Friday, 4 July 2008
Art Garfunkel "Breakaway" (1975) ('Core' Review #68, Revised Review 2016)
"Art's rockiest record, with a welcome jaggedness to off-set those typically perfect orchestral ballads that show Art's golden voice at its very best."
I Believe (When I Fall In Love)/Rag Doll/Breakaway/Disney Girls/Waters Of March/My Little Town/I Only Have Eyes For You/Looking For The Right One/99 Miles From L.A./The Same Old Tears On A New Background
After 'Angel Clare' tried so hard to prove what Arty could do that other people wouldn't have expected him to, 'Breakaway' seems like less of a break and more of a celebration. Arty was naturally worried about whether the public would take to him as a solo act after Simon and Garfunkel; so was Paul but at least he was able to write and sing and play in the same style he always had while Arty had nothing more to sell records than his voice, his subtle touch in arrangements and his choice of songs. Though the slightly oddball 'Angel Clare' was never going to be an album that was going to sell by the bucket-load anyway it's #5 hit placing at home must have come as a huge release to Arty and given him confidence that if he made an album for an even more mainstream record this time around he was sure to have an audience for it. There's a certain swagger and confidence on 'Breakaway' that's comparable with Paul's own second album 'Rhymin' Simon' a sense of 'see, told you I could do it - now the sky's the limit!' as Arty throws off the 'formerly of Simon and Garfunkel' tag on an album that no longer doubts what it is doing but just enjoys doing it. Until Arty rediscovers his long dormant songwriting voice in another quarter century with the superb 'Everything Waits To Be Noticed', 'Breakaway' is easily the best of Garfunkel's solo records featuring some of his best singing on some of his best songs with one of the best productions of his career (or at least it does for nine tracks out of ten - we'll come back to 'Waters Of March' later...)
Ah yes, the production. This is a real sticking point for many fans usually, me included, with most Garfunkel solo records so reduced to prettyness it sounds like anything could topple the singer over (and this is, remember, a singer who was fighting hard on 'The Boxer' not so very long ago). Even the most supportive of Art Garfunkel fanatics will probably admit that his solo albums are a difficult prospect to take if you're used to recordings made in a looser part of town (Simon and Garfunkel included). Other will tell you that they love the voice, but not the material or the sound if you happen to catch them in an unguarded moment (or possibly even a guarded one - or maybe someone whose just listened to 'The Animals' Christmas' on repeat). If anything held back Arty's career it's that the vast majority of Art’s records are polished so much they sound like a Mr Sheen bottle transferred onto vinyl, but sometimes - just sometimes - that polish is a virtue. After all, it's not as if Art can't sing underneath all that production polish (which is usually there to hide whatever the singers can't actually do): he is, perhaps, the closest singer to the sort of 'perfection' style such records demand so no wonder producers kept using him in such a manner (I mean you can't imagine Arty making a rap record can you? Assuming of course that you haven't actually heard this album and 'Waters Of March' yet...) And it's not as if the material isn't tough enough underneath all that polish: actually Arty's songs tend to be tougher than most people realise and especially so on this album. For one glorious album only, the polish is a help not a hindrance and feels like it's meant to be here, not to 'hide' what's going on in the lyrics for once but to accentuate them.
This is, after all, an album where everything (nearly) is meant to be perfect (eventually), full of the sort of sweeping orchestral ballads Art always excelled at, with Art’s gorgeous voice finding beauty even in the strangest of places 'I Believe' starts off with a dramatic burst of tension before a soothing pitch-perfect chorus tells us that actually the narrator has faith that everything will be perfect - and so it proves. 'Breakaway' is meant to be a soaring top 40 pop single with special guests celebrating the idea of leaving old trappings for a new world where the chorus is as perfect and sunny as the weather. 'Disney Girls', the most famous of the handful of songs Bruce Johnstone wrote for The Beach Boys, is about golden memories that are meant to be perfect: it's not like it's a song pretending that the present isn't often cruel or frustrating, just one that remembers a time when it wasn't and anything was possible. 'I Only Have Eyes For You', an Ink spots comedy number given the lushest makeover since The Spice Girls realised they were starting to look their age, is about not just love but being besotted: this too is meant to be perfect, as perfect as the girl in the song. '99 Miles From L.A.' has the narrator rushing to pick his lover up from the airport, telling (pretending?) to himself that things will be better this time around. Even Stephen Bishop's tearful 'Looking For The Right One', written after heartbreak, doesn't tell us that looking for the right one is a silly thing to do - it just wonders when they'll walk into our lives. Only Simon and Garfunkel reunion 'My Little Town' (the 'rock' sticking out of this album's ice cream) and the genre-defying 'Waters Of March' don't really fit, both songs feeling as if they live 'outside' this album. Which is not to say that this album, compared to some Arty records to come, doesn't understand the worst that this world has to offer; just that it chooses to ignore them and turn life around. Which is 'Breakaway' is my favourite Garfunkel record, at least in the 1970s: it chooses to 'breakway' from reality to somewhere better without forgetting that chasing perfection will only ever be fleeting (something sequels 'Watermark' and 'Fate For Breakfast' seem to do).
