Monday, 10 April 2017

Neil Young and The MGs "Are You Passionate?" (2002)




Neil Young and Booker T and the MGs "Are You Passionate?" (2002)

You're My Girl/Mr Disappointment/Differently/Quit (Don't Say You Love Me)/Let's Roll/Are You Passionate?/Goin' Home/When I Hold You In My Arms/Be With You/Two Old Friends/She's A Healer

'Wish you'd told me, by and by, that life would come to this'

How wonderful this album sounded when it was announced, dear readers, especially after half a decade of relative mediocrity. Neil is one of the most soulful performers out there and yet he never actually made a soul album during his 1980s 'experimental' period despite the fact it 'felt' like the genre that would suit him best - better than roackabilly, country and heavy metal anyway (the bluesy 'This Note's For You' was about the closest). Neil also chose to use as his collaborators one of the greatest backing bands of all time (barring Crazy Horse of course): Booker T and The MGs, who had spent the past thirty-four years searching for a frontman with the charisma, following and talent of the too-long-missed Otis Redding. The group really bonded too during several late 1990s tours (as with so many things Neil the bootlegs of the two together sound great!) After years of sloppy rockers and twee pop it seemed as if the Neil muse was back! Just look at that oh so Neil title - passion is surely the word and those years of 'Daddy Went Walking hey now hey now' and 'Baby What You Want Me To Do?' taped at the back of a nightclub on anachronistic equipment seemed like a test to get fans to this stage. Throw in a writer who actually had things to get off his chest for a change and surely, surely, this was going to be the big Neil Young comeback of all time?

Well no. Well, not quite. You see that title isn't a statement, but more of a question. Neil should be passionate - some of his songs are his most autobiographical in a decade since 'Harvest Moon' - and some of the tracks here show promise but, blimey, by Neil's high standards this album has about as much passion as The Spice Girls at a political rally. Almost all of these eleven songs are deadly slow, almost all of them are decidedly sad and almost all of them sound like they were taped during rehearsals, not even first takes anymore. While not as unlistenable as successor 'Greendale', this set is in many ways more disappointing because a soap opera about ecologists and policemen never sounded like it was going to be that good (even with Crazy Horse back full-time) - 'Are You Passionate?' sounds like the album that got away. It's hard, too, to know quite why this album goes wrong. The songs aren't bad as a whole, just similar and poorly defined. That's sometimes a plus in Neil's songbook (where would the likes of 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' be if they'd been recorded in anything more than a week?) but this is the wrong album to try that sort of thing out on - and The MGs (which stands for 'Memphis Group' by the way, not 'Mountain Gorillas' as some sites out there will tell you) aren't the kind of band who work quick. They're not 'Crazy Horse' who turn up drunk to the exams and blag their way through them, they're - umm - 'Intelligent Ponies' who do their homework drill themselves well enough to know a song backwards, forwards and sideways so they can afford to groove their way around it. What's more they excel when giving a superb extrovert frontman the space to come alive - but here both Neil and the MGs keep pointing at the other half of the team as if sitting in the shadows and waiting for them to strut and do their stuff which never comes. A non-backing band for a perform who doesn't feel like performing - no wonder this album has problems. At no point in this album do this brilliant band ever sound like they quite know what they're doing - and if you're shouting at me that the exception is clearly 'Goin' Home' (the one recording here that's truly alive and glowing) then the bad news is that actually this song is a Crazy Horse leftover from another batch of sessions entirely and the fact this ground suits the Horse so much better rather says it all. Not that this album is the fault of Booker T, Steve Potts and a sadly ailing Donald 'Duck' Dunn (these are his last recordings) either: Neil sounds less like the class swot bringing his crew to glory as a chancer crossing his fingers and hoping for the best. Even 'Mirrorball' never sounded quite this slapdash or out of control and what with the lack of other key Young players (David Briggs has sadly died, Ben Keith isn't here oddly) this album more than any other in the Neil canon sounds as if it needs one.

That said, 'Passionate' is an album that's aged better and makes more sense now that we realise what exactly was going on in Neil's life when he wrote it (and how out of control he felt, suggesting that the style of this CD was at least partly deliberate). Most fans know about Neil's relationship with activist-actress Darryl Hannah now that the pair are officially an item, but few realise quite how far back their relationship goes - arguably a lot further than this although the timeline is a little murky. 'Passionate', though, is where Neil can't ignore his double life in music anymore and has to come to terms with whether he's going to stay loyal to Pegi (his third wife, married in 1978) or embrace the new. Things are further complicated by the fact that his youngest, daughter Amber Jean, is now old enough to leave home to go to university, something that seems to have caught her dad by surprise and he completely isn't ready for and a theme that will dominate this album and the next (the youngest Young is clearly the model for 'Sun Green' on the next record). The upshot of all this emotional turmoil is that we get an album of 'breakup' songs from the heart, where Neil screws up the courage to admit all to his wife (who clearly knows everything if her own rather good albums from this period are anything to be going by), admit he's sorry, beg for forgiveness and say goodbye. Only the twist is that Neil never went through with it all. He'll stay put through another decade and more of marriage and suddenly backtrack on the more personal, confessional style he uses here (hence the next run of albums which are more character and politics and even car-driven, with the exception of the 'gee I nearly died' album 'Prairie Wind'). So what does Neil do to cover his tracks? He tries to make this album go away, first by treating it as if it's just another of his vague experiments and hiring the backing band that 'should' by rights be playing on a generic Geffen-style soul album and then by recording it in a slapdash feel and then by pretty much ignoring it upon release. What was being talked about, between us fans, as a potential masterpiece from early hints and reports thus ended up having the rug pulled from underneath it with impressive haste.

If ever there was a Neil Young album that was ripe for re-recording though...well it would be 'Trans' to be honest, just to hear how even more emotional Neil's 'last' true family album might sound with warmer and less 1980s technology. This album is a close second though: given another few weeks of rehearsals, a bit more use of the editing scissors and less tacky packaging all round (Seriously? A rose and a photograph of pre-war lovers? It's as if Neil wants us to think this is a Mills and Boon style romance and nothing to do with him at all!) and there's a good album in here somewhere. The bad news is you really really really have to dig for it. Usually when we say something like that in the Young canon we add the caveat 'but at least there's...' but the problem with 'Passionate' is that every track gets a bit messed up along the way and nothing really stands out. There are however little bits that do and the best of this album always comes back to that title? Are you passionate Mr Young?  Because when you are the album grows in stature - and wen you aren't it just sounds wretched. 'Mr Disappointment' is the closest and that's despite (perhaps because?) it tries so hard to, well, disappoint us. Neil murmurs in a gruff husky spoken word vocal most of the way through, his guitar sticks to a primitive whine and the throbbing backing takes 'primitive' to new levels. But suddenly Neil sounds like he means it, passionate at last. 'Quit' sounds like someone being strangled rather than a popular singer-songwriter, but at least Neil sounds like he's singing from the heart again rather than playing at a role. Neil suddenly remembers he's meant to be writing a full soul experience and throws in the Motownish 'Be With You', a song that tried hard to hide the fact that it might well be the most open and vulnerable song here despite the catchy surroundings. That's about it though: there's a point, generally, a couple of minutes into the nine-long closer 'She's A Healer' where many Young fans gave up the ghost forever, realising that what could have been a stunning slow-burning closer is just going to stick to the same groove until the end of time (or an uncomfortable and unlikely fade as it happens). Few fans can stomach the saccharine of the songs about Amber Jean ('You're My Girl'), Darryl ('When I Hold You In My Arms') and an unusually reverent Bible story ('Two Old Friends') without feeling a little bit sick. This isn't passion, this is merely saccharine, of the artificial sweetener variety that sounds particularly wrong coming from one of the most 'real' white singer-songwriters backed by one of the most 'real' mixed-race backing bands out there.

If there's a theme to wake Neil up from his enforced slumber then 9/11 should be it. Neil's tribute song 'Let's Roll' was big news at the time - the first 'real' response any major songwriter had made to that world-changing morning of devastation and chaos. Neil understood the major sea change of world politics better than most, choosing the tribute ceremony not to plug a new song or even an old one but to perform a shaky cover of John Lennon's 'Imagine' with all the passion of someone whose been told their family have seconds to live. The lyrics to 'Let's Roll' certainly sound like the tribute and comfort people needed desperately back then - 'You got to turn on evil when it's coming after you!' sounds like the pained cry of the man whose stood up to Nixon (on 'Ohio') and will stand up to Bush Jnr (on 'Living With War') and if you read it then this tale of passengers knowingly sacrificing their own lives on United 93 to keep other loved ones safe is as moving and passionate as they come, the cue to start their counter-attack treated like a mantra for a nation under attack and a world under threat. But if you hear it then this is just another mumbled slowish ballad where nothing happens - there's no sense of a changing world here or impending doom or a disaster that can only be diverted by courage and wisdom and knowing when to act; instead it's a song in search of an escape clause and one where the tagline 'Time is running out!' comes over much more loudly and clearly than any of the stuff about standing up to evil and doing everything you can to make peace win. Neil is perhaps the greatest AAA example of a writer who so often lets his best stuff get away from him thanks to low-key arrangements and lackadaisical recordings - 'Passionate' is perhaps the biggest example of this in his catalogue and 'Let's Roll' the biggest example of this on the album. 

The one song that does briefly keep the homefires burnin' comes from a different project altogether. To date 'Goin' Home' is the only officially released song from an entire double-CD Crazy Horse recorded during 2001 and nicknamed 'Toast'. To date none of the rest of this set has ever surfaced - even on bootleg, weirdly - and none of the other songs were ever performed live. On the evidence of this one song that's a tragedy: Neil's first ever song actually about American Indians and their troubled heritage (despite being 'linked' to them spiritually as long ago as The Buffalo Springfield days - though to be fair Neil was probably just trying to be the opposite of Stephen Stills' 'cowboy'!) is the strongest song here, given the added boost of perfect casting for once as Crazy Horse ape their namesake and charge like never before. Even this song sounds like less than it might have been though, pulling up short after the band get a little lost during a lengthy finale as if they were going to back later and nail another take that never quite happened. However the rest of this intriguing sounding album is actually rather different: a 'new age' album no less, similar to the 2016 sort-of live album 'Earth' with lots of sound effects, ecological themes and not much happening for long periods. On past evidence of similar out-there Young albums it could have been the best thing in his career - or an even lower point than 'Passionate'. We'll let you know for sure if it ever comes out as part of Neil's 'Archives' collection, though by our reckoning it won't be on anything until at least volume six - and by that time that's out I'll be 103.

