Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon & Garfunkel

Columbia, 1970

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Surprise was my reaction when I found out there was no review of Bridge Over Troubled Water on the Vault. Apparently, it was one of the biggest-selling albums of its time, and a few of the tracks have become standards over the years. So really, it was up to me to find out whether the disc lives up to the hype.

Folk music really isn't my cup of tea. It's not terrible, and while I'm warming up to it, there aren't very many folk artists on the iPod. That is probably why up to this point I did not own a Simon & Garfunkel album. My mistake. If the best of folk music sounds anything like Bridge Over Troubled Water, I've been missing out.

Lord knows how many music critics out there have analyzed and studied "Bridge Over Troubled Water," but here we go. I rarely use the word "beautiful" to describe a song, but it fits perfectly here. Art Garfunkel's soaring tenor ranks up there with some of the best vocals I have ever heard. His voice is calm and soothing, but as the song progresses it gains in intensity as the music fills itself with an orchestral wall of sound, climaxing in the crashing, loud final moments. Paul Simon, being the gifted lyricist that he is, put down on paper some of my favorite lyrics. A bridge over troubled water in the context of the song can mean anything to anyone; God, friend, spouse, sibling. The best lyrics have multiple interpretations and provoke strong feelings. This track is the complete package, and for my money ranks up there with the absolute classics.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The other two big hits off the album, "Cecilia," and "The Boxer," are classics in their own right as well. While neither approaches the complexity and emotional foundation of the title track, they should not be dismissed. "Cecilia" foreshadows Simon's future experimentation with unique sounds, utilizing a South American beat to great effect. It is one of those pure pop singles that never gets old. "The Boxer" sports a killer chorus; I would wager that people who don't know the song or the artist too well will recognize the refrain.

Where Bridge Over Troubled Water really impressed me was in the quality of the album tracks. The best of them have just as strong melodies as the hits. The sound was different than I expected as well; I heard bits of Dylan, the Beatles, Brian Wilson, Phil Spector and Springsteen scattered throughout. While I'm not sure the album goes so far as to be classified as rock, it certainly was more up-tempo and produced than what in my experience folk music generally has been.

"The Only Living Boy In New York" has experienced a resurgence lately thanks to its inclusion in the Garden State soundtrack, and while I haven't seen the movie, it sounds like the perfect song to be listening to while driving down the road, not particularly going anywhere. Take special note of the stunning background vocals. The rollicking "Keep The Customer Satisfied" takes things up another notch, with the inclusion of a driving horn section. "Why Don't You Write" literally steals huge portions of "Pet Sounds." It's these small production touches that make Bridge Over Troubled Water derivative of the sounds floating around the 60's, but they are put together in a very unique style.

To be perfectly frank, the only "dud" I found on the album was a sedated cover of "Bye Bye Love." Given the fact that it's a live track, you'd think it would have been more upbeat. Give me the Central Park version of "Wake Up Little Susie" for a 50's cover from the boys. I do, however, love the closing, "Song For The Asking" It's short and sweet, reminding me of Elton John's "Goodbye," which closed out Madman Across The Water. Both sum up their individual albums perfectly, and I wish both went on longer.

Despite all the hype surrounding this album, I did not have that many high expectations for it. It merely would have to be good for me to enjoy it. Luckily, as albums occasionally do, Bridge Over Troubled Water went above and beyond the call of duty. You could probably make the case for this record to be one of the top ten to come out of the 70s. Despite not having heard much of Simon & Garfunkel's catalog, I imagine it didn't get any better than here.

Rating: A

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© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.