their official output - a live "Sparrow," with Simon talking an audience through the song’s "true" meaning, before leaping into a slice of demented doggerel; a jolly ramble on the importance of producer Tom Wilson, and a rocking beat version of "Wednesday Morning 3AM" designed, Simon explains, to break the duo into the mid-60s pop market. In fact, there are moments here when you could almost believe you’re listening to a comedy act, so deftly does Simon (for the most part) taunt the audience with his most wry observations.

With no less than 55 tracks drawn from across a full decade’s worth of sources, including several highlighting Simon’s pre-fame solo meanderings, Overs is difficult to digest in a single sitting. With the exception of the Troubled Waters sessions at the end of disc two, the sound quality is almost uniformly excellent, and the contents have been compiled with a close eye for chronology and context. But still we slip from a raucous live performance, to the protracted studio session that produced "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her," with Garfunkel attempting to perfect an angelic harmony. (And it is protracted - by the time you reach Take 14, you’re almost desperate for her to reveal where she’s hiding); from Art detailing the convoluted photo shoot for the duo’s debut album (a preamble to "Poem On The Underworld Wall"), to a painfully polite TV rendering of "Overs"; and onto a version of "Bye Bye Love" that makes the Bridge Over Troubled Waters take sound positively neutered. There’s a surprisingly funky "Why Don’t You Write Me" backing track, a scratchy "Only Living Boy," and a joyous reprise of "Hey Little Schoolgirl," recorded at the very tail end of the 1960s. And that’s not even the best of it.

A lot (if not all) of this material is available on other Simon & Garfunkel bootlegs and tapes, but with one Internet source estimating that thereユs more than 200 of the things out there, any kind of sensibly sequenced digest is welcome. Overs fits that bill supremely. - Dave Thompson

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