Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Simon and Garfunkel
Suggested by Neil Hodgkinson
This is a classic, pure and simple. And yet I’ve never heard it before.
That’s understandable, if you’ve been here awhile. It’s well established that my musical mosaic is spotted at best. I have massive gaps in this regard, but happily this project is rectifying that, three albums at a time. Let’s not dwell on the negative. What do I know about this album, and the illustrious songsmiths behind it?
Let’s start small. I know Simon and Garfunkel’s first names: Paul and Art respectively. I know Paul Simon has a musical career post S&G, although I can’t claim to know how Art is doing. I know S&G were a mainstay of the Sixties sound, peddling their brand of folk rock for a full decade until the duo dissolved in the Seventies.
I know they weren’t the best of chums, and their fractious relationship likely propelled them creatively and ultimately brought them down. I know they’ve written some peerless songs, such as Mrs Robinson, The Boxer, and the titular Bridge Over Troubled Water.
The most memorable thing I know about this album is a fact about the iconic cover. Go check it out. Paul Simon walking in front of Art Garfunkel, with PS doing a partial Mike Wazowski on AG with his hursuit bonce. Thing is, if you really look at it, it appears as if Paul Simon’s hair is actually Art Garfunkle’s handlebar moustache, and he’s actually devouring Paul Simon from the scalp down. I now can’t unsee that, and I giggle each time I stumble across it.
As for the album’s contents, I’d have to say that it’s a mixed bag. The titular Bridge Over Troubled Waters kicks things of in unstoppable style, in all its anthemic emotive glory. It’s untouchable, a cultural touchstone, and the obvious standout on the album. In fact, it’s so good that it’s almost boring, with the only real intrigue left for the album being the race for second place.
You’d immediately presume that The Boxer would be the Riker to Bridge’s Picard, but I’d offer that seat to Cecilia, the catchy and lilting Cecilia. If I’m honest, I do thing I prefer the Suggs version, as it’s a little more melodious and a little less percussive, but that merely built on the shoulders of the giant original. If I were choosing a track with a little less name recognition, I’d go with Keep the Customers Satisfied, a brilliantly bouncy bundle of perfect Sixties pop.
Unfortunately, alongside these great songs there are a few clunkers too. So Long Frank Lloyd Wright feels like a complete waste of time, El Condor Pasa gets a hard pass from me, and even The Only Living Boy in New York comes across as maudlin. Couple this with an odd live insertion as the penultimate offering, and you’ve established just as many troughs as peaks.
You’d expect such a review to net a mediocre and middling score. But I’ve leant a little towards love, and gone with a high 6/10, as those peaks are astonishing while the troughs are mere furrows. The Sixties pop sound is trowelled on thick and wet, a solid mortar between the superior song-writing bricks. Fans of the era will love this, a fact I suspect they already know.