It goes without saying that this album is one of the classic albums of all time, with almost every track a household name. 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' was one of the biggest (if not the biggest) selling albums of the 1970's, and still outsells many of its peers to this day. Paul Simon created a behemoth of an album when he set about trying to outdo his achievements on 'Bookends', and the resulting album cost Simon and Garfunkel their creative (and personal) partnership.
The tracks on this album are as varied as they are original, probably the main reason for the album's hugely broad and enduring appeal. Garfunkel's musical contribution (by this stage) was largely as backing vocalist to Simon's all-encompassing talent, but ironically it is Garfunkel who stole the show with what must rank as his greatest achievement, being the tour-de-force vocal on the opening title track. Aside from that, and 'So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright', you don't hear much from him again. Even 'Why Don't You Write Me' has Simon doing his own backing vocals...
But Simon's contribution to this album is not just in the writing, but in the performance as well. The timeless classic 'The Boxer' (a song that has kept millions of buskers in business) ranks as one of his greatest tracks, and rivals (or surpasses in my opinion) anything that Bob Dylan ever penned. With a rivetting narrative and thrilling climax (akin to the likes of The Beatles 'Hey Jude'), this song more than any other stands out as the true lead track of the album. 'The Only Living Boy In New York' sees what Simon and Garfunkel (used to) do best... vocal harmonies. The sense of loneliness described in the lyric is emphasised brilliantly through the airy, choral sound of the harmonies in this song.
These songs represent the personal and emotional side of this album, but there is plenty to counter-balance. 'Cecilia', 'Keep The Customer Satisfied', 'Baby Driver' and a raucous live rendition of The Everly Brothers 'Bye Bye Love' all serve to lighten the load considerably. As with every classic album, there are one or two oddities as well. 'El Condor Pasa' sticks out like a sore thumb at first, but gradually becomes as much part of ones enjoyment of the album as the rest.
The album ends with the short and sweet track, 'Song For The Asking', which with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight, sounds like a goodbye, and certainly marked the end of an era, and for Paul Simon atleast, the start of a new one.
This album is such an out and out classic, it should be available in public libraries. That said, it is not altogether representative of the rest of S&G's work, as it is a much more polished, and somewhat less daring and innovative album than say 'Bookends' was, so I would recommend buying this album after some of their earlier stuff, or like I did, buy the whole lot at the same time and go through your 'Simon and Garfunkel' phase!