That's not the only 'mystery' surrounding this album. Check out the back cover where Neil has scrawled the song names with his big capital letters handwriting and has set them out as the running order; only he hasn't. This fictional version of the album starts not with the familiar (recycled?) chug of 'You're My Girl' but the shlock of 'When I Hold You In My Arms' (hardly the most obvious of opening tracks) and ends with the anger of 'Quit' (weird as it is, that's still a more suitable album closer than 'She's A Healer', although moved to second on this alternate album it would have had fans running for the hills a lot quicker). And then there's a completely unknown track listed eighth: 'Gateway Of Love'. A rather good turbulent rocker that fits the album themes of Neil plucking up the courage to end his marriage ('I tried to find the perfect time to say some things to you filled with meaning and with truth') it would have been in the top quarter of this album easily had it been released. So why wasn't it? *Sigh* This isn't the first Neil Young offcut that sounds better than most of the album but even by Neil standards the difference between the impressiveness of the outtake and the turgid average of the album is pretty darn big. And why tease us with this song by keeping it on the packaging? (Even I could have photo-shopped the post-it note out for free had Neil decided not to use it - to be fair 'free' is roughly how much the rest of the packaging cost too by the looks of things).

Overall, then, 'Are You Passionate?' is meant to be, titlewise, an update on Jimi Hendrix's 'Are You Experienced?' Only it isn't: instead of a knowing chuckle from the 'hip' we're left wondering again whether Neil's playing games with us and the bits of passion we see on this album are fleeting or whether we're meant to simply view this as a late-period addition to the stylistic adventures of the Geffen years. In truth it's a little of both: Neil is passionate, but he's hiding almost all evidence of it (bar an 'old' Crazy Horse track, a few bits and pieces here and there and the album title), not ready yet to deal with the repercussions such a massive split in his life would bring for another twelve years yet. Anyone who considered 2014's 'Storytone' to be too emotional are better off looking here as these are effectively the same albums- apologetic in tone and weary with lies and suffering - but with very different outcomes. Neil isn't quite brave enough to make the break here and downplays every sign of autobiography in this album - he may tell Mr Disappointment that this time is 'the last', but actually the delay in Neil's personal life means that this is like a rehearsal for something he wasn't quite brave enough to try. It's a breakup record with a difference (Pegi even sings on it!), the difference being that the breakup didn't actually happen so this album got re-cast as a so-so soul record instead. One wonders if Booker T and co even knew just how 'real' this record was (or if their early rehearsals were being taped for release, as - soul perfectionists that they are - they seem unlikely to have approved of quite this many rough edges). As all good fans know, Neil's rehearsals are often better than the real things - but not here, not this time, as the emotion in these songs is hidden under so many layers of Young indifference and the backing band barely have a clue what's going on. This isn't soul, this is a sell-out and once again a promising Neil Young album from the 21st century turns out to be barely average. I'd like to shake your hand Mr Disappointment, looks like you win again - and I was so looking forward to hearing one of the most passionate performers of his corner of the globe backed by one of the most passionate bands of theirs on an album all about passion!

Opening cut 'You're My Girl' is one of those occasional Neil Young songs you long for someone to cover as there's a good song in there somewhere but it's not here: there's more use of the MGs than anywhere else on the album but the backing they provide is basic and they even struggle at that, while Neil's vocal is squeaky even for him and the musical equivalent of fingers on a blackboard (or at least the closest we get to this in the AAA canon - all Spice Girls songs sound like this, obviously). Even this song's basic riff is recycled, though and the most blatant steal since 'Borrowed Tune' from 'The Rolling Stones'. This time its a dead steal from 'Time Is Tight', an MGs song from 1969 which has way more life to it than this one I can tell you. Clearly many of the people buying this record are going to be MGs fans so they're going to spot it straight away - but as so often happens with Neil perhaps that's the point? The original is an urgent rocker about needing to say 'I love you' to someone because time is passing by too quickly. This remake is a less urgent rocker about needing to say 'I love you' to your little girl because she's growing up too fast - Neil probably assumed we'd all see the link anyway. Taken on their own terms these lyrics are rather sweet: Neil takes his daughter out to a nervy forest for some last minute dad-daughter bonding before she'd off to face the big bad world alone and pleads with her 'don't tell me you're leaving me just yet!' as if it's all come as a big shock and he still thinks of his daughter as an overgrown toddler. There are some nice lyric touches here, the pair 'finding faith in the forest floor' and looking for signs that everything is going to be Ok which seem to be everywhere on this gloriously sunny day which means neither can be sad for very long. Neil is a proud daughter and knows that actually, secretly, she's far more ready to face the world without him than he is to face it without her and there's an intriguing combination of that restless urgent riff pulling at Neil's slowed-down melody that sounds nicely like a child tugging at their parent's apron strings that could have really worked. Only it doesn't: no one in the room, Neil included, quite knows what they're doing and poor Frank Sampedro sounds even more lost, scratching away at the most basic of chords even though Booker T's gliding organ is doing that job pretty darn well already. Like much of this review to come it's a case of nice song, hideous recording.

The sizzle of 'Mr Disappointment' is the closest the Booker T tracks come to a highlight, being the one song here that manages to be both heartfelt and 'soulful' (Neil seems to have a strange amount of trouble trying to do both together across this album). His opening peal of notes from 'Old Black' are some of his best, hurt and howling but self-contained - the kind of anger that comes from quiet brooding and a mega guilt-trip rather than tearing up furniture. Unable to quite face his angry yet Neil practices delivering his 'farewell' speech not to her but to 'Mr Disappointment', a figure who stalks him throughout his life and who 'wins again' despite Neil's best attempts to do better. Now that we know what was 'really' going on in this period this may well be the most revealing Young lyric of the 21st century so far: Neil's sorry, guilty, hurt, confused. He's angry that the feelings he once had with his wife are gone, guilty that he's played a part in their disappearance and desperate to get her back at any cost.  Neil's going through all five stages of grieving simultaneously and he's desperately confused (so at least this time the backing band can be forgiven for sounding a little lost) but ultimately ends up at acceptance, that 'this time may be the last' (it isn't, as it happens, but that's how it sounds here). Most of the song stays here, crawling out of its spoken-sung hoarse whisper only for an off-key falsetto whine in the chorus, but there's a sudden moment of hope in the finale. 'I'm savin' the best for last' mumbles Neil and he's right as this famously reclusive and obtuse figure opens up his heart like rarely before, praising 'the beauty of loving you' and remembering 'what we've both been through'. Neil realises that he's been waiting for an intervention for too long and that only 'Mr Disappointment' is there to stalk him and he's no good so if he has to save this marriage he has to do it himself by putting his feelings on the line. It's a scary moment, for him and us, as he struggles to keep his feelings in check and stay in tune and doesn't quite manage either. Still, at least this moment feels 'real' in a way that the rest of the album comes across as a little bit contrived and the result is perhaps the single best use of the soul idiom on the album -even though, typically, it's muted and low-key and pretty much the opposite of every soul song known to man. 'Mr Disappointment' still sounds like a weird addition to the 'Mr Men' series however!

'Differently' is the closest to what fans (well, me anyway) were expecting from this album: noisy anthemic guitar-work and block chorus choirs over the top of a simple, slinky organ groove. It's not so much 'differently', then, as much as 'the same' - especially as it still comes out of the MGs oven still sounding 100% a Neil Young song. Lyrically, though, this is another of this album's break aways from Neil's character and imagery based songs to be a bit more honest and vulnerable. Perhaps following on from the last track, this is Neil once again trying to put his marriage right. Asking his missus what he would have to do to save their marriage he gets a long list that sounds like it would when they were first courting: he has to ask her out 'every night', make his loved one 'feel so good' and 'appreciate the things you bring to me, baby!' In a nutshell everything both sides should have been doing since day one but become so easily overlooked due to familiarity and time. The clue that this is more than just a generic love song comes in the middle eight when Neil recalls his wife telling him their 'little girl would soon be gone' and his realisation that her intuition works better than his because he was clueless. The end verdict: the couple's love is as real as it was before they had children, but somehow its turned out 'differently' with age while Neil worries that his decision to do things the old way might be 'too late' to save the marriage the way he wants. Neil is gamely trying though, a bit of fortune-telling in the first verse worrying about what might happen if he goes through with divorce and running off with a new girlfriend: 'my friends would turn to foes and my love would turn to blows'. Which is, more or less, what happens in 2014 with David Crosby particularly outspoken over his old pal's defection. Sadly for all this lyric's heartfelt emotion, none of that really comes over in the recording which is scrappy and indifferent even by this album's standards. How great this track might have been had the performed it, well, 'differently'?

'Quit (Don't Say You Love Me)' is a lesser take on the same theme but delivered with much more, well, passion compared to the rest of 'Are You Passionate?' After a long sleepy guitar opening, with a real hum on 'Old Black', Sampedro much happier on choppy second guitar and Pegi appearing effectively as herself in the backing vocals, all the ingredients for another great confessional are here and nearly come together. Neil recalls what happened when he tried to save his marriage and his wife's cold and callous response of 'don't say you love me!' which stops him in his tracks. So Neil opens his heart even more, pleading for her to take him back, admitting all the guilt this time and pleading with her 'don't count me out, I've still got a lot to give - stick around and find out!' Neil's gushy vocal is somewhere between heartfelt and ha-ha-ing throughout, which in retrospect was exactly what it needed to be back in the days when 'Are You Passionate?' was just another genre experiment rather than a bleeding open heart. However he's upstaged completely by Pegi's 'wait till I get you home' disdain, which slowly turns little bit by little bit to heartfelt emotion ('Don't say you love me' turning into 'Just say you want me' by Chinese whispers line by line) the more Neil's cries become more and more generic. The result is one of the simplest and most basic songs on the album - and yet given all the emotional drama involved one of the cleverest in summing Neil's situation up and not necessarily painting him as the 'good guy' in this marriage. It's also the best example of Neil emoting soulfully and passionately in the Otis Redding-like way we were all hoping for, even if typically this arrangement doesn't quite come out like that (Otis' breakup songs from towards the end were some of his best, though most fans tend to remember the in-love ones from the early days of his marriage to Zelda).

