The way that an artist develops over the years is fascinating. Previously I have looked at Paul Simon’s solo magnum opus Graceland which, whilst it still contain much of his original folk roots was heavily painted with African beats. When compared to Bridge Over Troubled Water which is, by far, the most acclaimed album whilst he was teamed up with Art Garfunkel you can see the beginnings of his turn to world music but here folk is the primary focus.
The thing is, you can not talk about this album without talking about the opening song ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’. It is an all time classic with Art, reluctantly, taking the lead vocals over Simon, something he apparently regrets. It’s hard to talk about a song everyone views as a classic since everything has been said by those far more eloquent than I; it’s a beautiful song that leads into a big ending, let’s leave it there.
Then you have ‘The Boxer’ opening up the second side of the record which is easily the most interesting song on the album. Yes, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ is a beautiful song viewed by many as one of the best songs ever made… but ‘The Boxer’ does it more for me. 100 hours of recording and a placeholder chorus that was meant to be replaced and never was (for the best since it is really what makes the song) leads to five tender minutes where it is just best to stop and listen. Then again, you can say that about the title track too… two truly great side openers.
One song that feels slightly out of place is the penultimate track ‘Bye Bye Love’. On an album of studio recordings is does feel slightly odd to have one live recording that is not a bonus track. There is nothing wrong with their singing or the backing track supplied by the in-time clapping of the audience (in fact it is one of my favourite songs on the album) but it does stick-out somewhat.
An interesting fact is that this is one of those rare classic albums that was recognised as such by the awards of the time. Looking at the list of albums in this Top 250 against the list of Grammy Award winners for Best Album (not the best list in the world but it’s the only one you really have for a long-running contemporary Best Album of the year) you can count the cross-references on two hands. Yes, albums like this, Graceland, Rumours and The Suburbs got an award but then you see albums like The Bodyguard OST and River: The Joni Letters which do make you wonder about who they have voting on this award nowadays.