Monday, 10 September 2012

Art Garfunkel (with Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock) "Everything Waits To Be Noticed" (2002)



Art Garfunkel “Everything Waits To Be Noticed” (2002)

Bounce/The Thread/The Kid/Crossing Lines/Everything Waits To Be Noticed/Young and Free/Perfect Moment/Turn, Don’t Turn Away/Wishbone/ How Did You Know?/What I Love About Rain/Every Now and Then/Another Only One


"Wearing a tiny scar"

Somehow it’s rather fitting that it should have taken me 10 years to fully understand and fall in love with an Art Garfunkel record whose theme is the un-noticed, the fragile and the hidden things in life. We haven’t really covered Arty’s solo records very well on this site so far (editor's note: we made up for this later!) mainly because they’re all of a type: sweeping Jimmy Webb piano-based ballads, a few Gallagher and Lyle songs and the odd attempt at contemporary songwriting that either works well or falls badly flat on its face (or both). None of Arty’s solo albums are bad – indeed we have ‘Breakaway’ as one of our ‘core’ 101 top records everyone should own – but they are all of a type that rather blur together, for better or for worse. Not this album though. ‘Everything Waits To Be Noticed’ is a first in so many ways and easily the most unique album out of Arty’s dozen or so solo records. For a start Art’s working as part of a ‘team’ again, working with the help of under-rated singer-songwriters Buddy Mondlock and Maia Sharp and the partnership suits him far more than it does working on his own (previous partner Paul Simon, you sense, prefers working alone, at least when it comes to producing and writing). This gives the record a real unity and cohesion that even the excellent ‘Breakaway’ doesn’t possess which, together with the largely acoustic setting, give this album a feel and a mystery quite unlike any other record ever made. Best of all, though, is that despite the ‘partnership’ tag there is more of Art Garfunkel on this record than any other he’s ever made, including his first composition credits since as far back as 1957 (when Art released the ridiculously rare solo single ‘Dream Alone’ under the pseudonym ‘Artie Garr’).

For someone who’d spent the past 40 years telling us how hard he’s tried to write and failed, the presence of six Garfunkel credits on this record (almost all the best songs on the album) wasn’t just a surprise, it was a seismic shift in terms of us fans’ understanding of the man we’d only ever heard bearing his soul when singing, not writing. It’s not as if Artie simply chipped a few lines in here and there either – all of ‘his’ songs on the album started off as poems written by Arty to finally talk about subjects that have troubled him for years, sometimes decades, set to music by the very capable and sympathetic team of Mondlock and Sharp. As a result this album feels closer to Arty’s heart that any record we fans have ever had before and it deals directly or indirectly with perhaps the biggest experience of Arty’s life – the death of his girlfriend Laurie Bird from suicide in 1979 in the flat the pair shared together. It's similar in many ways to the third in the trio of great Garfunkel albums, 1980's 'Scissors Cut', sharing it's sense of having travelled too far into the darker side of life. This time, though, this is very much an album with a light at the end of the tunnel too, with the record taking delight in how much stronger and wordly wise the narrator now is after their life's experiences. It's a record that really suits Garfunkel's older, maturer voice with the album spending much of the time singing low and deep in all meanings of the word rather than high and sweet and Arty sounds much more comfortable there. His two collaborators also make for the best harmonic blend on a Garfunkel record since Paul Simon and though the album doesn't often feature all three at once it's a fascinating twist to hear Arty as part of a trio rather than a duo, shifting his vocals to compensate - one of those subtle differences on this album that, well, waits to be noticed instead of drawing attention to itself.

