Over Troubled Water is a great ending to a great thing. Some of
the songs on this album are pretty, well... weird would be the right word,
but all in all, it wraps up their career together pretty nicely. We get
to hear Art sing solo one more time on what is possibly the best S&G
song of all, and the final track, "Song For The Asking," brings everything
poignantly together for us one last time.
What impresses me the most about this
album is its use of varied instrumentation. Remember how Wednesday
Morning, 3 a.m. was entirely acoustic guitar, except for a banjo on
one song? Remember how acoustic guitar remained a huge staple of the other
three albums, even putting in a fairly strong appearance on Bookends?
We've come a long way. You won't find that strong focus here. Yes, acoustic
guitar is on this album, but in much shorter supply than on previous albums.
You've got the full piano sound on the title track, but there's also the
heavy percussion of "Cecilia," the organ on "Keep The Customer Satisfied,"
and horns all throughout the album, most notably on "Baby Driver." There's
the steel drum and trumpet in "The Boxer," and the woodwinds and strings
in "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright (Paul's farewell to Art, the former architecture
major; in the background at the end you can hear Roy Halee and Paul calling
"So long already, Artie!").
While it's not
very typical of their music as a whole, "Bridge
Over Troubled Water" is wonderful. It's not just my favorite song on
this album. It's not just my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song. It's not
just my favorite song of the era or the genre. It's my hands-down favorite
song of all time. It's hard to come close to this piece of magic Paul conjured
up and let Art put into action. If there were nothing else on this album
worth listening to, I'd buy it anyway just for this song. Unfettered by
the ribbons of applause it's tied in on live albums, this is the
way the song was always meant to be heard.
I'd heard "Cecilia"
on oldies radio so many times before becoming an S&G fan, but I never
realized it was the same group who was singing "The Sound Of Silence" and
"Homeward Bound." It's a fun song, fast, with clapping and an interesting
rhythm. It gets old fast, but still worth listening to.
Who can forget the never-ending "lie
la lie" chorus of "The Boxer"?
About five years ago, I was traveling with some friends, and someone found
an S&G CD in the van. It was the only thing we could all agree to listen
to, and while everyone shouted out that they wanted to hear one song or
another, they finally came to a general consensus: everyone wanted to hear
"The Boxer." This is one of those songs that has something for everyone.
For me, it's the chorus, which somehow seems empowering.
Bye Love" is the only live track on any of the five albums. Somehow
S&G's cover of an Everly Brothers hit seems more sincere than the original,
and I really like it. It feels like they mean it more than the Everly Brothers
ever did. This song is one of the reasons this album's my favorite.
Notes on the
expanded edition bonus tracks:
The early demo
of "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
is so good, I can't believe it wasn't released in an earlier compilation. The entire
thing is mostly piano, none of that fancy stuff that's in the latter half
of the final version, except for a little bit of drumming further into
it. At the beginning, the verses sound lower than on the final version.
There's a little bit of playing with the melody throughout the piece, though,
and some interesting, different things going on with the piano. Lyrically,
it stays the same as the final version until almost halfway through. The
lyrics are different at the end of verse two, and the following chorus
changes to accomodate. After the second chorus, the drums come in. The
melody of the "silver girl" verse is noticeably different from the final
version. The lyrics have changed there as well, and so has the final chorus.
All in all, this is nice. I like seeing evidence of the development
from this early version (August 1969) to the recorded version (November
1969), and I find that I like them just about equally well, and maybe even
this one a little bit more.
Overall, 4 out of 5 stars. There's
some really nice stuff on here, but then there are some pieces that I don't
understand or just plain don't like. I love the sounds and I love some
of the songs, but I only like the album.