Suddenly Neil's lovelife doesn't seem to important anyway because suddenly 'Let's Roll' is moving on with energy and certainty, something this album is desperately lacking, with its tale of bravery and courage in the face of the odds. Although 9/11 was all of seven months old when this album was released, Neil already treats the actions of the passengers on Flight 93 (the third plane that crashed into the ground and may have been aimed at The White House) as a modern-day story of heroes and life-changing importance to go alongside 'Cortez The Killer' and 'Ohio'. The title is taken from the words given by passenger Todd Beamer as his signal to the passengers to force their way into the terrorist-controlled flight-room as heard by a mobile-phone call relayed to airport security on the ground and it's a surprise that it wasn't used in more books/films/paintings/songs given that it's effectively the modern day world's equivalent of the Alamo's 'Geronimo!' or the wild west's variation on the 'Computer Cowboy' style cry 'Come-a-ki-ki-yippie-yi-aye!', summing up the times like little else. Though the passengers probably had survival rather than the weight of history on their shoulders, Neil seizes on how the wider world has to take up this rallying cry for their own. 'You've got turn on evil when it's coming after you...you gotta go in after it and never be denied!' howls Neil, adapting his own past autobiographical lyric for use in a wider world combating hatred. Sadly that's where this song falls apart. Until now the song has been busking away nicely, grooving under the best riff on the album and one the MGs are as suited to as Neil and the moment the contained, controlled song peaks in falsetto emotion the first time is thrilling. But the song has no other way out: it's stuck in this groove for the rest of the song and its with a sense of foreboding you slowly realise that Neil's done it to us again and we're going to have to sit through six whole minutes of this stuff. 'Time is running out!' screams the lyric, but the melody and recording sound as if they're inexplicably linked to their doom, on a path that can't be changed. You also have to say that for such a momentous song (recording as quickly as Neil does, this was easily the first 'big' statement about 9/11 by an established musician) this also sounds pretty feeble. The world needed comforting and answers and peace - instead we got lines like 'no one has the answer', 'we gotta make a move' and 'we gotta get inside there before they kill some more', which is more like a graphic novel than an artistic statement. It would also be hard to forgive the line 'We're going after Satan on the wings of a dove' in 1967 never mind thirty-five trouble-filled years later. This isn't the sort of subject matter that can be told with facts, because the scenario is bigger than that and it's also not the kind of place to shrug your shoulders and say 'yeah, evil happens' because back in 2002 it seemed apocalyptic. Our songwriters don't owe much to us but they do owe us comfort and understanding at times like these and instead 'Let's Roll' is a curiously unlikeable song, by turns spot-on and poignant (I love the closing 'let's not let our children grow up fearful in their youth' - exactly what happened I fear), at other times ugly and clunky, like the first draft by a first-time songwriter ('I hope someone can fly this thing - and bring us back to land!') with each roll of the dice. Half great, half ghastly, 'Let's Roll' might not share anything else with the rest of this album of more personal breakup songs, but it does share the album's slightly stodgy, unevenly cooked feeling that leaves you a little bit queasy.

Title track 'Are You Passionate?' returns us to more familiar romantic ground but much like 'Let's Roll' it's actually a far weirder song than its often considered to be. Neil asks us (or a lover or maybe himself?) a series of rhetorical questions that seem to relate back to the question of 'rust' from 1979. he's angry that we (she? he?) are becoming complacent in old age, taking things for granted instead of feeling the passion. 'Are you living  like you talk?' he urges, 'Can you never get enough of it?' I would normally say he 'snarls' or 'howls' but even for this album Neil's performance is on the sleepy side and instead he drift-sleeps through the song on automatic pilot, clearly not feeling very passionate at all. Neil's not going to get his lovelife back on track sounding like this now is he? (Or is that the point - is he stuck in a rust-covered rut?) As if that wasn't weird enough the second half of the song finds Neil coming as close to rewriting David Crosby's 'Deja Vu' as he ever has, dreaming of a past life in which he was a 'soldier fighting in the sky', an air pilot sending missiles out into the 'darkness' and presumably ending his days in a dramatic fiery death. Next he's a prisoner, 'cleaned up for display', perhaps waiting for the guillotine as he puts on a show and demonstrates to the haughty onlookers why he had to stand up for justice the way that he did, even if it led to his death. No more explanation is given and the song just ends but is the hint here that Neil wants to go out in a blaze of glory but can't? We're back to the twin pulls of 'Hey Hey My My' and 'Sleeps With Angels' again: much as Neil knows that its 'better to burn out than it is to rust' he also knows that to go before your time is up and before you've experienced everything of life (including the parts that get better) is a tragedy. He wants to go for a 'cause' and there are none to be found, so instead he idly watches his life slip by, becoming old and repetitive and releasing albums like this one by clockwork rather than inspiration and watching his marriage fall apart. In context, then, Neil should sound lost and feeble on this track but out of all the songs on this album it's this one the bland and slow performance let's down the most and what should have been a spooky and surreal song in the 'Sleeps With Angels' mould comes over as just another torturous Neil Young ballad where nothing very much happens. I get why Neil did that, but it's still a waste of a good song - a track that's at heart a call to arms to his fanbase to be passionate and make the most of their lives should, after all, reflect a little of that passion too.

Talking about passion, 'Goin' Home' is where the pieces finally slot into place (at least until the unconvincing ending). Neil's on much firmer ground all round, singing his first song about the American Indians since the oddball 'Pocahontas' and backed by the primitive primal fire of 'Crazy Horse' on a song that's a much better fit for the band than most things they get to do (including this album's wretched sequel 'Greendale'). Even though Neil is singing as an onlooker and observer rather than participant this time, he sounds distinctly 'passionate' on this one, his guitar and vocal roaring with all the weight and power of classics of old and his between-verse solos are mesmerising and hypnotic. 'Home' is a double-edged sword in this track, with the Indians routed by General Custer in the first verse and left essentially homeless. A second verse has Neil 'droppin' in' on a friend whose secretly described as 'slime' and made to sign some contract: 'You'd think it was easy to sign your life away' Neil sighs. A third verse then mixes modern-day and history: a prisoner hangs up her one daily call home and walks from cell to cell perhaps searching for somewhere to remind her of where she's just called. Next we're in the middle of the action, trapped on a wooden bridge  with a 'thousand warriors' and 'battle drums pounding', the scene pulling back to reveal this to be a 'story' played out over the radio to a woman in a car. Or is it? For a minute there she's right at the heart of the action, 'her clothes changing' as she slowly realises that 'her' home used to belong to a tribe who lost it in the name of greed, colonialisation and avarice. Throughout all these verses are linked by the pained cry 'I'm going home!' - the one place that's 'safe' (or is meant to be), that's 'ours' and belongs to 'us'. This 'Broken Arrow' collage style is an intriguing one for Neil to return to after a thirty-five year gap (another song linked by Indian imagery, of course, despite the modern-day setting of most of the verses) but it works - mainly because the backing sounds just like every other Crazy Horse rocker (but better than average, with a thoughtful riff that has plenty of scope for improvising!) My guess is that Neil is again contemplating his future without his wife - which is why Neil perhaps chose to recycle this song on album where otherwise it doesn't fit (and if the rest of 'Toast' is as good as this then I can't wait to hear it - it would also be typically Neil not to release the best tracks from one of his unreleased LPs after all...) In leaving his marriage in 2014 Neil also left his ranch/home behind - the one he named 'Broken Arrow' after one of the songs that helped pay for it. Perhaps imagining a time when he'd be as homeless as the Indians, something came through his subconscious here and infused the surreal imagery that clearly means a lot to Neil given that he sings with all the passion and commitment we've come to expect from him (but which is a rarity on this album). Note too the references to a heavy wind that the characters all 'feel', which is the closest we've yet come to a 'Like A Hurricane' sequel. The result is a song that's terrific and easily the best on the album - but is itself not without its problems. Like many a Crazy Horse jam there just isn't enough material here to sustain nine minutes and the band are clearly getting tired by the end, slowing down a lot. Much of the last three minutes is just the band recycling the riff and running out of steam, the Horse uncharacteristically falling apart and coming to an ungainly standstill by the end which most groups would have faded or cut. Still, forget the dismount, this is Crazy Horse sounding the best they will in all the years between 1994 and 2012 and it's great to have them back. Of all the bands Neil returns to, this recording is a good example why this one, out of all of them, most feels like 'home'.

'When I Hold You In My Arms' was always going to be the album's weakest, clunkiest, most clichéd song with its walking bass, slow tempo and meandering soul-style lyrics. Heard after the roar of 'Goin' Home' it sounds ten times worse and the two songs don't fit together at all. For the most part this is an ugly song about how love makes Neil feels better - but whether he's singing that to his old faithful wife or his new romantic sparring partner is, perhaps wisely, left unsaid. There are, at least, a couple of things that make this a tiny bit more palatable than, say, anything off 'Greendale'.  One is the second half of the lyric which seems to guess that this song has little to say and instead turns again on Neil and his generation for their 'rust'. 'We've still got something to say - but we better say it fast or get out of the way!' Neil cries, before going against the usual message in his songs (mankind is temporary, nature is permanent) by having relationships and people as permanent while 'old buildings going up, old buildings coming down'. The other is a short bluesy guitar piece that's a whole lot more convincing than the similar stabs on the 'This Note's For You' album. However even then this effect is spoilt by a hideous croaky backing vocal from not only wife Pegi but half-sister Astrid that makes the pair of them sound like grizzled bluesmen. I'm not sure I'd want to hold in my arms a singer who'd just made me out to sound 103! (although if I was 103 then maybe 'Archives Four' would be out and I'd get to hear the other songs off 'Toast'?...)

