Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel (January, 1970)

Dad's Take:

If there were cracks in the relationship between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel while this album was being recorded, you wouldn't know it by the harmonious sound of the record. But Simon was concentrating on music while Garfunkel was building an acting career, and this album, which resulted in two Grammys and hours and hours of airplay would turn out to be their last.

The title song was a megahit, topping charts around the world, but it's not the only hit on the record. "The Boxer" was also a huge success. Two other songs, "Cecilia" and "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" were successful enough to make most groups happy, but seem like minor successes when compared to the other two.

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" is one of those instant classic songs, one of those recordings that seems superhuman. The beautiful track, the ethereal vocals, and the meaningful lyrics combine into a song that defies mortality. Hard to believe that Art Garfunkel really didn't want to sing it, thinking it should be performed by Paul Simon. The song is so nearly perfect that considering anything different than what they gave us is almost impossible.

Next up is "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)," which can be seen as the beginning of Simon's obsession with world music. It's among my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs, despite not being an original composition. That's followed by "Cecilia," a faster song that was almost inescapable on 1970 radio. Not among my favorites, it is another classic. Three songs in and this is feeling like a greatest hits album.

The next two songs aren't known as well. The Everly-Brothers-like "Keep The Customer Satisfied" is a fun song, a big production that reminds me a little of Simon's "Kodachrome," which would become a big hit in 1973. Then we get another sweet ballad, "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright, a samba featuring Art Garfunkel, before the next big hit, "The Boxer."

It took more than 100 hours in several studios to record "The Boxer." The result is astounding, another classic song that everybody knows.

The rest of the album features songs that are not as well known, but are certainly worth listening to. There's not a bad song on the album. "Baby Driver" is an enjoyable upbeat story song with fun harmonies. "The Only Living Boy in New York," "Why Don't You Write Me," the live Every Brothers cover of "Bye Bye Love," and the closer, "Song For The Asking," along with the side's opener, "The Boxer," combine into one of the truly great album sides, something that is missed on CD or when listened to from computer files.

This is one of those records that anybody who is interested in folk rock and in harmonies and song writing and singing and, well, just music, should know. No album will be loved by everyone, but there are some records that are just good to know, whether you love it or not. This is one of those.

You have to hand it to Simon & Garfunkel. They might have recorded only five albums, but every one of them is great, and they went out big. This is a nearly perfect record.

Brad's Take:

Sometimes when you go into an album you've never heard before, especially from an era that you're not very familiar with, you don't really know what to expect, and that can be kind of intimidating. When I hit the play button and jumped into Bridge Over Troubled Water, I was immediately into it.

How can you deny these vocals? Both of them sing beautifully together. Whether it's quietly sung or when they're belting it out, they sound amazing.

The title track is especially gorgeous. Not just vocally, but also musically. I love the slow, really quiet stripped down beginning of the song, and how it builds and builds and builds into this huge dramatic ending. It's really powerful, and definitely one that I will go back to again.

Another song I loved right off the bat was "Keep The Customer Satisfied." It's a very fun and upbeat tune. Musically, it's very early-Beatles-esque. I especially love when the horns come in strong at the end of the song. So good! When you compare this song to "Bridge Over Troubled Water," you can see the full range Paul and Art have together, creatively. Whether it's slow or upbeat, they nail it.

One thing I love about this album is although they're technically a folk group, they layer all these different instruments over the finger-picked acoustic guitars, and the songs sound so much more full and exciting. The pop and rock elements really make Simon and Garfunkel's folk music stand out. I'm not sure if that was their co-producer's doing or if Paul Simon had it all figured out in his head that the songs would sound this way, but whoever is responsible deserves a Grammy. Oh wait, they got two Grammy awards for this album. Boom!

Basically, this album encompasses all of the genres that were popular at this time, but they spice it up with great production, songwriting, lyrics, and beautiful vocal harmonies throughout the entire record. Some songs are slow, some are fast, but somehow they are all perfect.

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