Wednesday, July 28, 2010
FORGOTTEN MUSIC THURSDAY-ART GARFUNKEL
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.