In other words, the glossy production fits this album better than it did the slightly guilty and far from perfect world of 'Angel Clare' or the future middle-of-the-road records of the decade and sounds like it 'should' be there, rather than a cosy blanket for wrapping everything in as per later messes. Producer Richard Perry deserves much of the credit for this, taking a break from work making even Ringo Starr sound good on his solo records such as the imaginatively titled, umm, 'Ringo' (working with a singer like Arty must have been a relief after those sessions...) But then so does Arty: the song choices were largely his and, having got the random mixture of experiments and traditional songs out of his system on 'Angel Clare', he is keen to demonstrate just how fine and lovely his voice can be. By all accounts the album was an easy one to make, as free of pressure as any album can ever be and everyone was rewarded the way they were all confident they would be: with another million selling album that contained no less than three charting top 40 singles (not bad for a ten track LP!)
And yet...There's an undercurrent to 'Breakaway', a subtext that puts this all but perfect album in quite a different light. Arty had waited a long time to get married and when he finally tied the knot in 1972 it was after an uncharacteristic whirlwind romance with Linda Grossman that took many of those close to the generally cautious singer by surprise. The pair had barely been together at all before their marriage and the only thing the pair had in common was that they'd both once been architecture students; Arty later admitted that he'd never really loved his wife and that actually 'I didn't even like her that much'. By 1975, the year this album was released, the marriage was over officially though in truth it had been over much quicker than that. Garfunkel largely shrugged off his marriage in future years, quickly settling down with the 'real' first love of his life Laurie Bird after the release of this album and pretending it never happened. But 'Breakaway' at least (possibly 'Angel Clare' as well) is clearly inspired by their brief union. On the one hand Arty has realised that he's fallen in love not with a person but with the idea of love - a theme that crops up frequently across this album, from the starry-eyed narrator of 'I Only Have Eyes For You' to the wronged lover vowing to learn next time on 'I Believe'. On the other, Linda's parting shot to Arty was that she was sick of the hold the music business had over him and that he spent so long trying to sound 'perfect' while being far from perfect back home. 'Breakaway's perfection then, it's sheer sonic brilliance, is surely a riposte back from a singer who knows how glorious he can sound when everything is 'perfect' and how much he badly longs to be the 'perfect' figure we think he is from the record. Take nothing away from 'Breakaway' though: it's not pure escapism, but the sound of a singer who secretly fears that he's always going to fall a little short of the vision in his head; that his life is doomed to 'the same old tears on a new background' as love disappoints him over and over, while still moved on by a 'Disney Girls' style idea of what love should be. Note too that this album effectively ends where it began, in depression, the narrator 'encased inside a lonely shell' before finding love only in a 'faded photograph' - it's the songs in the middle (again 'Waters Of March' and 'My Little Town' aside) that strain for perfection.
Perhaps that's why 'Breakaway' for me stands head and shoulders above Art’s other albums of the time because it sounds ‘complete’ in comparison to his other, often bitty albums which too often end just as you are beginning to enjoy them and get in the mood. Too often in his career Art tries to impress us with one too many string overdubs, one too many celebrity friends or one too many ‘trendy’ pieces that begin to make his records sound less like a solo album and more like a musical CV. Art does that a little bit on this record too, but somehow it works here in a way the other records don’t – the more he piles on the overdubs, the fuller the songs sound; the celebrity friends all add their own unique voices but they're clearly all fitting round Arty's lead and the one ‘trendy’ piece and attempt at experimentation shows how good Arty is at perfection rather than anything else! 'Breakaway' may not have been intended as s concept LP - indeed almost certainly isn't given that the album uses the work of nine separate writers - but it 'feels' like one, with the stylistic unity that 'Angel Clare' only pretended to have.