I have mixed feelings about 'Be With You'. It is, after all, what this album badly needs: a bit of energy and what's more a bit of energy as advertised on the sleeve, being the Motown-branch of soul that's energetic and upbeat and out of all the songs here is the one Otis Redding would have had most fun grooving to. However it's also a song that demands to be tight and disciplined and instead is one of the roughest and readiest on the record, with Neil at least two octaves higher than the point at which human hearing stops and The MGs sounding as hopelessly lost as they would if Neil had just given them the keys to 'Greendale'. The lyrics too aren't exactly poetry; 'Got a simple plan, oh yeah baby, I gotta hold on, I gotta be strong!' You can almost heard the MG/Sampedro enhanced backing vocals turn into The Four Tops as they parrot 'hold on, be strong!' The result is the recording which your trigger finger gets itchiest to skip the quickest. However again there's a good song in here somewhere. The riff is a good one (even if again it sounds recycled and isn't that far removed from the same 'Time Is Tight' riff heard on the opening track - did Neil only own one MG single? Did he never even hear the Percy Sledge-style B-side 'Johnny I Love You'?) Some of the lyrics too have their moments, Neil sitting 'fishing' to get away from his cross wife and working out how to get back into her good books a strong detail (which sadly he never returns to in the rest of the song) and his conclusion that it shouldn't be 'hard' to live with someone so wonderful so maybe the problem lies with him? Neil practices all the things he's going to say to his wife when he gets home and they sound far more convincing than the hollow promises of 'Differently' or the self-pity of 'Quit' somehow, Neil praising everything he learnt from being in this relationship, the need to 'trust' and 'give' and never 'give up'. It's kind of a soulful update of one of Neil's earliest songs for Pegi 'Staying Power' so perhaps in hindsight it isn't quite as much of a surprise that the couple stay together for another twelve years after this point despite the song titles 'Quit' and 'Mr Disappointment' elsewhere. Overall, though, the end result is still a mess and one that could have been easily fixed - one more take, surely, would have turned out better than this however badly it came out?

'Two Old Friends' is the 'grower' on the album. Even compared to the rest of this album it got kinda lost on my last few hearings, being slow and repetitive and everything else that's problematic about this album. But the more times I hear it the more interesting it sounds, with the single most memorable chorus on the album ('Hear no evil, see no evil, fell no evil in my heart, in my aching heart!') and perhaps the most interesting lyric too. To date Neil's been pretty one-sided in his view of religion: basically it sucks (see 'Soldier' 'Yonder Stands The Sinner' 'Let It Shine' 'Song X' and a million more, while the future 'Driftin' Back' concludes that Neil's probably a 'pagan'). This song, though, is much softer. The preacher in the song actually meets God and asks him basically if the hippie dream of love and peace can ever happen. He gets the sad message 'No my son, that time is gone', referencing when the pair 'met' around the time The Band were singing in 1970 (is this song actually about Bob Dylan's conversion to Christianity?) but also that 'there's things to do'. The preacher asks to be 'lifted up' and he and his God go on a walk, ending up on a mountain that's so beautiful and perfect it makes him feel better. The pair know, however, that the time has come to part and they do - the preacher just can't believe in religion when so many people suffer without intervention and God shrugs his shoulders and walks away. This sounds to me like Neil is thinking more about the ethos of his generation than any direct religion and is maybe returning with softer eyes to the days of the 'Hippie Dream' than he had in 1986 (and will later with 'Walk Like A Giant' in 2012). Neil's too much of a punk realist to be a hippie - and yet he also believes in peace and love and forgiveness and understanding. In a way this complex song is a 'conversation' with multiple parts of himself, perhaps a reply to David Crosby's similar 'Tracks In The Dust' from his 'Oh Yes I Can!' album of 1989, in which he also came to no conclusion about how to make the world a better place when everyone is right and no one is wrong. This song kinda comes to the conclusion that we can't wait for peace and justice to come to us - we have to actively promote it - but Neil sounds lost how to get that, in comparison to his pro-Reagan mid-1980s years or his forthcoming anti-Bush years of 2006. In a way this song is Neil giving himself the mandate to talk about a world that doesn't care what he thinks about it - he still has lives to save, missions to complete and injustices to fight although he's no longer sure how to fight all this. This isn't really, then, about two old friends at all but a generation made to feel increasingly ill at ease in a modern landscape of random mass terrorist attacks and the years of scapegoating that come with them afterwards. Neil years to embrace the hippie spirit but know it has no time or place anymore - but, as with so many hippie things, it sounds so good!

The album should have ended here - instead we get 'She's A Healer', which is the surreal elongated ending akin to 'Last Trip To Tulsa' or 'Like An Inca' in the past. This song is too boring and one-dimensional to match the former though and too unlikeable and poorly defined to match the latter, as Neil tries to offer up a song that's closest in feel to the solo Booker T groove - and badly fails. Neil sings that the touch of his blue-eyes woman can 'soothe my soul' and that she 'heals' him. Interestingly both Pegi and Darryl have similar blue eyes, although my guess is this song is about the later given that Neil spends the song in pursuit of her, a long way from home, with the most memorable verse one where he's 'slapping plastic at an Esso station, about a thousand miles from my destination'. This isn't a linear, sensible lyric though but a surreal, fragmented one. 'All I got is my broken heart and I don't hide it when I play my guitar' runs the chorus, which leads into a brief howling moment of real noise and purpose around the 3:30 mark when this song really comes together. That ten glorious seconds apart, though, this is another one of those Young songs that just goes on too long, taking an age to get going and running out of interesting ways to get there before much time is up at all. This recording's saving grace is Frank Sampedro, who finally gets something to do after an hour of sitting largely on one chord and some beautiful trumpet from Tom Bray that turns this song into the closest any Young track has yet been to jazz. However this song is too uptight and rigid to be 'proper' jazz, sitting in one compact Donald 'Duck' Dunn groove and Steve Potts drumbeat throughout nine painful minutes. The actual 'song' part ends before we even reach four, by the way. The result is rather painful, which seems ironic for a song named 'She's A Healer' and typical the longest song on the album is the one that probably deserved to run the shortest!


Overall, then, 'Are You Passionate?' has passion galore - we just don't get to hear much of that hidden behind sometimes impenetrable lyrics and frequently slapdash arrangements and performances. It also has ideas - more than usual for this period in Young's history with some complex ideas, only unfortunately so much of this album sounds off-putting that you don't really connect with this album enough to care. What this album needs is an extra week of rehearsals, a different backing band (The MGs are as great as any Neil's worked with but should have been hired for a spooky, slow-burning album of mystery like Sleeps With Angels' or 'Broken Arrow', not this record of painful hidden depths and surrealism) and the courage for Neil to come out and admit that this was a 'real' album, not another 'experiment' which automatically flavoured the way many of his fans and critics viewed it. Even then I suspect this wouldn't be a classic album and only 'Goin' Home' comes close to matching Neil at his very best - but there is something going on here that makes it more interesting than two-thirds of the albums its sandwiched between 'Silver and Gold' and 'Greendale'. More interesting than the packaging suggests (why the clouds on the inner sleeve by the way? They should at least be storm ones in the distance in keeping with the album mood!) and more entertaining than critics often give it credit for, 'Are You Passionate?' is also, sadly, a lot more boring than it sounded during early reports and a lot less interesting than parts of this review probably made it sound. Is Neil passionate? The jury's out, but for the most part the answer seems to be: no. And honestly that's the first Neil Young album (maybe 'Landing On Water' aside) that you could honestly say that about. Once again, I'd like to shake your hand Mr Disappointment and with 'Greendale' on the horizon this time most certainly won't be the last...

Other entries in our growing pile of Young-related reviews include:


'Neil Young' (1968) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/neil-young-1968-album-review.html

'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' (1969) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-everybody.html

‘After The Goldrush’ (1970) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/neil-young-after-goldrush-1970.html?utm_source=BP_recent


'Harvest' (1972) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/neil-young-harvest-1972.html

'Time Fades Away' (1973) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/neil-young-time-fades-away-1973.html

'On The Beach' (1974) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/neil-young-on-beach-1974.html

'Zuma' (1975) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-zuma-1975.html

'American Stars 'n' Bars' (1977) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/news-views-and-music-issue-70-neil.html

'Comes A Time' (1978) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/news-views-and-music-issue-29-neil.html

'Rust Never Sleeps' (1979) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2014/01/neil-young-rust-never-sleeps-1979-album.html

'Hawks and Doves' (1980) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/news-views-and-music-issue-26-neil.html

'RelAclTor' (1981) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-re-ac-tor.html

'Trans' (1982) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-84-neil-young-trans-1982.html

'Everybody's Rockin' (1983) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2017/01/neil-young-everybodys-rockin-1983.html

'Old Ways' (1985) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/10/neil-young-old-ways-1985.html

'Life' (1987) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/news-views-and-music-issue-56-neil.html

'Freedom' (1988) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-92-neil-young-freedom-1988.html

'Ragged Glory' (1990) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-ragged-glory.html

'Weld' (1991) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-95-neil-young-weld-1991.html

'Harvest Moon' (1992) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/neil-young-harvest-moon-1992.html

'Sleeps With Angels' (1993) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/news-views-and-music-issue-121-neil.html

'Mirror Ball' (1995) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/news-views-and-music-issue-103-neil.html

'Broken Arrow' (1997) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-broken-arrow.html

'Greendale' (2003) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/05/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-greendale.html

‘Prairie Wind’(2005)  http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/neil-young-prairie-wind-2005.html

'Fork In The Road' (2009) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/neil-young-fork-in-road-2009.html

'Le Noise' (2011) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/news-views-and-music-issue-94-neil.html

'A Treasure' (1986/2012) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/news-views-and-music-issue-147-neil.html


'Storytone' (2014) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/neil-young-storytone-2014.html
'The Monsanto Years' (2015) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/neil-young-and-promise-of-real-monsanto.html

The Best Unreleased Neil Young recordings http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/neil-young-best-unreleased-recordings.html

Simon and Garfunkel: Non-Album Recordings 1964-2012

     


   Non-Album Recordings Part #1: 1966

The pretty [**] 'Blues Run The Game' by Jackson C Frank is a rare example of Simon and Garfunkel covering contemporary folk ('Anji' being the obvious exception). While no five-star classic, you wonder why it wasn't used to flesh out one of the shortest running albums of the 1960s as it's certainly up to standard, this song's gloomy tones well matched with a sombre sounding Simon while Garfunkel provides flecks of colour. The narrator sounds on a par with the troubled fugitive of 'Wednesday Morning 3AM' and 'Somewhere They Can't Find Me', fleeing the law on a boat to 'England, baby, maybe to Spain'. But the further he flies the worse his trouble gets - 'wherever I been and gone the blues are all the same'. A lovely harmony vocal from the pair of singers (both singing deeper than normal for much of the song) and a 'Homeward Bound' style guitar flourish help propel the recording above the average. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'The Sounds Of Silence' (1966)

