106 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2011
Simon and Garfunkel's fifth and final studio album marked their commercial peak. Though many fans find the previous album, Bookends, to be the apex of the duo's artistic creativity, it's hard to think of another pop act that exited with a success comparable to this album and its title track. Despite Garfunkel's initial reservation, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" made good on Simon's feeling that it was the best song he'd ever written, topping the Hot 100 for six weeks and winning Grammy awards for song and record of the year. Though the recording is deeply tied to Garfunkel's brilliant vocal performance, the composition spawned dozens of successful covers, including Aretha Franklin's Grammy-winning R&B chart-topper and Buck Owens' Top 10 single. In the 1970s it became a staple in Elvis Presley's stage show, and cover versions continue to be recorded to this day, with a live version from the 2010 Grammys having charted, and the television show Glee having featured the song the same year.
But the title song is far from the album's only jewel. With Garfunkel away for the better part of 1969 filming Catch 22, Simon was left to work alone, and apparently consider a post-Garfunkel career. "The Only Living Boy in New York City" and "Why Don't You Write Me" are easily heard to be contemplations of Simon's isolation, while "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" includes the telling lyric "so long Frank Lloyd Wright, all of the nights we harmonized `til dawn," an allusion seemingly tied to Garfunkel's study of architecture at Columbia. The seeds of Simon's multicultural solo career can be heard in the Peruvian flute of "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)," broad rhythm instrumentation of "Cecilia," and reggae styling of "Why Don't You Write Me." The album topped the chart, won Grammys for engineering, arranging and Album of Year, and spun off four hit singles.
This CD/DVD set marks the 40th anniversary of the album's January 1970 release, and combines the original eleven tracks with two hours of video material. The DVD includes the duo's rare 1969 CBS television special, Songs of America, and a new documentary, The Harmony Game: The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water. The special, aired only once on November 30, 1969, has been bootlegged many times, but never before officially reissued. At the time of its airing its social and political viewpoints - particularly its explicit anti-Vietnam war messages - caused sponsor Bell Atlantic to pull out. But with backing from CBS (the same network that had fired the Smothers Brothers earlier in the year), the program found a new sponsor (Alberto Culver, the makers of Alberto VO5) and was aired uncut.
Both video features are extraordinary documents. The 1969 special, originally shot on film and pieced together from two different sources, is a post-Woodstock look at America in which Simon and Garfunkel seem to be trying to explain the younger generation to adult viewers. They surface the questions and doubts on the minds of many young people in 1969, starting with the incalculable loss of the decade's heroes - JFK, MLK and RFK - and reflections on the brutality of poverty and the activism of the farm workers, UAW and Poor People's March. First-time director (and future famous actor) Charles Grodin skillfully mixed compelling newsreel imagery with voiceovers and interviews, and interwove performance footage and behind-the-scenes shots of the duo at work. Simon and Garfunkel are spied working out arrangements of new songs, rehearsing their stage band and recording in the studio.
The making-of documentary repeats some moments from the '69 special, but adds context with discussions of the program's creation and controversies. There's additional concert footage and contemporary interviews with Simon, Garfunkel, their manager, Mort Lewis, their engineer/producer, Roy Halee, and two of the studio players (drummer Hal Blaine and bassist Joe Osborn) featured on the album.. The conversation with Halee is particularly illuminating, as he describes how the duo's studio sound was produced, and provides specifics of the album's tracks. The song-by-song discussion reveals numerous details on personnel (Fred Carter Jr., for example, played guitar on "The Boxer," Joe Osborn played an 8-string bass on "Only Living Boy in New York City," and Larry Knechtel developed the gospel piano on "Bridge Over Troubled Water"), recording locations, production techniques, and brightly highlights the creativity everyone concerned poured into the album.
Missing from the CD are the bonus tracks ("Feuilles-O" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water (Demo Take 6)") available on earlier releases, as well as the oft-bootlegged session track "Cuba Si, Nixon No," but the video disc is priceless and a fantastic bonus to celebrate this album's anniversary. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2011
Normally, I am not a fan of landmark "anniversary" reissues since most suffer badly from the desperation of artists and record companies seeking one last profit squeeze from their old catalog. The formula is simple - remaster the music but lard up the offering with decrepit video and audio outtakes that should have remained untaken and out.
While that motivation may be in play here, the reissue of BOTW is done with extreme care - the re-mastering is superb and the companion DVD feels less like a cobble of random video and more like a well thought out expansion of artistic vision.
The video is terrific but when you get right down to it - these releases are always about the music. "Bridge" remains an extraordinary recording, providing S&G's generations of fans a compelling reason to rediscover its many virtues. It should come as no shock that with vastly improved production clarity, the stature of the title track - IMHO the single best vocal performance(s) in popular recording history - is only enhanced, however, to my ear the shimmering soundscape of The Only Living Boy In New York remains the emotional centerpiece of the album.