Like all of Art’s earlier albums, an awful lot of care and attention went into Breakaway – as shown by the fact it was recorded in no less than eight separate recording studios across the US and in London (Garfunkel treating the album like a 'break away' and a holiday that would keep him away from home). The backing crew who worked on Breakaway are also an interesting mix of the usual and the intriguing. Passing through the album at various times are David Crosby and Graham Nash (Art returns the compliment by singing some astounding harmonies on Daylight Again, the title track of a 1982 CSN LP), Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, early Wings drummer Denny Seiwell, session muso extraordoinaire Nicky Hopkins making his flipping 50th-odd appearance on this site, regular Simon and Garfunkel pianist Larry Knechtel (his piano lick which opens the song Bridge Over Troubled Water is one of the most ear-catching Simon and Garfunkel hooks of all time), a pre-fame Andrew Gold on keyboards and guitar long before he first met 10cc's Graham Gouldmann in 'Wax' and Tenille without the Captain, adding some of her typically sky-high harmonies.
Then, of course, there's Paul Simon on what's actually the second Simon and Garfunkel reunion (seethe comedy moment 'The Breakup', taped in 1972) but was certainly the highest profile get together the pair had before their Central Park reunion gig. As chance would have it, the lives of the two men born just a few weeks apart were again mirror images of each other: Paul too was experiencing the end of his first all-too brief marriage and his third album 'Still Crazy After All These Years' released a few months after 'Breakaway' shares much of the same feeling of 'breaking away', of false optimism and things ending without really knowing why. The pair may have stopped being best buddies but they were never worst enemies (except for a small period circa 1983) and Paul was keenly interested in the direction Arty was taking on his solo records. Having proved that he could make a whole album on his own, Arty was keen to take music from all the writers he admired for 'Breakaway' and naturally considered Paul a writer he admired. He hung out with his old friend long enough to share songs and swap stories, commenting how much he really liked one early draft of the song that became 'My Little Town'. Paul replied 'then it's yours!', despite interviews given in 1975 that Paul had written the song 'deliberately' to give his partner something edgier to sing (in actual fact 'My Little Town' would have been a strong fit on 'Angel Clare', a record that shares the similar sense of irreversible fate and struggle). Originally Arty was due to sing the song alone, but admits that he realised early on that it made more commercial sense for the duo to sing it together (adding that he knew his friend well enough to know he'd only record his own version anyway when writer's block hit him again!) Paul ended up including the song on his album too; though it's a great and under-rated recording that makes perfect sense as the end of the Simon and Garfunkel 'arc' (recalling early days 'dreaming of glory' and of breaking away from a minor town to something bigger), it doesn't really fit on either and seems particularly out of place here, an island in the middle of 'perfection' (we review 'My Little Town' twice by the way, we're such gluttons for punishment!)
One final thought: that album cover, one of a series that will see Arty staring straight at the camera with a blank expression on his face and one of several involving him sitting round a table laid out for a meal. Compared to the neatness of the morning-after shot for 'Fate For Breakfast' however 'Breakawaway' is nothing less than the late night before, a wild-eyed Garfunkel ignoring his two pretty companions. Usually Garfunkel's sleevenotes are as meticulous as the albums themselves, going the extra mile to bring extra information (at least on vinyl - the CDs all sees to be threadbare for some reason...) but oddly neither of his companions are listed (nor is the owner of the hand reaching out to light one of the girl's cigarettes). Interestingly the glasses of wine are half empty/half full, while Arty's reflection is inscrutable - not quite enjoying the debauched scene before him, but not quite hating it either. In context with the large letters 'Breakaway' above him, the scene feels torn between 'breaking away' from drunken nights like these or breaking away from past perfectionism to enjoy nights like these.