The main thing that waits on this album to be noticed, though, is Laurie Bird. The actress is otherwise best known to AAA fans as the girl Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson tries to chat up in the un-watchable film ‘Two Lane Blacktop’, was more than just a casual acquaintance of Garfunkel’s. She was his closest companion for years (even shooting the album cover for ‘Watermark’, showing Art lounging by the sea on a deckchair) and her sudden, unexpected death had huge implications for Garfunkel. For a start, it was claimed by some that it was his reluctance to marry her that contributed to her death (the pair had been together some six years by that time – to be fair to Garfunkel he was still recovering from a turbulent end to his first even less known marriage, to Linda Grossman, and dreaded the thought of going through it all again). Also, it was revealed at her funeral that her mother had also committed suicide when Laurie was only three and, as writer Kurt Vonnegut often noted, it’s harder for those who have lived around suicide to ignore it in their own lives, as unlike the wider world they know that it is always an option (I can’t speak for other countries but the UK’s desire to sweep suicide under the carpet and go la-la-la I’m not listening is a real problem for those looking for help. Something should be done. But it probably won’t be done by Cameron). Art famously went on long extended walks after Laurie’s death, gradually walking his way ‘across America’ (the title of another album) to give him to think and filing all the books he’s ever read away in order (its only speculation on my part but was he cataloguing all the things he’d have talked about to Bird, a voracious reader?)  Arty, understandably, withdrew, releasing just two records in the 1980s and turning his hand to acting to cover the pain (his role in ‘Bad Timing’, as the psychiatrist boyfriend of a girl who tries to overdose, is particularly powerful and moving when you know the story), but despite the 20 odd year difference in time its fair to say that Laurie is very much on mind on this album.

Not that this record is an uncomfortable listen. On the contrary, much of it is ‘up’ and exuberant in its desire to experience life’s ups and downs. It’s just that almost all the songs on this record feature lessons learned ‘at a price’ and feature wholly believable narrators kicking themselves for occasional lost opportunities or letting their minds wander wildly to past loves and lives and the way life could have been. It’s a very ‘deep’ record this one, in contrast to the effortless pop of most of Arty’s solo albums, a world where partner’s and soulmate’s lives are destined to roll around each other like the DNA helix spectrum, wrapping themselves around each other from afar (because of absence or death, or both). In short it's the kind of album that could have only have been released by an empathetic soul in their late middle age, aware of life’s tapestries and the ‘patterns’ of life, updating the Simon and Garfunkel song from 1967 from an older perspective (trust Paul Simon to work that rule of life out some 40 years before his contemporaries!) The key line of the album for me is from the title track, fittingly for an album about waiting to be noticed, one that’s half-whispered and easy to overlook the first few playing for the album, ‘The whispering pains that say you’re living, the slow burn of not quite forgiving’. In short, life is difficult but as long as you are still alive you have the chance to come to terms with the past and put the present in order to create a greater future. It’s just that the means of doing this aren’t always obvious and take their time to be discovered (it’s a sad fact, noted by many philosophers, that we only truly understand life when its running out and we have no time to act on its impulses). Always understated, often hard to hear and occasionally muddled, this is an album that rewards patience and multiple playing, full of hard-won lessons that only make sense when you get to know the album well.

That’s quite an album theme, then, but that’s not to say that the album is without accessible lyrics and hummable tunes. There are two songs here, ‘The Kid’ and ‘Perfect Moment’ that are among the most perfect pop concoctions I’ve ever heard, the first about dreaming of the future and the second about remembering the past, complete with strong hooks, a glowing production and a depth and poignancy that elevates them above the usual harmless pop creation. Other songs on the album, while less memorable, are often unique – and as you readers have probably learned by now I can forgive an album most sins if it offers up something few other albums give. Full of gentle sighs, wistful looks over the shoulder and melancholy fused with spirit and optimism, there’s much to notice on ‘Everything Waits To Be Noticed’ and delightfully none of it is jumping up and down trying to grab your attention. From the title down this is an album about patience, of doing things the proper way without shortcuts and full of marvellous ideas scattered across the album almost casually.

The album's other quiet theme is that of fate. Once eaten by Arty for breakfast, it now feels as if his life has been planned and mapped out. 'The Thread' is about the way lives appear interconnected and how certain people and places are always 'meant to be' in our lives. Buddy Mondlock's gorgeous song 'The Kid' always knew from childhood that life was going to be 'different' for him in life - and even if things haven't quite worked out (he's watering elephants at the circus, not out enjoying the big time) he's accepted it, having 'seen things far beyond just the school yard' even when that's all was there. 'The Perfect Moment' recalls how from the moment he first spied his future love the narrator in line at the cinema he knew they were meant to be together, just as he knew his soulmate wasn't long for this world. 'How Did You Know?' is told from the opposite angle: 'How did you know we were meant to be?' asks Maia, but somehow Arty's narrator just knew because it was always feted to be. In contrast 'Every Now and Then' is kind of an 'un-thread', about a past love who sometimes more real than the narrator's current love, a ghost who keeps calling to him with thoughts of what might have been.