A vital addition to any collection.
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2011
If you were alive and aware in 1969, you know it was anything but a time of confidences. I remember being 15 and getting tear-gassed at the Washington Monument in the middle of an angry war protest on the Fourth of July among 250,000 people ... and I was just there to see Bob Hope and the Beach Boys. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated the year before. Cities burned down during the riots afterward. The daily news was a parade of body count numbers from Vietnam. The country was torn between Nixon supporters, anti-war protestors, hippies, Black Panther radicals, John Birch conservatives, poverty, racism, and migrant and other abused workers struggling for decent working conditions through collective bargaining (oops, bye bye). But in total counterpoint to the chaos came a sound as pure and serene and ... confident as humanly possible. Two friends who had been singing together since they were 11 year-old pups were just now hitting their peak with "Bridge Over Troubled Water;" an album that captured lyrical, vocal and engineering mastery beyond measure.
There is no fill on the album. Nothing mediocre. It launches you into the stratosphere on the opening title cut and never lets up. It's one sustained mood of mixed emotions brilliantly recorded after another. No mere "Greatest Hits" album by the same duo could ever match the level of sustained inspiration woven here. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel knew it. They split up after this. How could it ever by topped? Well, there are still some surprises left for us in the seen-and-heard-it-all 2011, and this 40th anniversary edition comes not only with a remastered version of the album, but a Simon and Garfunkel CBS television special that originally aired in 1969, PLUS a new documentary interviewing the key players on the making the of the album. And every moment is revelation.
Simon and Garfunkel had four of the top five chart positions at the time and were so popular that a one-hour network special on CBS gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted. So they did a wandering meditative tone poem of moving images on America featuring John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy's funeral train while "Bridge Over Troubled Water" played over. That featured young couples in love contrasted with violent and fiery war images from Vietnam while "Scarborough Faire" played. That featured widow Coretta King talking about poverty over disturbing images of diseased and starving children. And they ended (big sigh of relief from the network), with a brief on stage concert. Naturally, millions of shocked viewers choked on their nightcap cocktails and tumbled out of their easy chairs to switch the channel over to the Peggy Fleming Ice Skating special on ABC. When director Charles Grodin (yes, THAT Charles Grodin), screened the Coretta King voiceover poverty section to the network brass, they asked him if he could adjust the audio on it. "How do you want it?" he asked. "Inaudible," they replied.
The original sponsor dropped out, but Alberto VO5 stepped in (hey, there was a lot of hair on young viewers in 1969), and the show aired as produced. Try watching it in the context of 1969, or even prime time network television TODAY, and you will gasp at what they got away with. And if you can watch Robert Kennedy's funeral train pass through the countryside by waving mourners as "Bridge Over Troubled Water" reaches its crescendo, and without crying, you need to check the dose level of your anti-depressants. You just might be catatonic.
Take a deep breath after the television special, thinking you've struck unearthed gold never seen since 1969, but here comes a fantastic new documentary about the making of the album (and the special), and nirvana kicks in. If you care about music at all, or how it is created or inspired, or recorded, you will be entranced. Paul Simon reveals the gospel music he was listening to when the inspiration struck for "Bridge," which he readily acknowledges is beyond any rational explanation. Art Garfunkel convinces him to add the third verse taking it even higher. Their genius engineer, Roy Halee, master of finding the perfect echo, records the "li li li" chorus of "The Boxer" in a stone church chapel to get the right haunting tones. He records the drum crescendos for "Bridge" outside the elevators at CBS to the shock and awe of departing passengers. Garfunkel and Simon playfully slap their hands on their denim-covered knees in a hotel room, roll the Sony recorder, create a one-minute loop, and inadvertently come up with the entire rhythm backing for "Cecilia." And on and on.
I don't know about you, but I always get thrills from hearing artists describe their moments of inspiration. That's my crack addiction. The joy of invention, of innovation, of seeking that perfect sound infuses everything they did or discuss here. And you share that joy of discovery with them. Unless of course, your lithium dosage won't let you.