Non-Album Recordings Part #2: 1967

Eager to be seen as a 'true' songwriter, Paul spent much of his early career plugging songs for other people. [  ] 'Red Rubber Ball' was one of the few accepted, by a little known band named 'The Cyrcle' (this was their only hit and did respectably but not as well as most Simon and Garfunkel releases, peaking at an impressive #2 - the 890,000 copies Arty mentions in his introduction sounds like a lot of copies to sell to the crowd, but S+G were selling millions by the time of 'Mrs Robinson'). Too proud of the song to simply throw it away largely unheard but not pleased with it enough to stick it on an album, Simon and Garfunkel did the next best thing and sang it often in concert throughout the 1960s, a nice little 'bonus' for fans who went to one of their concerts. Luckily many of these concerts were taped and one from 1967 of the duo performing this song included on the 'Old Friends' box set. It suits their harmony very well, a bruised Paul Simon lyric looking on the bad side of a couple breaking up like a first draft for the forthcoming 'Overs' ('There's a lesson to be learned from this and I learnt it very well'), with Paul referring to his girl not as a 'star' but a 'starfish', not the person he thought she was and she referring to him as an 'ornament'. A more hopeful chorus where none of the past matters because 'the sun is shining like a red rubber ball' kicks in and makes this a catchy pop song, with the twist at the end that the narrator is actually enjoying the prospect of living life alone. The result is a fun but very much a minor song, nice to hear but not necessarily essential to your Simon and Garfunkel collection. Find it on: 'Old Friends' (1998)

Non-Album Recordings Part #3: 1968

A rare example of a completely non-album Simon and Garfunkel B-side, [  ] 'You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies' is a slight but successful attempt at trying something different. At one with the more aggressive sound of S+G tracks across 1968 like 'Fakin' It' and 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter', this is a another example of how things probably weren't alright at home (Kathy, adamant about keeping out of the spotlight, wants Paul at home - but he's into his music too deep and been after it for too long to stop now). 'You may think you're above me, yeah - but what you think isn't always true!' a 'womanly wise' and rather grumpy Simon and Garfunkel bark. A lovely softer middle eight tries to take a sting out of the tail ('Indications indicate'... a very Paul Simon line) but soon gives up trying to hold out an olive branch with the snarling line 'obviously you're going to blow it - but you don't know it!' A lovely cascading vocal part, where first Paul on his own and then Simon and Garfunkel together sing the title phrase like a 'round', chasing each other's tale, makes for a memorable finale to a rather forgettable song, not quite up to 'Bookends' standard but a welcome addition to most CD re-issues of that album. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Bookends' (1968)

Having enjoyed recording 'Silent Night' for 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme' and with their release rate slowing down, one thing Simon and Garfunkel toyed with was a single, perhaps an EP or even an album of Christmas songs. They got as far as two songs before abandoning the idea. While the move would have been a step backwards and neither of the songs matches up to the sheer power of 'Silent Night' with a radio broadcast, both recordings are rather good. A note perfect a capella [**] 'Comfort and Joy' with a burst of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' for good measure is deliciously arranged, with Simon and Garfunkel singing as one, then in counterpart and then double-tracked with Paul singing the main part and Arty joining in on key words that 'make up' their own logical little song ('To save us all when we're astray!') The result is truly lovely and deserved a release long before the 1990s, , proof of what fine natural singers Simon and Garfunkel always were. Find it on: 'Old Friends' (Box Set) (1998)

The other Christmas hymn was a far more traditional reading of [  ] 'The Star Carol'. A 'Homeward Bound' style acoustic backing is a nice fit for a lovely two-part harmony version of the German 19th century carol. Listen out for Garfunkel starting off deeper than normal, out-bassing even Paul's part before soaring off to the heavens by the end of each verse. You'd never claim this as Simon and Garfunkel's greatest moments, but a full album of carols like this would have been lovely. Once again the song wasn't released until as late as 1998, which seems a waste of a good Christmas single. Find it on: 'Old Friends' (Box Set) (1998)

Non-Album Recordings Part #4: 1969

Paul Simon always records lots of demos of his songs as work in progress while he's making a record - one day perhaps there'll be a 'Paul Simon Songbook' style alternate acoustic version of every album he's ever made. Some of his solo demos are beginning to appear on CDs now as intriguing bonus tracks, early sketchy alternate glimpses into songs like 'Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard' and 'Slip Slidin' Away' without all the extra. By far his most interesting - and different- demo released so far however is for [  ] 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. Paul only has two verses and is clearly coming at the song from a very different direction to what Arty will persuade him to create later: this 'Bridge' is a humble simple track on guitar whose gospel overtones suit the song's promise to 'ease your mind'. Paul sings in a really lovely falsetto, something Arty was so impressed with he tried without success to get Paul to keep the song for himself. Though the song lacks the emotional power and especially the feeling of transcendence that comes with those final crashing chords, it already sounds like a very lovely song. Find it on: 'Paul Simon 1964-1993' (1993)

Simon also finally gave the 'OK' to the release of the traditional song Art Garfunkel wanted to release on 'Bridge' one of two songs which caused much of the heavy arguing (though Arty hasn't yet given the OK to 'Cuba Si, Nixon No' except in live form). [  ] 'Feuilles-Oh' would certainly have slowed the 'Bridge' album down and feels like a step backwards, a return to the Benedictus-style folk standards every other folk duo/band was doing at this time (if, perhaps, not quite as well). A Haitian folk song, for a change and written in French, its an odder song in translation than the peaceful one it sounds on record, the tale of a woman pleading with a voodoo healer to take a curse off her and her family. Depending on its dating compared with 'El Condor Pasa' (and ignoring the Latin 'Benedictus' for the moment) it's significant as the first bit of 'world music' Paul Simon ever recorded - even if it was at Art Garfunkel's request. Simon and Garfunkel sing beautifully, but this track would probably still have been the one on 'Bridge' every fan would have skipped had it been released as Arty intended. He'll return to the song though for his first solo album 'Angel Clare', substituting this song's peaceful serenity for a much spookier vibe (more in keeping with the words) which segues into the mournful 'Do Spacemen Pass Dead Souls On Their Way To The Moon?' (where 'yes' would seem to be the answer...) Find it on: the single disc - though oddly enough not the deluxe triple disc - version of the CD re-issue 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' (1970)

In live tapes of this period Simon and Garfunkel can also be heard adding a new song to their repertoire: the rather earnest Gene Autry song [  ] 'That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine', a song the suo probably learnt from their beloved Everly Brothers and their aptly titled 1958 LP 'Songs Our Daddy Taught Us'. Harmonically speaking it's a good fit for the pair's voices, with Paul singing in more of a falsetto than normal alongside Garfunkel's co-lead, but lyrically it's less so. Simon and Garfunkel, more than most, have been singing about the 'generation gap', speaking out for adolescents who can't communicate with their parents at all (see 'The Graduate' film in particular). This gee-I-didn't-really-mean-it-dad song sounded slightly choking in the throats of the Everlys in the 1950s to be honest and sounds even more so with S and G in 1969. In even more of a statement that the pair had lost all their counter-culture roots, it's best known in the modern day from appearing on a live album released through a coffee chain. Find it on: 'Old Friends' (1998) and 'Live 1969' (2008)

Always the Buster Keaton's of comedy, Simon and Garfunkel don't miss a beat even when revisiting two of the silliest songs from their childhood. Arty announces that the duo are thinking of putting a best-of out and jokingly adds that it will be titled after their original hit 'Hey Schoolgirl and 12 others'. A fun version of their first song's first verse is suitably nostalgic, though sadly it runs out after only a second round of woo-bop-a-loo-chi-bahs before Paul calls, off mike, for the pair to sing The Sparkeltones' #11 hit ode to trousers [  ] 'Black Slacks'. As in 'Blllllllllllllllllack Slacks'. Simon and Garfunkel are having great fun 'playing it cool daddy-o' but the short medley is over far too soon. Find it on: 'Old Friends' (1998)

Non-Album Recordings Part #5: 1970

Simon and Garfunkel got back together one last time for an ultimately aborted start at a sixth album - a record that never got any further than three fairly average folk songs (which for some reason all appear not on the CD re-issue of 'Bridge', where they would make most sense chronologically, but 'Sounds Of Silence', which I guess they fit thematically a little better). These 'root' songs sound like warm-ups as S and G work their weary way up to working with each other again, made as a 'test' rather than as a serious attempt at music making. Student Art Garfunkel had a particular love of 'old' things unusual for the 1960s. Old houses, antiques, old songs - much as he shared his partner's love of doo-wop and rock and roll he had an additional passion for reviving old folk tunes. 'Barbara Allen' was one of his favourites and would most likely have been his idea to sing along with Paul. However the song soon got replaced, probably by the next batch of Paul Simon originals - in truth it's no great loss as it's all slightly dull by Simon and Garfunkel standards: straight two-part harmonies, simple guitar accompaniment and no real variation between verses (and this Scottish ballad about scorned and then regretted love has an awful lot of verses!) Probably right to be given the push, then, but a nice find in the vaults for the CD age. Arty re-recorded this song with a bigger production for his first solo album 'Angel Clare' in 1973, suggesting he hadn't forgotten this pretty song, even if everyone else had. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'The Sounds Of Silence' (1966)

Simon and Garfunkel also attempted a second, more obscure Scottish folk song. Paul sings a good half of [  ] 'Rose Of Aberdeen' solo, giving us an extra insight into what his solo shows in England would have been like in the 'Songbook' period. Paul's voice is particularly golden and the track sounds like it could have been an S and G song once Arty adds his supportive if faltering harmony partway through. The song is better known under the title 'Roving Gambler', the song's first line, and is a Wild West cowboy song of unknown vintage ('officially' it wasn't written down until the early 20th century although it's surely much older than that). Though the song features cowboys and gamblers, this song would still have sounded at home amongst similar sad tales on the duo's second album like 'Richard Cory' and 'A Most Peculiar Man'. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'The Sounds Of Silence' (1966)