Of course, not everything works. The similarity of the three singers and all the songs on the album mean that there’s very little that stands out on the first few playing. There’s also no one in the band capable of handling the slightly faster, slightly harder, angrier songs that are sensibly included her in order to break up the sound and mood of the album. This isn’t a band built for speed or anger and the trio occasionally look silly trying to pull that off (‘Turn, Don’t Turn Away’ being the biggest casualty). I’d also love to hear the band try and experiment a little away from the acoustic arrangements they stick too rigidly across the album. That said, this album is an experiment anyway, sounding quite unlike anything the three have ever done separately (at least that I know of) and as a result its impressive how high the strike rate for this album is. Let’s not forget, before this Arty had released only a misguided children’s record (where only the re-hashes of old S+G songs sound particularly interesting) and a travesty of a live record in which his voice has aged beyond all recognition (and there are some truly toe-curling moments, such as a duet with his 12 year old son James, on which Arty unforgivably comes off worse). Even if a couple of songs do fall short of the overall album standard, what most impresses me about ‘Everything Waits To be Noticed’ is the album’s consistency, with even the lesser moments brightened up by a spot-on harmony part or a particularly good lyrical couplet. Given that the three singer-songwriters (and I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to be able to refer to Garfunkel that way after some 50 odd years of being a singer!) had never worked together before, this is a ridiculously impressive achievement and makes you wonder what a second album by the trio might have sounded like.  

One surprising thing about this album is how well the three voices of Garfunkel, Mondlock and Sharp go together, both as singers and composers. On paper you couldn’t ask for three more different backgrounds: Maia Sharp, a renowned singer-songwriter who bravely carved out a niche writing about her lesbian experiences back when it was much more of a taboo subject than it is today, only started recording in 1993 and is of a completely different vintage to Art Garfunkel (who started as far back as 1956, as a 14-year-old schoolboy). Bobby Mondlock, best known for collaborating with Garth Brooks, is aged somewhere between the two and yet all three come together on this album with one voice, of age wisdom and experience. Vocally it’s hard to tell when the three sing separately, so similar are their voices (Mondlock’s higher falsetto is almost as lovely as Arty’s, while Sharp’s soprano is similar in tone and timbre) and so often do they swap lines, double each other up or mix together in two or three part harmony. Compositionally, too, they’re a good match, overlapping to such an extent that you’d be hard pressed to know who wrote whom. This is no CSNY, no supergroup whose magnificence comes from the sheer eclectic mix of styles and ideas or even a Beatles, a group with four (or at least three) distinct voices born from the same background and heading in more or less the same direction via different roads. This is a trio where all three voices relate to each other and is a real coming together as soulmates. They also make songs much more suitable for Arty’s voice than all those faceless Jimmy Webb songs that made up about 40% of previous Garfunkel albums and which I must admit I never really understood (Art has one of those voices born for expressing emotion, whatever that might be, but Webb’s songs are more intellectual; it’s interesting to note how much more ‘thoughtful’ some of the early Paul Simon solo records become without as much ‘emotional range’ – until ‘One Trick Pony’ at least and with parts of the autobiographical ‘Rhymin’ Simon’ as the one big exception to this rule on the first three albums).

As a result, its frustratingly for me to report that, due to poor sales, the three have never worked together again. Even worse, Arty’s gone almost completely the other way, hiding behind a group of faceless covers albums the world didn’t really need (‘Some Enchanted Evening’, Art singing songs from musicals, is a frustratingly disappointing album with the wrong man singing the worst songs of the first half of the 20th century) and a woefully unrehearsed and painfully raw reunion with Paul Simon on a live album. Art even seems to have stopped writing his ‘poems’ or ‘songs’ which is a terrible waste of talent (if only Paul would have a go at a ‘real’ S+G collaboration, adding music to Arty’s words, it would solve all that ‘unequal partnership’ row that seems to end every S+G reunion prematurely). Mondlock and Sharp, too, seem to have slipped back under the radar again, although there are some fine solo performances (including some songs from this album) by Mondlock on Youtube if you care to look. 