So, then, 'Breakaway' is an album that manages to be both sophisticated and a bit looser and a bit less, well, gauche than Art’s other records. In a sense 'Breakaway' feels like it's breaking out of a rut, even though Arty hadn't released enough record to be in a rut yet (in fact in the years to come 'Breakaway' will become much more of a 'template' than 'Angel Clare' will) squarely pegging Garfunkel a sweet-toothed balladeer – not that there’s anything wrong with that when your voice happens to be as golden as Arty’s). Most of these songs are Garfunkel doing what he does best – ie singing great commercial, polished songs with a voice as perfect as voices get – but there’s a welcome edge to many of these songs as well, a jaggedness that really helps enhance semi-rockers like 99 Miles From LA and the beautifully bleak Simon and Garfunkel re-union song My Little Town, as well as make beautiful songs like 'I Believe' and 'Disney Girls' sound like some of the most perfect ballads it will ever be your privilege to hear. Arty has rarely sounded better on by far his most complete album of the century and while the title track is almost certainly referring to a 'break away' from everyday life in some far-flung exotic climate, 'Break away' also feels like it means the freedom and joy of an athlete in a game of Football/American Football/Rugby/Netball whose been staring at an impassable defence for most of the game and has finally worked their way round the opposition, breaking away from the pack.
I Believe is one of Art’s best loved and best known songs, summing up pretty much every factor of Garfunkel’s solo work. Heavy strumming on very 70s-sounding guitars, soaring strings, a bouncy tempo and upbeat, quiet reflective verses melting into a strident, passionate chorus outburst and a performance that manages to create a personal, intimate mood alongside the song’s obvious commercial charm and strong hook is surely a strong start to any album. So well-fitting to Art is this song that its easy to forget its actually a Stevie Wonder tune, with lyrics from Yvonne Wright. The highpoint of I Believe is the clever way the song is structured: a mournful opening verse expresses loneliness and regret and the chorus a deeply upbeat optimism, straddled by a bridge that really does sound as if the narrator is fighting his way against some obstacle to get towards the sunshine. Art rarely had this many opportunities to show off his range in the space of one song and this song deservedly became a rather popular radio hit, even if it failed badly in the UK as a pilot single for the album.
Rag Doll is more pretty balladry from the pens of Garfunkel’s usual writers Gallagher and Lyle, but this time the production values are kept to a minimum for what is rather a wistful reflection on a lost love. In contrast to the last track’s narrator – who wanted to shout out the news about his love from the rooftops – this song is muted and understated and the narrator is doing everything to hide his feelings from the outside world. Using the metaphor of a rag doll to express how much the narrator’s loved one needs looking after, it becomes clear very early on in the song that it’s the one talking to us who is the real fragile one, the person who would suffer more than most if his partner left him. In common with pretty much all the songs on Breakaway there is a string arrangement on this track, but its so quietly mixed you only really hear it over the song’s yearning bridge, leaving Knechtel’s sensitive keyboard work to do most of the talking.
Breakaway itself is another highpoint, an uptempo – or at least comparatively uptempo – song which features Art and guest stars Tennille, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Bruce Johnston as the perfect pop quintet. The song is suitably CSN-ish, considering the presence of so many harmony experts among this track’s guest stars, but even in such star-studded surroundings its Art’s silky smooth but still faintly gritty vocals that shine out most on this song. As for the tune, this is another of Breakaway’s series of contrasting songs, mixing another upbeat catchy chorus and a deeper more downbeat verse, telling us both how lonely and fed-up the narrator is and what he’s planning to do about it. The invitation to ‘break away’ in the chorus, with each of the naturally high-pitched singers reaching skywards in four-way formation, is so inviting you half want to pack up your bags and go with them. An odd synthesiser solo from Bill Payne does its best to ruin the mood (its presence is all the more puzzling given his sensitive and comparatively muted playing on the rest of the album) but the rest of the backing – featuring the solo Beatles regulars Klaus Voormann on bass and Jim Keltner on drums – is spot-on.
Disney Girls continues the theme of escape, but this time its nostalgia for the past. Bruce Johnston’s gorgeous song about his memories growing up in the 1940/50s sounds far more suitable to this album than the original ever did on The Beach Boys’ Surfs Up album (1971) - which was as ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ as the Beach Boys ever got - and Art is in particularly good voice once again. This gorgeous song, which gradually falls down the song’s scale as if turning back the pages of time, is always good to hear and its gentle warm memories of a utopian time that probably never existed is in safe hands with a singer as good as Art. However, the latest group of backing singers including the song’s author, Tennille (again!) and Jon Joyce can’t hope compete with the glorious block vocals of the original and even the whistling sounds somewhat falsely jolly by comparison. Taken on its own terms this is a lovely recording, full of cosy warm nostalgia about a glorious time that probably wasn’t as wonderful as its depicted here (there are even more nostalgic 1940/50s songs for a utopian earlier time than there were in the 70s, which makes you wonder whether people in the future will really believe that the early 21st century was a delightful place to be despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary!) However, compared to the landmark original, this is a pastiche at best.