The compilers probably went with that song's alternate name to differentiate it from final 1970 song [  ] 'Roving Gambler', a much more S and G type song with a 'Bookends' side two style bounce. Paul gets the giggles as he tries to hang onto a note longer than Arty and the pair tell the 'Alias Smith and Jones' type story of handsome young rogues making money by gambling and falling for every pretty lady in town. this song would have suited 'Wednesday Morning 3AM' and it's tales of vagabonds well. This makes a rather odd end to the studio S and G canon (at least until the even odder ends 'The Breakup' in 1972 and 'Citizen Of The Planet' in 1983) but it's great to hear those lovely harmonies together one last time. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'The Sounds Of Silence' (1966)

Non-Album Recordings Part #6: 1972
Back in 1972 Simon and Garfunkel were back together, briefly, to record an advert for their upcoming and decidedly separate solo tours. Paul is in the control box, Arty is speaking and neither quite know what to say. Along the way Paul comes on the monitor to tell his ex-partner to sound 'graver', adds his two-pennies worth that 'I like that bit about the separate commitment' and ends by asking Arty is he could squeeze in a mention of the tour he's doing that fall. It's a typically generous but knowing comedy moment between the two who are enjoying trying to out-deadpan each other and laugh at the ridiculousness of their situation as former friends announcing their separate paths two years after the event, while throwing a few digs in too. A shame Art got the giggles - I was looking forward to where this improvisation might have gone next! Here's the full text:
AG: This is Art Garfunkel, formerly of Simon and Garfunkel. 
I'm here in the studio to talk about something that's very

important to me. You know, a lot of people feel that when
an important recording group, such as…
PS: Art?
AG: Yeah.
PS: Let me interrupt you a minute. It's not quite serious
sounding enough. Try to make it a little bit more, uhh, grave.
AG: Okay. This is Arthur Garfunkel, once of Simon and Garfunkel.
One of the things that's disturbed me through the years has
been people's reaction to The Breakup of Simon and Garfunkel.
PS: Artie? Try and play a little bit more on…emphasize the word
"disturbed."
AG: One of the things that has disturbed me through the years
has been people's reaction to The Breakup of Simon and Garfunkel.
 
You know, a lot of people have taken it as a comic event and have
not realized that only with deep, real feelings of separate
 
commitment can such…
PS: I like that. I like that part about the "separate commitment."
AG: …can such a breakup actually take place. Only by two,
separate individuals pursuing their own individual paths and
 
following, what to they is, the God of their own choice can two
people who were once so close end up…
PS: Art? Art, try and work it in that I'll be doing a major college tour
this fall.
AG: …who were once so close, follow two paths which are so divergent.
Whereby, I, for example, record material that I feel expresses my soul, and
you, Paul, who are doing a major college tour this fall…(laughs)
Find it on: 'Paul Simon 1964-1993' (1993) and 'Art Garfunkel Up Till Now' (1993)

Non-Album Recordings Part #7: 1973

[  ] 'Let Me Live In Your City' is a first draft for the song that will become 'Something So Right' - or half of it at least. The opening is the same and most of the first verse about the 'cool water when a fever runs high', but Paul's love song to first wife Peggy goes into quite a different chorus. Though featuring roughly the same tune Paul pleads with his new wife to show him her world, 'allowing' the narrator to live in her city 'with the river so pretty and the air so fine'. Paul comments that he's a 'traveller eating up my travelling time' as he yearns to put down roots and leave his nomadic life behind. The song then returns back to the familiar path via 'The Great Wall Of China' verse (though the 'foreigners' 'built it' rather than 'made it' strong) and even has the 'some people never say...' middle eight intact. You can see why Paul changed this as his future self-deprecating chorus is much better written and much more in keeping with the rest of the song, but it's fascinating to hear such a great track before it was something quite so right. Other period demos are less different than this and just sound a little sparser: 'Duncan' from 'Paul Simon' sounds particularly good as does the funkier 'Loves Me Like A Rock' heard on this album's CD. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'There Goes Rhymin' Simon' (1973)

Non-Album Recordings Part #8: 1974

Not strictly a Paul Simon song at all but a guest spot for guest artists The Jesse Dixon Singers on the Live Rhymin' record with no Paul participation. [  ] 'Jesus Is The Answer' is a well meaning but ultimately rather derivative and dull gospel number complete with screechy singers and preachy church organ. Originally a hit for The Archers in 1973 (a year before release here), the audience seem to go bananas for some odd reason (how comes this gets stronger applause than 'American Tune' or 'The Boxer' for goodness sake?) If Jesus is the answer then hearing this song I'd hate to hear the question. Find it on: 'Live Rhymin' (1974)

Meanwhile, over in a recording studio, Art Garfunkel is filling time between the 'Angel Clare' and 'Breakaway' sessions with his fourth single, a standalone cover of a Tim Moore track. [  ] 'Second Avenue' always gets short shrift from compilations sadly despite being a top 40 US hit (which is more than predecessor 'Travellin' Boy' managed and that's always on compilations) and to date has never appeared on CD in its original version (just an edit that cuts a verse out). Arty soars like a bird on this sad and sorrowful song about splitting up, with a house that was formerly full of fun now a 'hole in the wall' and full of ghosts and memories. Arty is clearly thinking of his short lived first marriage here to Linda Grossman and sings this song impressively low-key without the over-singing of later years on similar Jimmy Webb piano ballads. Only a slightly ordinary tune lets the song down, which is too good to have been so forgotten if not exactly a lost classic either. The previously released 'Woyaya' was the B-side, if you were wondering, the seventh song from the ten track 'Angel Clare' released on a single! Find it on: Garfunkel' (1988)


Non-Album Recordings Part #9: 1977

Paul was suffering a little from writer's block again during the late 1970s, unable to get going properly post 'Still Crazy After All These Years' until being inspired by the screenplay that became 'One Trick Pony'. Instead he rather shamefacedly gave Columbia a 'farewell gesture' to end his contract with them: a standalone single and a tie-in compilation. Most songwriters would have offered any old rubbish to get out of their contract (actually Paul arguably did on the B-side...) but in actual fact the A side [  ] 'Slip Slidin' Away' was one of his best. Acknowledging his recent state of depression following his divorce from wife Peggy, Paul wrote one of his most moving and emotional lyrics about the ups and downs of life which had seemed so certain just a couple of albums ago on 'Rhymin' Simon'. Those who've struggled with problems in their lives will surely identify with Paul's verse about how 'a good day ain't got no rain, while a bad day is when I lie in bed and think about things that might have been'; even more difficult to sing is the third verse in which Paul's narrator travels miles to see his only child for a few precious hours, with lots of thoughts of what to say running through his head - until he sees the boy at peace and asleep so he sadly 'turns round and headed home again'. This last part in particular must surely have been autobiographical to a degree (Paul's son Harper turned five when this single was released and there's oh so much more of this stuff in the 'One Trick Pony' film to come) but Paul sings the song as if he's taking bits of wisdom from others, as if unwilling to face up that after years of writing about other people's loneliness, alienation and isolation Paul is suffering from a touch of 'The Sound Of Silence' himself (he certainly sounds in shock for most of the song). In keeping with the finale on 'Still Crazy', 'Silent Eyes', Paul also returns to religion as a theme - and a theme treated more reverentially than in the S and G years. God makes his plans, Paul sighs, thanks to 'information unavailable to the mortal man' while those he uses as puppets can only smile, work at their jobs, collect their pay and wonder why the life they wanted to life keeps slip slidin' ever further away. One of Paul's loveliest under-rated songs, it was perhaps too melancholy to be a mega-hit but it's chart peak of #5 as the long-delayed follow-up to '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' was still pretty impressive (have there ever been two singles more different than this pair?!) Find it on: most Paul Simon compilations starting with 'Negotiations and Love Songs' (1978)

The B-side [  ] 'Stranded In A Limousine' was a lot more ordinary alas. It's a song that had it been released nowadays would have come with the twitter hashtag '1stWorldProblems', a millionaire whose left on the wrong side of town when his posh car lets him down. The street gang of kids rush out to see what's going on, competing with each other to see who can be the most 'helpful' and thus get a reward, but the miserly millionaire has already left rather than hand out any money. This morality tale is told with a slight wink and features some comedy moments that suggest to me Paul was working on making it another '50 Ways' before he got bored with it (he makes a mean siren noise though, with a chorus of 'wah wah wah wah wah!') There's a nice bluesy performance on this one, with horns and piano and a big fat walking bass line competing with each other for space and performance-wise this sounds like a first rehearsal for the forthcoming 'Late In The Evening'. That song however is much more memorable and joyous - this song is rather unforgettable and tuneless by Paul's high standards. Find it on: some Paul Simon compilations starting with 'Negotiations and Love Songs' (1978)

Wisely left off 'Watermark' at the last minute (except for Dutch and Yugoslavian copies for some odd reason), Art Garfunkel's [  ] 'Fingerpaints' got the boot when 'What A Wonderful World' was taped at the last minute and has been a hard song to get hold of since. Not that it's really worth it: this tortured Jimmy Webb ballad is much like the other Webb ballads on Arty's third album, only not even that good. It's a track about unleashing your inner child with someone you feel comfortable with, though for a song that's meant to be about self-expression and freedom it isn't half a slow monochromatic plod. The lyrics are pretty dodgy too: 'Fingerpaint me, I'll fingerpaint you, remember children and the things they like to do...' Messy, in all meanings of the word. Find it on: some copies of 'Watermark'.(1977)