It could just be that, like the life-lesson it tries to impart, ‘Everything Waits To Be Noticed’ is an album destined to come back into vogue in the future. I do hope so: it’s lovely lyrics, gentle softness and yet quite gripping and honest lyrics make for a winning combination in my book and, despite the fact that it’s taken me 10 years to get to this point, ‘Everything Waits To be Noticed’ is quickly becoming my favourite Art Garfunkel album. I love the idea that Garfunkel was, at last, comfortable enough to reveal some of his inner thoughts down on paper and I’m willing to put the better songs on this album up with there with the best of his work with Paul Simon (the lyrics, certainly, are up to his partner’s thoughtfulness, intelligence and tenderness) and only wish he’d write more (or at least have his poems turned into songs by similarly sympathetic partners). But even though Arty’s name is in bigger letters on the sleeve and even though his fingerprints are all over this album probably more than any other he’s made to date, enticing some of his very best ever vocals along the way, it would be wrong to treat this album as a solo work. Mondlock and Sharp too deserve their bows, both for their own work on the album and for enabling Arty to get more out of himself than he ever managed on his own.  In short, everything does indeed wait to be noticed and if you give this record long enough it might well become your favourite Art Garfunkel album too. 

‘Bounce’ isn’t the most auspicious place to start the album, being one of the slightly poppier, louder songs we’ve just been talking about. There’s nothing wrong with the lyrics though, which are very similar to the Jerry Garcia spin-off Dead song ‘The Wheel’ (its on his first album ‘Garcia’), about how our destiny rolls around like a wheel, taking us to great heights and horrifying lows seemingly on a whim. The main difference is that Garcia (and lyricist Bob Hunter) see this directionlessness as being deliberate, a chance to learn all life’s lessons from all angles before we die. On ‘Bounce’ the direction is simply random because that’s what life ‘is’ – there is no one looking over our shoulder to pull our strings for us. On many songs that would be a negative thing but this song is ‘up’, with Art’s narrator deciding that this means we all have the chance to control our lives and that, even if we are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea on occasion, we also have the chance to put things right. There’s also a memorable chorus line about how each of us have ‘diamonds’ for our hearts and want to help each other and that its only because the world we live in is ‘dark’ and spends so long developing our ‘negative’ side that we forget all of this. There’s even a sort of half-reply to Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds Of Silence’ in the idea that man is left solitary and afraid to communicate because of the ‘darkness’ of the world, where the only ‘articulation’ we feel is in the heart and something so hard to put into words. The most intriguing lyric, though comes at the end when something nasty happens out of the blue to change our life around for the worse and the narrator is left sadly asking after something terrible has happened whether he is wrong and really he’s the only person with a ‘diamond in the darker side of me’. That’s a great idea for a song – alas there’s nothing in the music that comes close to matching the words and for the most part this is just a generic pop song without the developments or new understandings learnt by the end of the song coming through (an eerie, slower coda for that last verse would have worked a treat). The three voices of Art, Billy and Maia also sound less unified here than they do across the rest of the album (was this an early track recorded, perhaps, before singing with each other became second nature to them all?) A frustrated opportunity alas, but read the song as a poem rather than a song and you won’t be disappointed. Interestingly the song was written not by the usual album writers but by Garfunkel’s faithful songwriter Graham Lyle (albeit working with Billy Mann rather than Gallagher).


