Art Garfunkel Sings “99 Miles From L.A”

Breakaway_(Art_Garfunkel_album)Listen to this track by angelically voiced interpretive singer, actor, and one-time member of a world-beating folk-rock duo that bears his name in part, Art Garfunkel. It’s “99 Miles From L.A”, a cut from his 1975 album Breakaway, his second solo album. The song itself was recorded that same year by its writer, the singer-songwriter Albert Hammond (who also wrote “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer around this same time), complete with lyrics by none other than Hal David.

Garfunkel is wrongly thought by some to be a gooseberry in his own career, with Paul Simon looked upon as the significant talent in their partnership, mostly due to the fact that Simon was a writer and (up until very recently at least) Garfunkel was not. It is also thought that Garfunkel’s solo career is lightweight and a bit “wet”. But I would argue that very few singers reached the depths of melancholy that Garfunkel has in his singing, adding his unique vocal instrument to some of the greatest songs ever written and recorded, and being absolutely indispensable to how well those songs connect on an emotional level with listeners of multiple generations. So few singers in an English-speaking pop context are able to sing a line that is both gloriously optimistic and devastatingly sad at the same time with such precision. This is not to mention his pivotal role as producer and arranger on Simon & Garfunkel albums, of which not many people are aware.

How does Garfunkel bring his formidable vocal powers to this song? I think he does it by utilizing his voice around the very ambiguous story that this song is telling, where we as the listeners aren’t sure of what kind of story it is; happy or sad. Read more

Simon & Garfunkel Sing “The Only Living Boy in New York”

simon_and_garfunkel_bridge_over_troubled_water_1970Listen to this track by folk-rock titans and close harmony bar setters Paul Simon and Arthur Garfunkel, known to the world by the partnership name of Simon & Garfunkel.  It’s ‘The Only Living Boy In New York” as taken from the duo’s 1970 album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, their final (to date) studio album and the B-side to their well-known favourite “Cecilia”. This song is the sound of the edge of the 1970s, and what would soon be a disolved partnership most associated with the 1960s.

The pair had made four albums before this one, gaining an audience as a folk-rock duo, with an impressive number of hit singles in that vein, making them one of the most prominent acts of that decade.  But, before they were Simon & Garfunkel, they were Tom & Jerry, a pop duo with a minor hit in the charts at the end of the ’50s in “Hey Schoolgirl“, influenced heavily by another titanic vocal duo – The Everly Brothers.  They even appeared on the venerated TV show American Bandstand under that moniker. So, when Simon sings about ‘Tom’ in this particular song, it’s not hard to imagine that he’s talking about his soon-to-be-erstwhile partner, who by the end of the ’60s had found a second career as an actor. Read more