Non-Album Recordings Part #10: 1980

Paul's 'One Trick Pony' talks a lot about his character Jonah's one-hit that first brought him fame and now acts like a millstone around his neck, leaving an idea of him as a writer in so many people's minds he's not allowed to write anything else. Many critics wondered if Paul was talking about 'The Sound Of Silence' here, though given the years of non-hits in his youth I reckon Paul had 'Hey Schoolgirl' more in mind and his increasingly desperate attempts to do similar songs long past the point when they were 'real'. That said [  ] 'Soft Parachutes' sounds more like something from 'The Graduate' film soundtrack, the tale of a hippie who 'used to have me a girlfriend' before being drafted into Vietnam and realising how fragile his old world is ('Don't ask me the reason, God only know why'). At the time when the film came out Vietnam was 'old' news (finally coming to a stuttering end in 1975) and this folk-picking style is deliberately anachronistic (Paul as Jonah plays it at a TV awards ceremony celebrating yesteryear and he's blown off stage by punk band The B-52s long before anyone else knew who they were). The trouble is, though, Paul's too good a writer to be 'bad' and even this song which the audience is meant to hate as much as Jonah does  (which is why it wasn't on the original album) has a real directness, poetry and charm. Had this song been released as the sequel to 'The Sound Of Silence' it surely would have been a hit too - and Paul feels like he knows it, spending the next fifteen years refusing to write this sort of a protest song until the moment it couldn't be less in keeping with the mood of the nation. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'One Trick Pony' (1980)

[  ] 'All Because Of You' is another 'Pony' outtake, a first draft of 'Oh Marion' that sounds as if the vocal was added to the same backing track used on the LP and in the film (and, therefore, an early example of the 'Rhythm Of The Daints' method of working where Paul writes the melody and records a backing track long before signing off on the words). If ever a Paul Simon lyric was filler and if ever a vocal was a guide one this sounds like it, as Paul wanders all round the track on a far more generic late 1970s rock song than the final rather poignant version. The 'feel' of the song is similar though, suggesting Paul already knew where it would appear in the film: 'It's all because you would not say 'we're through!' is the first version of 'Oh Marion I think we're in trouble here - I should have believed it when I heard you singing'. Rather a relief that Paul changed it, then, but a fascinating fragment to hear all these years on. It seems the only time songwriting is an easy game is when another person is reviewing. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'One Trick Pony' (1980)

Similarly [  ] 'Spiral Highway' is an early version of 'How The Heart Approaches What It yearns' with the same run-down motel setting and an equally depressing but very different lyric. The song even opens with a tease from the future title song 'Hearts and Bones' before getting more into familiar territory (this time this is clearly a different backing track, though it's not a million miles away from the finished version, albeit with a wretched saxophone solo instead of the 'I'm on fire...' verse). Paul is less concerned here with the depressive place he's just checked into and his thoughts for the ever-decreasing distance between himself and his family than the long and winding road he's taken to get here as a musician - and how many more nights like this there will be until he's earned enough money to go home. Again, hardly up to the sophistication of the finished product and yet fascinating all the same. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'One Trick Pony' (1980)

Non-Album Recordings Part #11: 1981/82

There weren't too many surprises at Simon and Garfunkel's Central park reunion as the duo mainly focussed on what they wanted to hear. However the chance to sing a second beloved Every Brothers record as a sort of 'hello' sequel to their almost-finale 'Bye Bye Love' on Bridge' eleven years before proved irresistible. For my tastes [ ] 'Wake Up Little Susie' is a far better song, catchier and quirkier and very much in the vein of early Jerry Landis teen comedy songs as the narrator and Susie both fall asleep in the cinema (late night homework sessions?) and break curfew, worrying that they're going to be teased mercilessly about it all when they get back home. Simon and Garfunkel don't often sound genuinely happy at the Central Park show (they certainly weren't happy at rehearsals according to eye-witness reports!) but they're having fun here at least on a song that suits their combined vocal strength. Find it on: 'The Concert In Central Park' (1982)

They also cover Chuck Berry's [  ] 'Maybelline', segueing from the sudden double time kick of 'Kodochrome' which features many of the same chords. It's fitting that a song about how the camera effectively 'lies', recording the past as a prettier place in memory than it ever was in reality, should end up in a song that's not one of Chuck's best and one of his few hit singles that sound forced and recycled rather than inspired. Simon and Garfunkel still sound good though, singing this track with considerably more gusto than Paul's own song. Maybe this reunion gig should have been a whole night of 1950s rock and roll songs? Find it on: 'The Concert In Central Park' (1982) 

Arty's 'Scissors Cut' album was released at the start of the year and was a relative return to form - a gritty, emotionally resonant album about his feeling of loss for his girlfriend Laurie Bird the year before. One of the most affecting songs of the sessions was the moving Stephen Bishop song [  ] 'One Less Holiday', a typical Garfunkel piano ballad except that this one doesn't feel like an acting job at all but is instead terribly, almost overwhelmingly real. Arty's been watching other people leading their ordinary lives, which seems so odd because his life will never be the same again now he's on his own. Arty's narrator takes to drink to blot out the pain 'while trying not to think' as he's joined on his crusade by a sad strings part trying to offer him a shoulder to lean on. He sounds as if he needs it. This song really should have made the album, despite being at 1:47 ridiculously short and with an especially abrupt ending. Arty, though, sounds as fabulous as he ever does, at the peak of his powers as he channels his own grief into a song that others in his position can identify with. Special - and far too good to be thrown away on a compilation years after the event. Find it on: 'Art Garfunkel - Up Till Now' (1993)

Non-Album Recordings Part #12: 1983

One song, possibly the only song finished by Simon and Garfunkel together for the record they intended calling 'Think Too Much' but which became Paul's solo 'Hearts and Bones' in 1983is the sweet but rather sickly [**]  'Citizen Of The Planet'. It's the 'hippiest' song Paul had written since 'Feelin' Groovy' and would have sounded out of place on anything after about 1967, never mind fifteen years later. In fact most fans got to hear it even later than that when it was released, bizarrely, as a 'bonus' track on the 2004 live album 'Old Friends: Live On Stage' where it sounded suitably retro, though it felt like a bit of 'cheating' was going on.  The sleevenotes infer that this is a 'new' song - which I suppose it was but it's not a 'new' recording as the track's flowing vocals compared to the rough and ragged live tracks will tell you (though S and G may have added a couple of overdub 'sweeteners'). A song about everyone being entitled to a free and peaceful world, Paul claims in an ecological statement  that 'we were born here - we're gonna die here' and that because of that we're entitled to a say in how Earth is being run however much the Governments think they can do what they want. The only trouble is that there's no real 'threat' in this song - the sentiment is one only corporate businessmen and greedy politicians don't agree with and there's a sense that Simon and Garfunkel are preaching to the converted here. Had it been released on 'Think Too Much' (the working title of what became 'Hearts and Bones') this would have been one of the album's weakest songs - but heard as an unexpected bonus (especially one after such an 'empty' live album) it's a rather sweet little extra, a reminder of how well Simon and Garfunkel could sing together long after going their separate ways. Find it on: 'Old Friends- Live On Stage' (2005)

One of the songs Paul wrote early on for the project was [  ] 'Shelter Of Your Arms', an early version of the song that will become 'When Numbers Get Serious'. This demo version, before Arty came and went, is very different to the one the pair would perform on tour that year through and which Paul would re-record for his album. 'Look at these laughter lines - they run halfway round the block, I start the clock!' sings Paul as he blocks out chords with yet another lyric about ageing. He also puts out his new philosophy: 'I used to feel so down but now I just feel fine'. The part you might recognise doesn't appear until 2:08 when the 'woah yeah woo-ooh!' bit appears as the song's middle eight, here accompanied not by synth-drums but by some restless flamenco guitar work. All very pretty but a little aimless - but then, that's what demos are meant to be, in order that the finished products aren't. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Hearts and Bones' 

 Non-Album Recordings Part #13: 1984

[  ] 'Sometimes When I'm Dreaming' is a typical Mike Batt song: part gorgeous nugget of inspiration, part hack work with one too many silly rhymes ('It may not be right to give up the fight and I'm now home alone...') This track is certainly no 'Bright Eyes' though that's mainly thanks to the over-1980s production that saps all emotion out of the song so fast even Arty starts sounding insincere (and you know something's gone wrong if that's happening...) I'd love to hear a 'demo' of this song though, as the central theme of the song is sound enough. Art's narrator has been through hard times and fears life will always be like this for the rest of his life, but sometimes he finds himself dreaming of a better future and spending more time with those thoughts than stuck in the reality of his empty house. A sort of minor lost gem, then, buy you don't need to go out of your way too seriously to track this one lone song down if you're missing it. Abba's Agnetha Faltskog recorded the song first on her first post-band solo album where she sounds much like Arty does here (ie lost in the middle of a whopping jungle of synthesisers). Find it on: 'The Art Garfunkel Album' (1984)

Non-Album Recordings Part #14: 1990

Before the record companies messed around with it Paul Simon's  'Rhythm Of The Saints' was an even more intelligent record than people thought it was, meticulously worked out so that side one saw each song shift up a key to where the next track would start and the whole process would start again in reverse on side two, leaving the listener back where they started in one whacking complete 'whole'. [  ] 'Thelma' was intended to be the 'middle' track, right in the middle, which stayed in the same hypnotic trance beat throughout and the most complex backing track of the lot in terms of the amounts of sharps/flats used. Perhaps sensing that he'd gone a bit overboard in construction of the complex backing track, Paul kept things simpler in the lyric, which is the blandest of the album's sessions, a simple tale of love as the narrator pleads 'I will need you, feed you, seed you, plead with you' and offers us some homespun wisdom such as 'If life's a blessing that touches the tops of the trees then life's a short walk' whatever that means! After the running order got taken out (without much of a fuss, oddly, when Warner Brothers asked to have lead single 'The Obvious Child' placed as the first track) 'Thelma' suddenly looked dispensable, easily the most awkward of the eleven songs Paul had recorded for the album. That said, Paul was on such a peak in this period that even this outtake sounds better than most people's period releases, with Thelma a rare and more awkward beauty than her ten bedfellows, but a beauty nonetheless. Find it on: 'The Rhythm Of The Saints' CD Re-Issue (1990) and 'Paul Simon 1964-1993' (1993)