‘The Thread’ is much better, with a very CSN like feel in the eerie way the three voices overlap and thread around each other, sounding like one voice shaded in different colours rather than three separate voices working against each other. The song is better too, with the clever cod-Spanish arrangement this time the match of the lyrics (which started as a Garfunkel poem). There’s another neat nod to past successes, with the narrator around the corner from the 59th Street Bridge (where in Simon and Garfunkel’s day he was ‘Feelin’ groovy’) now an older and wiser man remembering past loves as he walks down 53rd Street. The theme of the song returns to the idea of destiny and the idea that there are people who are destined to be in our lives, however well we get on with them. The narrator meets his soul-mate while looking for directions (a good metaphor for his life), but so strong is the ‘pull’ between the two people it’s the ‘future’ they’re looking out at, not the maze of buildings they see in the present. The relationship goes wrong (the scene shifting to ‘seven years later and two blocks south’ in a classic line and the loved one goes off in a car, a ‘scar’ down her cheek. I’m willing to bet my Simon and Garfunkel CD collection that there’s at least a little of Laurie Bird in this song (New York is where Arty lived both at the time of her death and at the time this album came out and he couldn’t help but be reminded of his lost loved one as he went about his daily business). If it’s Art’s emotions at the centre of this song, though, that doesn’t mean the ‘other’ two shouldn’t take a bow: Sharp is particularly, well, sharp in this one, turning in a sumptuous vocal dripping in nostalgia and regret. There’s a lovely understated tune here too that might not grab you on first listening but will reverberate around your head the more you get to know the album (everything waits to be noticed, remember), like a slowed down version of ‘I Am A Rock’.

‘The Kid’ goes one better, however, being my favourite song on the album. A slightly older song than most of the album, it was written by Mondlock before the project started and is a simply gorgeous song about ‘the kid’ of the title dreaming and drifting his way through life. In the first verse he’s ‘run away’ to join the circus and even the mundane reality of washing elephants can’t stop his imagination picturing himself up on the high wire. The second verse has ‘the kid’ stuck inside on a school day sitting a boring geography exam and staring out of the window dreaming ‘beyond just the school yard’ and experiencing the places mentioned on his test, not just reading about them from books. It’s the third verse, though, that makes the song and might well be why Garfunkel, with Laurie still very much on his mind, picked up on the song: ‘I’m the kid who thought we’d always be lovers, always held out that time would tell’ before adding in a moment of honesty that he got the timing wrong and that ‘time was talking, but I just wasn’t listening – no surprise if you know me well’. The kid who spent his whole life dreaming of the future missed how great the present could be and now bitterly regrets it, a moment that really resonates on this track with the quiet, sighing melody and its slow shrug of the shoulders. A fine final verse then ties up all the loose endings, admitting that dreaming so hard has often caused him trouble but acknowledging, in a moment of sheer poetry ‘I could no more stop dreaming than I could make them all come true’. Art’s vocal on this track is magnificent, all wide –eyed innocence turning into bitterly felt regret, but you sense that Mondlock’s song could be done by the Spice Girls and they still couldn’t ruin it. Tuneful, lyrical, heartfelt, honest and intelligent, ‘The Kid’ is everything music is at its best and is one of my favourite songs in my whole collection, perfectly written and perfectly performed. Why this song didn’t become a major hit, even in the empty pop charts of 2002, I shall never know.

Anything would risk falling flat on its face after ‘The Kid’ and alas ‘Crossing Lines’ is far from the best song on the album. It’s a song much more in keeping with the mid-tempo songs Art favoured on most of his 1970s and 80s records, not fast enough to really rock and not slow enough to bring out the beauty in his voice. It’s a song by Maia Sharp among others, but surprisingly her vocal takes a back seat to Art’s and Buddy’s on this song that extends the metaphor of ‘The Thread’ by having a whole song about the narrator and his loved one ‘lost’ in a car and that being a metaphor for their relationship. There’s a sweet little tune in here, again like much of the album it might not stand out on first listening but does on repeated plays, but the lyrics are rather corny compared to the rest of the album and the final verse, where the line ‘We think we’re lost, but just out of reach is a handful of maps folded underneath your seat’, seems like a pretty hurried resolution on an album that’s all about ‘patience’.

The title track of the album is another gem, however, so softly spoken it almost isn’t there, with the same acoustic strumming that appears on all of Arty’s best songs (from ‘Mary Was An Only Child’ to ’99 Miles From L.A.’ The theme of the song is simple, celebrating all those moments in life that cause the major developments in your present and future without appearing that way at the time. Despite becoming something of a ‘shopping list’ the song is very clever in its structure with no chorus except the one repeated line but two middle eights for variety, one talking of regret on ‘the whispering pains that say you’re living’ (the key line of the album as mentioned above) and another looking to the future and ‘longing for brighter days’. Along the way we get such disparate things waiting to be noticed as ‘the missing line in a telegram’ ‘the middle child’ and ‘the full potential of a love affair’, three very different ideas that could all have been turned into songs in their own right. The song is slow, courageously slow in fact, but that simply gives the song the space for the three voices to properly take flight for the first time. It’s particularly lovely to hear Art singing in the lower part of his register, something he doesn’t do very often due to his glorious falsetto and its particularly lovely here. The only song credited to all three main musicians on this album (Art, Buddy and Maia), it’s fitting that this is the song that best shows off their lovely three-part harmony.