Alas, not everything on this album is a rip-roaring success and the two side-closers on this album particularly leave a lot to be desired. Waters Of March is an early attempt at breaking Art’s ‘romantic singer’ image and unlike his later, generally pretty impressive attempts to use a rock idiom among the ballads (check out 1981’s Scissors Cut to hear this genre-bending at its best) it’s clear that Art doesn’t have his heart in this song. In fact this sub-rap number by Antonio Carlos Jobim is a sort of modernist, fragmented poem set to a tune with one note – a gift in the hands of a ‘character’ vocalist like Lee Hazelwood who make the most of their naturally limited range but a downright mockery in the light of Art’s great gift and the sheer span of the keys he can manage comfortably. Having said that, this flimsy effort for a song would still have been a poor excuse for a song in anyone’s hands, full of unrelated sentences stuck together in such a way that it seems to be deliberately mocking any attempt to find meaning in them. Hearing such nonsensical phrases delivered by Art in a monotonous, strangely BBC English voice suggests that this song is a ‘breakaway’ too far. The truly bizarre solo in the middle from Bill Payne again - which sounds like a doorbell played through a moog synthesiser, badly - is light years away from writer Jobim’s usually respectable talents The best you can say about this song is that it makes fake literary intellects like Ted Hughes sound as if they know what they are talking about.
What a waste of Garfunkel’s talents, especially given that all you have to do is turn the record over to hear a true ‘breaking image’ song at its very best. My Little Town, the second of four 1970s/early 80s Simon and Garfunkel reunions is both the most official (unlike the others, Paul included it on his contemporary LP Still Crazy After All These Years) and quite possibly the best. It was deliberately written by Paul to add some rough edges onto what he saw as his old partner’s balladeering reputation and – like the best partnerships – pushes Garfunkel into doing something completely different to his normal style without sacrificing his strengths. A dark, monochromatic stab of misery about the pointlessness of existing on the poverty line, this is Simon and Garfunkel with their normal sunshine and feel good factor turned way down low. The poor - in both senses of the word - narrator starts off life hopefully but sees his spirit gradually drain away after setback after setback and despite his early visions of a vast world full of opportunities, with God ever hovering on his shoulder to protect him when he falls, finds himself trapped in his narrow home town. (In case you were wondering here's a quick run down of the other Simon and Garfunkel reunions: For the record the Simon and Garfunkel re-unions, all included on solo Garfunkel records, are: the gorgeous melancholy ballad Mary Was An Only Child (Angel Clare, 1973), the sweet 50s cover What A Wonderful World (where the duo sing in counterpoint with each other and long-term friend James Taylor, Watermark 1978) and the off-the-wall but still quite moving song of past friendships In Cars (Scissors Cut, 1981). All of these mini-reunions are career highlights for Garfunkel, as he uses Paul not as a writer and director so much as a voice and guitar-player (in the light of his other talents, people forget what a great voice Paul Simon has). Garfunkel always had a good ear for harmony and under his direction the pairing turn in some of their best joint harmonies on these songs, showing how great a permanent Simon and Garfunkel union might have been had the two been able to patch up their differences more permanently between 1970 and 2004 (when the pair finally toured together again).
The song fits Breakaway sort of because it again echoes the themes of contrasts: when the narrator describes his small narrow world for us with great attention to detail (Paul Simon excels himself with the lyrics here) he does so in short, clipped sentences, with a dense smog of an accompaniment making life in the narrator’s town sound every bit as claustrophobic as he describes. At times though great swashes of colour break through into the song, whenever the narrator remembers the talent he is not allowed to have and dreams of the opportunities he might have to shine in the future. In one of his best couplets Paul Simon reminds us all of our own potential: ‘There’s a rainbow, but all of the colours are black, its not that the colours aren’t there, its just imagination they lack”. Taken on its own the rest of this song could have been a great but deeply depressing number – with that lingering middle section hovering in our ears we suddenly experience a wash of hope and a dash of colour and the impact is all the more powerful because it comes when we have already resigned ourselves to the fact that the narrator is without hope of getting anywhere in his small narrow world. Interestingly the stark bleakness of the horns – making the track sound like a close cousin to Bridge Over Troubled Water’s Keep The Customer Satisfied but much tighter and much better arranged – suits Art’s voice much more than it does Paul’s. Despite being far closer in style to a Paul Simon solo song than a Garfunkel one, this track also fits the mood of quiet desperation on Breakaway far more than it does the jazzy cul-de-sac of Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years on which it also appears and rather interrupts the flow. If only Simon and Garfunkel had stayed together for just a few years longer a whole album of songs like this one and the others the pair did in the 70s would have been on this list straight away. Goodness knows both men have enough talent on their own and the fact that both men’s solo records are on this list is surely a case in point that they didn’t need each other to make good music—but hearing Paul’s stark writing bringing out the best in Arty’s vocals and Garfunkel’s velvety lead perfectly tight-rope walking between sadness and promise in such a way that Simon couldn’t have managed on his own and you realise just how great this partnership could be at times.
