With its signature measured style, I have to confess to pausing to write this review slightly. This is purely for my own self indulgence; it allows me to pause in the hustle and bustle of life and just enjoy the moment. It should be said that this mostly means I personally find the album calming – but it’s time to be objective.
The 60’s has just bowed out and there is an excellent case for marking this album as its swan-song. Farewell to summer of love, Woodstock, and even Simon and Garfunkel’s signature minimalism; this is not an album of vocals and a guitar.
We open with the titular Bride Over Troubled Water, most know the haunting vocals here, but the song is just a masterclass in progression. The lyrics are solid and simple and the piano knows how swell and retreat in such delicate ways. Pause for contemplation after the crystal clear opening and allow the strings to join…
Sail on silver girl;
Sail on by…
It’s a duet, it’s full, it’s echoing with those distant drums and sliding basses, cellos. Oh it is so rich and a raw display of the power of music. Frankly, with the number of covers, I am so surprised that so many don’t get the feel of this track…
Cecilia… OK – time for an anecdote. At first glance the lyrics are about the rejected lover of Celilia. She has left Paul Simon and he is distraught without her, eventually she returns and he’s happy. This song has a double meaning, actually referring to St. Cecilia (patron saint of music). Paul Simon suffers a horrible lack of inspiration until a song idea crystalises and the songwriting path becomes clear and he thanks the patron saint.
Jubilation! She loves me again!
I have heard that this anecdote refers to the actual composition of this song. I can’t point to a reliable source (Mother)… but it’s a wonderfully romantic story!
My favourite song of the album has to be The Boxer and I think this is just down to those damn vocal harmonies – I find them incredibly pretty; expertly backed up instrumentally with that lovely echoing drum strike, almost like a gun shot. Not to mention the Hans Zimmer-esque blast near the end, before resolving itself out. This is the talent – Simon and Garfunkel can so easily create a song that enters, has its effect, then leaves (not outstaying its welcome). For evidence, just look at the examples! The Only Living Boy in New York or So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright.
The album closes on Song for the Asking. It’s simple and short and represents that end to the duo, as this album was their last together. It’s a poignant tranquility that is perfectly placed after Bye Bye Love. Great chord progressions here and the lyrics:
Ask me and I will play
All the love that I hold inside.
and it’s done and I am literally hit with a sound of silence (not on this album) – the noticeable absence of what I’ve just heard and its absence is felt!
Is this album for you?
I think here is another setup for a pillar of music past. Whatever your thoughts, this album represents a fine signature of the duo and their talent. Folk music is not for everyone, although the pair make a great bridge (no pun intended) into those realms. I’ll cross it personally but I’m not heading too much further beyond. My advice is find a moment of tranquility and just allow yourself a good listen. It’s good backing to the right sort of event and just a great display of talent.
- Writing: 9/10
- Performance: 10/10
- Style: 9/10 (what can I say… it’s just hit all the right areas for me)