‘Young and Free’ is another good song by songwriter Richard Julian that’s sung mainly by Garfunkel, appearing to relish a song about love making you feel ‘young and free’ whatever your age. Whether deliberate or accidental there’s more than a similarity here to ‘Think Too Much’, a Paul Simon song that ended up on ‘Hearts and Bones’ but was originally recorded as part of an aborted Simon and Garfunkel reunion album. In 1983 Paul reluctantly admitted the flaw in his character that he ‘thought too much’ and actually recorded and released the song twice (once as a comedy, once as a tragedy). Art treats the idea as comedy, laughing his way through the line ‘Think too much – keeps you old and grey and out of touch!’ The chorus of the song is clever, with a great hook, but alas the song doesn’t really get going until the last verse which finds the narrator immobile and passed out on his bed (the breezy way the singers play it here it sounds as if he’s passed out from drinking and having a good time, with the song a hymn to gloriously wasted days of youth, but you could also read it as an old man on his deathbed, regretting the fact that he worked too hard and didn’t ‘waste’ more days having fun; the fact that the title line sung so often throughout the song is replaced by ‘Autumn Days’ suggests this too). Sweet, but not up to the high standard of the album.

‘The Perfect Moment’ – another Garfunkel poem set to music by Mundlock and collaborator Pierce Pettis – is the other drop dead gorgeous song on the album and another I’d be willing to my Art Garfunkel collection is at least partly about Laurie. The song unfolds slowly like a cinema film pulling back from ‘the perfect moment’ to tell a full story – which is rather fitting as the narrator meets his soulmate in a queue for the cinema. The song was, in fact, inspired by something Laurie said to Garfunkel after they fell in love, that she had actually met him as a ‘star’ before the ‘first time’ they fell in love (a situation moved to a cinema queue here). Sensing trust and kindness in her eyes, the narrator gets up the courage to ‘meet’ her properly ‘the first time’ when they pass each other again, with both meetings a ‘perfect moment’ that changes both of their lives. Alas by the third verse the pair are separated, with the narrator admitting that ‘I wasn’t ready for the last time’ – and if you know the story of Laurie Bird its hard not to see this sudden unexpected and decidedly final separation (where the narrator is ‘supposed to let you go into the blue’ but finds ‘I’m still holding you’) as being about suicide. Art’s dreamy slow vocal on this song makes it clear how much the song means to him, although the others back him up admirably (especially Maia’s higher harmony part), their three voices seemingly giving comfort in the darkness. Mondlock’s melody is lovely too, one of those real McCartneyesque tunes that sound so obvious and simple they should have been around for millennia and, more importantly, it’s the perfect match for the thoughtful, melancholic lyrics. When a song this powerful is performed this well it’s powerful indeed and anyone whose ever lost a loved one will be sobbing by the last verse, such is the power of the mood and the perfection of the writing and performance, a perfect moment on a pretty good record.

‘Turn Don’t Turn Away’ undoes much of the good work, though, sadly, being a noisier less graceful song by Garfunkel and Mondlock in collaboration with Billy Mann (who co-wrote the opening song on the album). If this song was another Garfunkel poem turned into a song then its noticeably poppier and more song-orientated than the others, even if it fits the idea of memories and nostalgia on the album, with everything the narrator sees reminding him of happier times. Another song about a break-up, the narrator tries hard to have ‘patience’ and remember that under pressure ‘diamonds used to be coal’ (a line David Crosby used back in 1989 on ‘Arrows’, incidentally), but there’s none of the hooks or the majesty of the other songs on the album to elevate this song above the ordinary. Mondlock’s lead vocal doesn’t have the weight of the three leads of the other songs here, although there is a clever passage when Garfunkel starts singing alongside him at the last place you’d expect (the second line of the second verse, ‘Like waters runs over stone’). The electric guitar part, though subtle, also sounds like an intrusion after seven straight songs without anything electric. The worst part though, is the final verse seemingly whispered by Mondlock down a megaphone, which is surely taking the understated-becoming-loud theme a little too far. Too be fair, though, just when you think the trio are at last about to under-deliver on the album and release a horrible song they suddenly plunge into a glorious a capella chorus, which finds all singers in full flight, which comes close to singlehandedly rescuing the song. Still, in the context of the other gems on the album, it’s rather anonymous.

