Just for the record: Down and out, feeling small? Try this


Just for the record: Down and out, feeling small? Try this

A fortnightly review of music on vinyl

Andrew Donaldson

How would you follow an album like Bridge Over Troubled Water? Is it at all possible? Released in February 1970, it was Simon and Garfunkel’s most popular work, an era-defining record that sold about 26 million copies, but it also brought down the curtain on a creative partnership that in the space of a few short years commercially dominated the folk-rock scene of the late 1960s. 

They practically flung the Grammys at Bridge Over Troubled Water (Columbia) in 1971, including awards for best album and best song for the title track – and therein lay a bit of a problem. Many feel that this was Art Garfunkel’s best ever vocal performance, an achievement so stupendously soaring and magnificent that many fans associated the song primarily with him and not its composer – much, supposedly, to the resentment of its composer, the diminutive Paul Simon. The song also overshadowed the rest of the album’s content, much of it brilliant, like Cecilia, The Only Living Boy in New York, So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright and the LP’s other great, undisputed masterpiece, The Boxer.

Bridge Over Troubled Water capped a trajectory of artistic excellence that began with the two preceding Simon and Garfunkel albums, 1966’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and 1968’s Bookends. Between the two, the duo struck it big when their music was included in the Dustin Hoffman hit movie The Graduate. Mainstream success, however, attracted a certain counter-cultural disdain. The duo’s choirboy harmonies, folkish acoustic guitars and Simon’s finely-wrought songs placed them firmly at the more polished end of the popular music spectrum, and they came in for some stick for what critics regarded as “a certain collegiate sterility”. ..

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