Wednesday, July 28, 2010



Following the demise of his artistic partnership with Paul Simon in 1970, Art Garfunkel briefly flirted with acting, teaching and then saw fit to carry on with a solo career that brought a modicum of success. Briefly reunited with Simon in 1975, they managed to fit in a few appearances and recorded one new tune (“My Little Town”) before going their separate ways again.

1977 saw Garfunkel paired with selections from the Jimmy Webb songbook, all of which would be recorded for his third, full length disc.

Well, at least for the initial release.

The completed LP hit the stores in late '77 and was unceremoniously yanked back by the record company as the first single was a no-show on the US charts.

Enter Paul Simon, who joined James Taylor and Garfunkel in a brilliant recasting of Sam Cooke’s “(What a) Wonderful World”. The arrangement is quite different from the original, almost surpassing it in terms of structure. Breathtaking vocal parts really make the difference as all three singers nail the harmonies in glorious fashion, each taking a lead line in the verses.

Serving its purpose, the lone non-Webb penned track was not only added to Watermark (which was then cleared to be sent back into the marketplace in early 1978), but also released as a single where it jumped into the top 20.

Including this stunner lifted the commercial fortunes of the record, though there are many treasures to be found on Watermark. Garfunkel applies his trademark, dulcet falsetto in interpreting Webb’s compositions, which were carefully chosen and impeccably rendered.

"Saturday Suit" is a high point.

Phil Ramone acted as co-producer and helped Garfunkel assemble a veritable "cast of thousands" to back him up. David Crosby contributed vocal parts and the cream of the session-playing crop showed up to grace these grooves. (Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, Hugh McCracken, the Chieftans just to name a few.) Staying away from the huge hits in Webb's impressive catalogue was a very astute move, as it allowed Garfunkel to put his own stamp on each selection.

Incredibly, this phenomenal collection of songs has been relegated to the netherworld of late seventies soft rock. Unjustly, it finds a home in the category of forgotten music.

Spinning my vinyl copy was certainly no chore. It revealed nuances that I hadn't previously noticed, bringing a new appreciation for Webb's lesser known tunes. Garfunkel acquits himself quite well, never seeming overwhelmed by the production that swirls around his natural tenor. "Crying In My Sleep" was the lead-off 45 that failed to dent the top 100, though listeners at that time really should have been more generous with this one. Perhaps the disco-addled brains of the masses couldn't appreciate its subtle charms.

Everything clicks here, with the title song being a personal favorite. Should you happen upon a copy, be sure not to pass it up. This is a very successful marriage of two great talents that deserves to be heard.


Charlie said...

Art Garfunkel never got enough credit for the commercial success of S & G. His singing had a lot to do with popularizing songs that were really out of the mainstream and it's a shame that his record company didn't recognize that with this release.

George said...

I listen to these Art Garfunkel albums more than I listen to Paul Simon's solo stuff. Wonderful music!

luminous muse said...

Thank you for this- Art's very good here, and this is for some reason the second time I've heard Jimmy Webb's name today. Great songwriter!

I'm the only person I know who doesn't love Paul Simon to death (just like him OK.) I do think Art's better

Todd Mason said...

Garfunkel has the better voice. But I'm not sure either alone was ever quite up to the two of them together, at the duo's best, even given the callowness of much of Simon's lyrics of their youth.

Perplexio said...

Art was always the better singer, and Paul Simon was the better songwriter.

He did a song on the soundtrack for an obscure film, Sing that was pretty good too.

Martin Edwards said...

Great album!

robb said...

One of my favorite Garfunkel albums. I was fortunate to purchase the first pressing with "Fingerpaint", the track later removed and replaced with "(What A) Wonderful World". Below is the original order of the tracks:

1. Crying in My Sleep
2. Marionette
3. Shine It on Me
4. Watermark
5. Saturday Suit
6. All My Love's Laughter
7. Wooden Planes
8. Mr. Shuck 'n' Jive
9. Someone Else (1958)
10. Paper Chase
11, Fingerpaint
12. She Moved Through the Fair

I much prefer the flow of his initial release of this album. I transferred this version to cd and play it all the time.

Thanks for your post!