‘Wishbone’ is lead by Maia Sharp despite the fact that she’s the only one of the three not to write the song (which is another Garfunkel/Mondlock/Mann composition). This is another song of lost opportunities, with the narrator clutching their ‘wishbone’ from the Sunday roast but unable to communicate their wishes out loud. Time then rushes forward a couple of decades with the narrator in a new life but still thinking of the ‘old’ one that might have been, glancing at her watch on the day she knows is ‘his’ birthday and realising with a shock that by now ‘he’d be 45. There’s what might be a reference to the Hollies classic ‘Air That I Breathe’ in the last line (when will Arty do a version of that, it would be great!) sung from the opposite perspective – that ‘the air you breathe was everything’ and how could I ever have let you go? Encouraging the listener to ‘hold the ones they love like there’s no tomorrow’ this is another ‘grower’ that becomes much more melodic and lyrical the more you listen to it as, like the narrator in the song, it waits to be noticed. Despite the sad theme there’s a lovely earnest, almost bouncy melody to this track that means you can even forgive the clich├ęd saxophone solo in the middle and while it’s not up to the two magnificent highlights of the record there’s still enough theme, tune, emotion and intelligence to make this song a cut above the average.

‘How Did You Know?’ is a more straightforwardly commercial song than most on the album that seems to return to the idea of ‘A Perfect Moment’ and ‘The Thread’. The narrator asks in wonderment how his loved one could possibly have worked out that he was ‘the one’, introduced by friends ‘through the dim light of insight’, both of them knowing that their ‘threads’ were destined to twine round each other for years to come. So far this is all pretty straightforward, especially given that the song is accompanied by one of the simpler melodies on the album, with less chord changes than most songs on the record, but the first verse is puzzling. The couple are walking through a busy train station and get separated in the rush – a useful metaphor for going separate ways you’d think, but instead ‘you vanish with a smile – you knew that I would be a while’. Hmm, odd, especially given that this scenario is never referred to again throughout the rest of the song. A decent production and a strong vocal arrangement goes some way to rescuing the song, especially Maia’s lead vocal (she cow-rote the song with Art and Billy Mann) and the astonishing, complex atonal harmonies on the word ‘understood’ in the second to last verse. It’s the very final verse, though, reduced to three short lines that should have made up the full song, featuring the excellent lines that ‘We were just staggering the rhyme, love is timing without time, and yours had faith in mine’. A song about the magic of blind faith, perhaps it’s fitting that the listener has to take so much ‘blind faith’ on a song that appears so simple on the surface and yet doesn’t quite connect all the dots when you study it closely. A bit of work could have made it another stellar contribution to the album – alas it simply sounds a bit muddled here.

‘What I Love About Rain’ is another of the album’s aching ballads that Garfunkel was born to sing by songwriters Aschmann and Kimmel, although again the sentiments sound rather more muddled the more you analyse what sounds at first like a very simple song. ‘I love the rain...it’s way of turning blue to green...and that’s what I love about you’ is far from the most romantic line ever written, but it looks like the rain here is the old AAA standby metaphor of rain washing the past away and suggesting re-birth and baptism (see a whole host of albums from The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ on down). It’s the excitement the narrator feels when he’s with the person he loves that’s special, the feeling that things can be different and be put right by someone special, love giving the narrator the ability to see life in a completely new way. Despite a decent tune this song doesn’t really take off like the self-written songs on this album do and the vocal arrangement is more muddled here than it is elsewhere on the album, with a faintly irritating mandolin accompaniment getting in the way.

