On The Fence: Bridge Over Troubled Water

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Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album, Bridge Over Troubled Water is widely considered to be their masterpiece: Rolling Stone picked it as the 51st greatest album of all-time, and AllMusic.com rewarded it with a five-star review. And yet, I can’t help feeling a little bored when the needle hits this album. Let’s investigate…

Simon And Garfunkel | Bridge Over Troubled Water

THUMBS UP: Simon & Garfunkel’s harmonic folk-rock was a big part of the soundtrack of the sixties. Not all of their material has aged well, but brilliant songwriting never goes out of style, and Paul Simon is one of the best in the business. ‘The Boxer’ is one of the finest character portraits to be found in song – a haunting take on a lonely profession. When Simon sings “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear/And disregards the rest” he gets as close to Tao/existential wisdom as any 60s rocker ever did. ‘Cecilia’ is a great tune, and certainly one of the catchiest songs ever written about heartbreak and infidelity. This was the duo’s last album together before Simon split for a wildly successful solo career, and because it was released in 1970, it’s one of the albums that have come to represent the closing of the sixties. But with or without that subtext, it’s well worth the $1 that I paid for it.

THUMBS DOWN: Bridge Over Troubled Water is a fine album, on balance. The title track, however, is the ‘You Light Up My Life‘ of the 60s – a cloying ballad that was massively successful in its time, but now has the power to drive men mad. ‘Baby Driver’ sounds like a parody of Simon & Garfunkel, and for every undeniable highlight here there’s a puzzler like their head-scratching cover of ‘Bye Bye Love’. Yawns will be stifled during ‘A Song For The Asking’, which has to rate as one of the most appropriately titled filler songs of all-time. But beyond nit-picking individual tunes, the biggest problem with this album can be summed up in four words: Paul Simon’s solo career. Simon continued to grow as a songwriter after he left Garfunkel behind, and consequently his solo albums are more adventurous and interesting than most of the S&G catalog. Why come here when you can go there?

[Calling all Art Garfunkel fans... calling all Art Garfunkel fans...]

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7 Responses to “On The Fence: Bridge Over Troubled Water”

  1. jimmyjames Says:

    Does this album have a song with lyrics like: “wish I was a Kellog’s cornflake, floating on a bla bla… making the most out of a toaster? I’m a citizen for boysenberry jam fan?” or something. If so, THUMBS UP!

  2. dkpresents Says:

    That tune is called ‘Punky’s Dilemma‘ and can be found on their 1968 album Bookends.

  3. Aram Anthony Says:

    I’m ticking the Classic box on this one. Oh sure, it has syrup, sap & schmaltz in large doses, but it also has lines like, “Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia up in my bedroom. I got up to wash my face. When I come back to bed, someone’s taken my place.” To a 9-year-old’s ears (tee-hee, he said, “making love!”), those were revolutionary. And is the protagonist in ‘Keep The Customer Satisfied’ a drug runner or just a renegade traveling salesman? Also, as Mike Gould likes to point out, ‘So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright’ isn’t as much about a famed architect as it is Paul’s thumbing his nose at Artie, who was barely present during the recording. Paul continued his Rumours-style thrashing of Art in ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’, this time skewering his acting ambitions. Yep, I’m definitely going with the Classic box this time.

  4. Rob Says:

    Isn’t this on Rolling Stone‘s top 100 albums of all time? Pretty lofty endorsement. Besides, if you draw 100,000 people to Central Park, i think there are a few good songs on your album.

  5. Cat Says:

    Paul didn’t leave Art, Art left Paul, he wanted to go into film. Paul didn’t, and stuck with music. Not just that, but Art put out other albums and has been writing poetry. It was more of a mutual breakup than what you make it out to be.

  6. Bela Lugosi Says:

    You’re out of your mind, BOTW is a masterpiece. NFT.

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