Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon & Garfunkel

By the late 60s, it seemed almost inconceivable that anyone could match the songwriting and vocal chops of the Beatles. But then Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel came along and challenged the throne. Early on in their career, they could have been easily mistaken for a carbon copy of the Everly Brothers. Simon, however, was developing as a songwriter, very much on par with Bob Dylan and Lennon & McCartney. His first penned hit single for the duo, “The Sound of Silence,” written during the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, was a sign of Simon’s reach as a songwriter. “The Sound Of Silence” would take almost two years to become a hit; “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was unquestionably a monster hit the minute the needle dropped. As the album by the same name celebrates its 40th anniversary, the legend comes alive with a remastered CD and a DVD that traces the making of an extraordinary collection of songs.

In most cases, it would be proper to say the title track sets the pace, but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Bridge Over Troubled Water. How do you follow up an epic, gospeled-flavored song that would go on to claim two Grammys? Simon and producer Roy Halee, in a stroke of their own mad eccentricities, must have decided that subsequent songs on the album should be as far removed from the sentimentality of the title track as possible. But who wouldn’t shed a tear for “Ell Condor Pasa (If I Could)”? And then turn to swing to the piano bench percussion of “Cecelia” or the booming echo of “The Boxer.” Pour in “The Only Living Boy In New York” and a silly rendition of the Everly Brothers' “Bye Bye Love,” and you have all the makings of a Grammy-winning Album of the Year. Along with being one of the biggest selling records to this day in the Columbia catalog, Bridge Over Troubled Water was the last album Simon and Garfunkel released before they split up.

To celebrate its 40th year, a little visual flair has been added to the reissue. The duo's never-commercially-available-before, somewhat controversial Songs Of America CBS television special from 1969 is included on the DVD. There’s also a brand-new documentary, The Harmony Game: The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water, featuring new interviews with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. A full-color, 24-page booklet with rare photography, memorabilia and liner notes on the album and the Songs Of America TV special fill out the package. There’s never a bad time to go back and listen to Simon and Garfunkel; the 40th anniversary of Bridge Over Troubled Water makes it more than the right time to go back and listen and remember how powerful and large Art Garfunkel’s final delivery in the last stretch of the title track remains in the scheming quagmire of popular music.

~ Shawn Perry

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