Troubled outer times call for a stillness of inner peace. Simon and Garfunkel somehow sensed that delicate balance in 1969 and distilled a sound for the ages with this masterpiece. Witness the creation of that same masterpiece 40 years later to understand how the silences within these sounds are needed more than ever.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
While I don't share the breathless and hyperbolized estimation of Paul Simon as the "greatest lyricist of the last fifty years" like another reviewer (who evidently has never listened to the unbelievable poetry of Bob Dylan, Donovan, Leonard Cohen, or Harry Chapin, etc. Simon is an accomplished poet, yes, but just one of so many brilliant lyricists emanating from the sixties), I do agree that this blockbuster album that marked the highpoint of their collaboration showcases why they achieved such fame and popularity. Here they continue with the same innovative strands first initiated with albums like "Parsley Sage" etc. where they interspersed a newscaster's rendition of the nightly news with Garfunkel's almost angelic counterpoint of "Silent Night". The effect is devastating and dramatic. Here they also use traditional Incan melodies, race-car sound effects, and wider use of the kind of orchestral instrumentation they first employed on "Sounds of Silence", where they first used an electric guitar as a driving force behind their otherwise pristinely acoustic arrangement.
Yet there is great "sturm und drang" here; the two could hardly inhabit the same studio, for the creative genius both brought to their collaboration was literally tearing the duo's long-standing personal friendship apart. Garfunkel at first refused to sing the lead in "Bridge Over Troubled Water", for he felt it was so uniquely Simon's work and so clearly headed for a huge hit that Paul should sing the lead. Only the intervention of their long-time producer made Art change his mind and agree to sing the lead. One can also feel the tension on the most brilliantly executed song here, "The Boxer', as well, although this is so well packaged and delivered that it seems more part of the internal structure of the song and its arrangement than the result of the vocal strains between them. Simon was headed in other directions with his work, and there are indications of it with songs like "Cecilia", which is an almost Bob Dylan-like play on words and circumstances than an effort at poetic workmanship.
Likewise, in "Only Living Boy In New York", Simon vocalizes his sense of dismay and frustration as being left by Garfunkel (who was working on the movie "Catch 22" in Mexico) to work out the problems on the album alone. He urges "Tom" (Art) on, and wishes him well, but resents being left behind at the same time. He retorts that "he can gather all the news he needs from the weather report", another hint he is about to retreat into a life of more personal experiences and less concern for the world at large. In the same vein, "Keeping The Customer Satisfied" is meant ironically, Simon's way of announcing that, like the Beatles, he is finally sick of trying to meet popular expectations, and that he is about to quit the chase and pursue his own interests, which of course he soon did, leading to the release of the quirky but beautiful "Paul Simon album" a few years later. This is a farewell album that didn't announce itself as such, and was such an overwhelming success that it took years for everyone to realize Simon was serious about going solo. It is a brilliant last effort by a fabled pair of exceptional pop folk singers, and this album belongs on everyone's favorite music list. Enjoy!
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Bridge Over Troubled Water is an outstanding, classic rock album from Simon and Garfunkel. These guys knew music and they played and sang so well that they remain very famous even after their split so many years ago. The sound quality is excellent and the artwork is very thoughtfully done.
The CD starts with the title track, "Bridge Over Troubled Water." They sing this beautifully and there is such a soothing quality to this rock ballad that you just can't resist it! "Bridge Over Troubled water" has an especially fine arrangement for the piano and this helps the melody along quite a bit. "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" has another very pretty melody for this considerably shorter ballad; Paul Simon sings this flawlessly and the flute is gorgeous on "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)." Great!
"Cecilia" rocks! This tune gives us Simon and Garfunkel singing out loud about a girl who can break a man's heart and not feel terribly bad at all about it. The beat is quite good for this song and it all holds its own very well. "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" is a lesser known ballad but it's really very well done; and the use of both major and minor keys enhances the natural beauty of this ballad.
"The Boxer" is one of their greatest hits ever--I always enjoy this even if I know there may be hidden meanings in the lyrics that I still don't understand. Simon and Garfunkel harmonize to perfection and the percussion helps to mark the best very well. I predict that you'll enjoy "The Boxer" very much if you haven't heard it already.
"The Only Living Boy In New York" puzzles me because despite its beauty it's not a song that gets the full; recognition it deserves. Simon and Garfunkel sing this without a flaw and "The Only Living Boy In New York" is clearly a highlight of this album.
Just as Amazon notes, we also get a live cover of The Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love." Simon and Garfunkel put their own stamp on this great ballad by changing a few keys here and there and it works wonders for this number. I love it!
"Feuilles-O" is an excellent bonus track on this album; and listen for a bonus track of another slightly different recoding of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." This demo works well but I think the final version worked best.