‘Every Now and Then’ is much better, another song on the theme of wondering about past loves and past lives and how the present might have been different if the past had turned out ever so slightly different. This Brooks/Mondlock song has no input from Garfunkel this time around but its easy to see why the song appealed to him: the lines about being happy in the present and that he’d ‘never trade’ between his two lives but that it will never stop him being curious about how his life with another might have worked out is clearly apt. As in so many other songs on this album memory is key, but this time the narrator seeing things that remind him of his lost loved one inspired wistful regret rather than aching sadness, with a particularly moving chorus that tells us that in the present ‘she is real – but you were too, and every once in a while I think about you’. Like much of the album, life travels not in straight lines but in curves and its a natural human re-action to wonder who your life might have been had you stayed with certain people and let others slip out of your hands. Art sings the song brilliantly again, louder in the mix and more confident than in many places on the album, although as ever it’s the three-part harmony of Art, Buddy and Maia on the chorus that adds the icing on the cake, turning the song into a proper spiritual balm. The third of the album’s highlights, dripping with emotion but in a quieter, more understated way that suits the mood of the album.

‘Another Only One’ tries to go against the grain of the album, being somewhat of a ‘torch’ song, complete with strings and a rather more OTT vocal than normal (that’s in comparison to the rest of the album anyway – on pretty much any other Art Garfunkel record it would be the muted track on the album!) The song is another ‘outside’ track, although the presence of a Christopher Sharp in the writing credits does make me wonder whether it might be a relation of Maia’s (the internet isn’t very helpful, sadly, although Maia sings lead for the most part here) and like the other ‘outside’ songs its not up to the originals on the album. It’s not bad though and has a killer middle eight with a key change at just the right part to give the song a much-needed ‘push’. It also fits the mood of the album of a ‘thread’ running through life, although this time around that’s a sad thing because once the person you loved is out of your life forever there’s no other ‘only one’ to replace them with. Interestingly the narrator rejects the advice of ‘giving it time’, which seems to be what the rest of the record’s been suggesting for the past hour (‘everything waits to be noticed’ after all), so sure is she in her loss that there is no ‘another only one’ to come in her life; she had one soul-mate and that was it. A sweet tune and a fair lyric combine to make a memorable song, but this piece doesn’t have the majesty of some of the others on this album and seems an odd choice to close the album (the title track would have made a far more fitting choice).

Still there’s no one track on ‘Everything Waits To Be Noticed’ that’s truly terrible and there’s much to love, from the slow understated acoustic sound to the way the themes of the ‘thread’ of life and wondering about lost loves criss-cross their way through so much of the album’s lyrics. At least three of the songs on this album deserve to be heralded as classics, by far and away the best things Arty put his name to since his Simon and Garfunkel days (and I say that as a fan of his solo work which, although patchy, usually has two or three gems per album). There’s just something so unique about this album’s sound and gravitas that makes it really special and it’s an awful shame that, to date, all three singer-songwriters who did so much to make the album come alive have gone their separate ways – none of them all that successfully it has to be said. This album deserved better, but then as the album keeps reminding us throughout ‘everything waits to be noticed’ and this album might well yet have it’s day. Let’s hope a re-issue sometime in the future (perhaps with Buddy and Maia’s solo versions of their songs for the album) will help get it a new lease of life. Certainly I regret not noticing it earlier in my record collection, but then this was never meant to be an album you were meant to fall in love with straight away – it’s a subtle, graceful, intelligent album that gradually seduces you rather than changes you life in a single note. I’m glad I finally noticed this album because its rewarded me so much during the past couple of months with its lovely yearning melodies, its thoughtful lyrics and its often beautiful performances. I only hope that this lovely, impressive album will be noticed by a few more people who may well end up loving it as much as me.

Other reviews on this site you might be interested in: Art Garfunkel:

‘Breakaway’http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-68-art-garfunkel-breakaway-1975.html

Simon and Garfunkel: 'Wednesday Morning 3AM'
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/news-views-and-music-issue-42-simon-and.html

'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-7-simon-and-garfunkel-parsley.html

 'Bookends' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/news-views-and-music-issue-78-simon-and.html

No comments:

Post a Comment