While Paul was getting religious in Brazil, Arty was getting religious back home, recording a quite lovely Christian carol for a one-off various artists Christmas record which, unusually, wasn't for charity. The theme was acoustic performances of carols by favoured singer-songwriters and saw Arty on top form alongside Paul's old 'discovery' Laura Nyro, Willie Nile and Johnny Cash's daughter Roseanne. Arty fares best, obviously, with a lovely slow and unusual accordion drenched version of the famous carol [  ] 'O Come All Ye Faithful' not dissimilar to his unusual reading of past folk songs like 'She Moved Through The Fair'. By the last verse Art sings with himself multi-tracked another four times over, just like he once did as a teenager with a tape recorder. As 'Star Carol' and 'Comfort and Joy' prove, Arty has a real gift for singing Christmas songs - it's a real shame and a bit of s surprise he's never yet released a festive record, assuming for now that Jimmy Webb's weirdo nativity musical doesn't count (not that I particularly like Christmas records, mind you, with some truly awful AAA ones out there including and especially 'The Animals' Christmas', but Arty would do a nice one and it would suit his voice better than American songbook titles or children's lullabies). Find it on: originally the Various Artists set 'Acoustic Christmas' (1990 and since then Arty's own compilation 'Singer' (2012)

Non-Album Recordings Part #15: 1991

Without a record or an acting deal Art had a quiet 1990s with only one studio and one live album released the whole decade long. By far his highest profile moment came at the start of the decade when he was invited to record the theme song for a new TV series named 'Brooklyn Bridge' that aired between 1991 and 1993 and looked at the concerns of a Jewish family who'd just moved to New York and struggled to fit in duering the 1950s. As a Jew who himself had been brought up in the 1940s only a Rolling Stones throw away from Brooklyn Bridge Art Garfunkel was an obvious candidate and delivers the theme tune [  ] 'Just Over The Brooklyn Bridge' in his inimitable sparkling 'ballad' style. The  lyrics are intriguing, an 'Old Friends' style lesson in nostalgia over times past that finally breaks into a power-pop chorus where Arty closes his eyes and 'thinks of yesterday'. Unfortunately, this being a theme tune, a single verse and a chorus is all there is with this song simply ending suddenly when it could have been so much more. It also comes with very 1980s sounding pan pipes, which would have made me move out of Brooklyn again pretty sharpish I can tell you. Find it on: 'Art Garfunkel - Up Till Now' (1993)

Non-Album Recordings Part #16: 1993

Columbia weren't interested in a new Art Garfunkel album after the 'failure' of 'Lefty in 1988 but had already released far more Art Garfunkel compilations than any fan could possibly want. With the singer still under contract what could they make him do next? 'Up Till Now' is the answer, one of the weirdest mutations in the AAA catalogue: partly a best-of containing songs everybody owned, partly re-recordings of songs everybody already owned, partly an outtakes album of songs that nobody owned and six new recordings. It's about as coherent and consistent as it sounds, but believe it or not the new material on that album is amongst the best and it's a real shame that Arty wasn't 'allowed' to turn this record into a full album of new material: he's in good voice, has finally moved on from making Jimmy Webb his new Paul Simon and he's finally sacked the synthesisers that turned 'Lefty' from being one of the most promising Garfunkel albums by concept into one of the hardest to actually listen to.
First up on our list of six 'new' recordings is the most famous song and compilation favourite  [  ] 'Crying In The Rain'. Following earlier low-key duets on 'Breakaway' (alongside Crosby/Nash) and 'What A Wonderful World' (with Paul Simon), we finally get to hear what Arty sounds like alongside James Taylor - magnificent is the result. Taylor probably picked the song, given that it was written by his on-off singing partner Carole King, but Garfunkel must have known it from a cover by his beloved Everly Brothers. Art clearly liked the song, writing in his sleevenotes for his 'Singer' compilation that 'There is an illuminating love of living things - all of them that lies within the tenderness of the line readings'. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it is a very clever and powerful song. Poignant and sad, without being as overblown as some of Arty's more recent ballads, it's catchy and sweet and works well re-modelled into a 'duet' with overlapping lines (The Everly Brothers simply sing it in harmony). Released in Canada only as a single, it was a surprise top thirty hit. Maybe Columbia should have paid more attention to this song and it might have been a hit in a few other places too? Find it on: 'Up Till Now' (1993), 'Simply The Best' (1998) and 'The Singer' (2012)

Unfortunately Arty wasn't going to leave Jimmy Webb alone for too long so up next is [  ] 'Skywriter', a song it's composer won't record himself until as late as 2005 and 'Twilight Of The Renegades'. This song sounds like every other Jimmy Webb song ever written: the narrator is floating about life directionless, while the piano chords (played by AAA session music veteran Nicky Hopkins again on one of his last recordings) drift along in a slow and hazy sequence. At least this time around both melody and lyrics are memorable though (which is one up compared to most of 1997's 'Watermark' album for starters) and Arty sounds marvellous, building verse by verse in 'Bridge' style. Find it on: 'Up Till Now' (1993), and 'The Singer' (2012)

[  ] 'It's All In The Game' sounds like it belongs on 'Lefty', another typically mid-70s Arty ballad given a very 1980s makeover with synthesisers and drums that are suddenly the loudest thing in the mix (yes, even on a ballad). A simple tale about all the wonderful things that will happen to a woman when she falls in love with the right man, it's 'safe' without being quite as 'boring' as a lot of Garfunkel's late 1970s work. The song has an interesting history: it was first published as an instrumental in 1911 by Charles Dawes, who had something of a change in career in later life when he became vice-president to Calvin Coolidge (!) Dawes claimed to have only ever written this one tune - he played it to a friend who in secret transcribed it into sheet music and Dawes was most horrified one day to walk past a music shop and see a large picture of him next to copies of the song he'd written! (This was partly how he entered politics in fact, figuring that as he'd been laughed about in his job as an accountant he had nothing to lose being laughed at as a politician!) Lyricist Carl Sigman loved the song and wrote words to it in 1956, partly in tribute to Dawes who had just died with many singers covering it in later years though Tommy Edwards had the biggest hit with it in 1958. Find it on: 'Up Till Now' (1993)

Another old song is Hoagy Carmichael's [  ] 'Two Sleepy People', an unfortunate preview of the horrific destruction Art will cause to the great American songbook on 2008's 'Some Enchanted Evening'. Arty is too 'sincere' a vocalist for a sly and slinky song of this type and really doesn't fit the jazz overtones of the backing, which sounds like 'Still Crazy After All These Years' turned up to eleven. The idea is that the couple in the song are too asleep to say goodnight so they decide to get married and stay in the same bed instead - a risqué song for its times then, but Art's version loses that sense of cheek and flirty outrage (just imagine if the similar but superior 'Wake Up Little Susie' had tried the same ending?!) In his sleevenotes to 'The Singer' Arty calls it both a 'crooner's delight' and a 'period 1950s tune' but he's wrong on both counts: the song was first published in 1938. Horrendous. Find it on: 'Up Till Now' (1993), and 'The Singer' (2012)

Easily the best song out of the six though - and perhaps the best thing on the album - is a gorgeous reading of one of the most overlooked tracks on the 1980's biggest non-compilation seller, Dire Straits' 'Brothers In Arms'. Released as the sixth and final single from what was only a nine-track LP (!)[  ] 'Why Worry?' is a lovely Mark Knopfler ballad never got the kudos it deserved and Arty takes the song in quite a different direction musically, turning it from Knopfler's shy grunts to a song of clarity and purpose, 'Bridge' like in it's promises of putting things right. Usually I'd be horrified at the idea of Knopfler's sterling guitar work being replaced by a harp and synthesiser as they are on Arty's version, but both work well as the song kind of hovers in mid-air. There's also a lovely fade where instead of an instrumental battle between the guitar bass and drums (suggesting that actually there is good reason to worry and Knopfler is just being kind) Arty sings the title over and over with himself, two Arty's passing the line on in a round. It's really quite effective as one of the great comforters of song finally finds a composition worthy of his talents, soaring up to the sky in hope and belief. There should be laughter after pain. There should be sunshine after rain. There should have been a whole album right here of Arty singing modern classics like this one. Instead we get a wretched live album, a record full of children's songs and a less than enchanted evening. What happened to Art Garfunkel's career?! Find it on: 'Up Till Now' (1993) and 'Simply The Best' (1998)

Non-Album Recordings Part #17: 2012

The release of the 'Singer' compilation in 2012 allowed Arty space to include a couple of new recordings - the first made that aren't related to the Great American Songbook in nine years, since the superlative 'Everything Waits To Be Noticed'. They're both glorious returns to form from a singer who'd had rather an up and down 21st century so far and bode very well for any future 'normal' Garfunkel records and not entirely co-incidentally produced by that 'Noticed's collaborator Maia Sharp (although oddly enough she doesn't sing this time - the sublime backing vocals are by leah Kunkel, the wife of drummer Russell). The first of these is [ ] 'Lena', which is very much in the 'Noticed' confessional mode, though not from Garfunkel's perspective for once. Deeper than most of Arty's recent material and recorded with 'real' instruments again at last, it's a song about a troubled heroine who pretends she's coping when really she isn't. Quickly becoming an alcoholic 'burning both ends of the candle', Lena is privately a mess but Art wants to make her better with a gorgeous chorus of comfort and longing that does its best to try to put everything right. A surly Dean Parks guitar solo (reprised at the end in even more of a guttural squawk of confusion and terror) makes it clear though that unlike 'Bridge' et al Art's got his work cut out putting so many years of wrongs right. Arty finally adjusts to his newer, deeper voice and sounds the best he has in twenty odd years. More like this please Arty! Find it on: 'The Singer' (2012)

[  ] 'Long Way Home' isn't quite as strong, despite being one of Maia's songs this time with the characteristic 'conversational' rhythm metre. However it's still better than average, with a powerful feminist lyric that makes Art sound as if he's singing sarcastically about himself. The girl in the song wants to feel as if she's loved but instead she's a convenience, about to be thrown aside. Arty gets into character as he spits: 'I'm your light in the dark, a breath of fresh air, the love of your life, the answer to all your prayers, goodbye...you're welcome!' This record also contains the first ever use of swearing on an Art Garfunkel record (though Paul Simon's used it as a device a few times, particularly on 'The Capeman'), with Garfunkel calling himself a 'sick fuck' near song's end. I never thought I'd see the day. Despite being a long way out of his depth, though, a double-tracked Arty sings superbly lacing his vocal with just enough venom laced with compassion for this to be believable as the end of a long-term relationship that genuinely started out of warmth. He should have been singing songs like these years earlier and Sharp provides a powerful production once again, claustrophobic and uncomfortable but never ever cluttered. Find it on: 'The Singer' (2012)