Overall, Simon and Garfunkel fans will want this for their collections; and people who enjoy classic rock and even some of the "oldies" will cherish this CD for years to come.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2002
The fact that over half of the songs on Bridge Over Troubled Water are included on The Best of Simon and Garfunkel is a testament to the strength and consistency of this marvelous album. The album's hits, the South American flavored "Cecilia," the genuinely moving title ballad and the greatest rock epic ever written, "The Boxer," among them, are all unquestionable classics, but Bridge's less celebrated tracks, including the devilish "Baby Driver," and the euphoric gust, "Keep the Customer Satisfied," and the cover of The Every Brother's "Bye Bye Love," a notable step up from the original, are also very impressive. The excellence of this album was well recognized upon its release, as Bridge was one of the top-sellers of its decade and was showered with awards (including Album of the Year) at the 1970 Grammys. More than thirty years later, Bridge Over Troubled Water has lost none of its power to charm and move listeners. Truly, this album stands as a major achievement.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2003
In my opinion, there are no albums better than this one in pop music. This, everyone, is the limit. It is the only album I can think of where every single song is a joy. The worst, in my opinion, is "Bye bye love," and it is better than 95% of the songs out there anyway. The title song is a glorious, pure piece of loving artwork for Art Garfunkel to shine on, while Art also gives a moving performance in the beautiful "So long, Frank Lloyd Wright." Simon writes two slightly avant-garde but musically perfect songs, the Brazilian "El Condor Pasa" and percussion-driven, frantic romance "Cecilia." Two excellent soft-rock songs, "Baby Driver" and "Keep the Customer Satisfied" may be just for fun but they are fantastically written and incredibly catchy. "Why Don't You Write Me"'s enjoyable tune and sax solo make it more than worthwhile, while the serenade "SOng for the Asking" is touching and sweetly sung. The best of all of these (maybe tied with the title track) is the heartrending ballad, "The Boxer." Listen to the harmonies of the up-and-down guitars with the saxes and violins. This is an extraordinary cd, and the bonus tracks are interesting as a comparison.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2011
After I had purchased Frank Zappa's Lumpy Money, and had owned both sets of Beatles remasters for over a year, I thought, "okay, this is it - I can't think of any other records to buy, so I'm done..." Not true. I heard about the "Bridge" remaster and read about it on this site and was excited when I'd seen there was a DVD containing all this rare footage. I had to go out and get it. I'm not going to go on so much about the album itself - we've all heard it about 50,000,000 times, and it's a great one. It was like The Beatles taking the very best tracks from Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road and editing them together. It was S & G's swansong, as Abbey Road was, but it was also a shattering breakthrough, a la Sgt Pepper.
I watched the "Harmony Game" documentary and agreed with the sentiment expressed within, that Simon & Garfunkel couldn't really make another album together after this. Sure, they could still write songs, harmonize and bring in the best musicians, and it would be great, but would it have the emotional-rollercoaster impact of Bridge over Troubled Water? Not just the song, but the album, as well?
The Harmony Game was one of the most interesting, entertaining and informative documentary about the making of an album that I had seen in years. This beats all of the VH1 Classic Albums documentaries, 5 of which I own, and they're great in their own right. One section touched on the fact that the title track was initially planned to just have the two verses, driven home on piano. I listened to the released track and tried to imagine it fading out after the piano and cymbal crash following the second verse. I think it would have been beautiful just as that was, but it's the third verse that sends the listener into a tailspin, and it's a hell of a way to open an album.
I wouldn't say The Harmony Game is the only reason to get this set, but it's a great part of it, and I highly recommend it.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2006
Not being a child of the Simon & Garfunkel, Beatles, The Who, and the sixties generation, many believe those my age (ah, the children of the ninties...) cannot truly have an appreciation for the beautiful lyrics and ideas of a duo such as Simon and Garfunkel. Well, first of all, the music is so incredibly dynamic and unforgettable by itself. Second, the poetry found in it is applicable and warmly welcome in these turbulent times today. A song like "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is just the saving grace that our generation, and all generations after us need.
Every time I play this album, this unexplainable happiness and relaxation comes. I find myself dancing in my car to "Cecilia" and "Baby Driver" and unable to frown during "The Boxer," "So Long Frank Lloyd Wright" (which, is, by the way, the most beautiful tribute I have heard) and "Only Living Boy in New York." I guarantee that any true appreciator of music will feel the same way and I strongly suggest that you play this album for your kids forever... This classic must survive the generations!!!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Both the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel released their final albums in 1970. However, while LET IT BE documented the fragmentation of band members heading in different directions, no such tensions are evident on BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER. The title track is a majestic tour de force and spent six weeks at No. 1 and sold over a million copies. "Cecelia" was another million-seller. But my favorite track is the melancholic "The Boxer." And just for the sheer joy of the song, "Baby Driver" runs a close second--even though I still don't have a clue what the lyrics mean! And they pay homage to one of their biggest influences with a rendition of the Everly Brothers' 1957 hit, "Bye Bye Love." Simon & Garfunkel were the most successful duo of the Sixties for a reason: Simon was a superb songwriter and they could sing the hell out of a song. It doesn't get any better than this! ESSENTIAL