I Only Have Eyes For You is the album’s other best-known song, but while My Little Town was all but ignored by the critics surprisingly, this cover song brought in a very mixed bag of critical plaudits indeed. This slow-burning jazzy arrangement of a famous uptempo Ink Spots hit still divides opinion today among fans and the general public. Even at the time it enjoyed something of a love-hate relationship with record-buyers; even by continents – this song failed to make the charts completely in America while giving Art the first of his two #1 hits in the UK. In the blue corner are those who think this song is a woefully boring and rather slow disaster that completely fails to capture the bouncy joy of the original. Yet in the red corner there are others who love this song’s quietly romantic mood, enjoying the slow warm build-up and the soothing backing track (which wasn’t in-your-face like so many other chart songs of 1974-75) and who think – by contrast – that the Ink Spots original sounds like a soul-less joke, missing the whole intimate and romantic tone of the song. As ever, the truth is somewhere in the middle. On the plus side, Art is in gorgeous voice on this track, surely melting the hearts of many of the female part of his audience with his silky smooth and yet somehow fragile and sensitive voice and parts of the arrangement – such as the funky piano lick that suddenly kicks in on the third verse for a bit of variation – is a delight. Yet the song is arguably just a little bit too long, a teensy bit too treacly and an itty bit too slow to be the classic it tries so hard to be. The result is a bit of a mixed blessing - part of you cringes when the song comes up on your CD player, the other half sighs at the beauty of it all. Whether you only have ears for this song or want to throw the record out in disgust is ultimately up to you. (The single of this track makes a good Frisbee so I’ve heard from critics of this song, but I don’t advise you to try it as its becoming something of a rarity these days, quite possibly because so many people who bought it really did use it as Frisbees).
Looking For The Right One features another one of Art’s better vocals, finding Art alone and vulnerable, while like many tracks on this album still trying to be optimistic and hopeful of better luck in the future. Art taps into the song’s hidden melancholy well, though, making this more of a sob-story than earlier tracks on this theme. Like the closing song it is written by Stephen Bishop, a now-largely forgotten 70s songwriter who was The Hollies’ Allan Clarke’s occasional writing partner shortly after the Breakaway album and in truth it sounds more like one of their songs together than an Art Garfunkel classic. Even the string arrangement, ever-present throughout this record, is more muted than elsewhere, with John Jarvis’ piano hook providing the only real dash of colour that this sparse song desperately needs.
99 Miles From LA might well be the second best song on the album after My Little Town; an edgy, slightly nervous song about a narrator hoping his love will still be waiting for him when he gets home after a long time away and that he won’t be coming home to an empty house. Most of the song follows a simple ballad structure, with Art singing to picked acoustic guitars from Louie Shelton and Lee Ritenaur, but the song features several sudden ‘swells’ of overwhelming emotion that just as suddenly disappear again, as if the narrator is trying to maintain his cool exterior but can’t help thinking of all his fears and doubts flying round in his head. There is some very clever wordplay in this song, as the narrator recognises several old signposts from his past (sometimes literally) and offers some clever humorous touches such as ‘with my foot on the ground, I’m flying’ which perfectly sums up the narrator’s racing pulse as he steps off the plane and is that bit nearer to seeing his girl for the first time in what seems like ages. The
brothers, who wrote the song, also very cleverly use the metaphor of the narrator being just as apart from his loved one emotionally as he is geographically, suggesting that despite the optimism of it all the narrator’s problems will still be there, whether he is next door to his missus or 99 miles away. This song’s slightly sinister edge is also enhanced by some terrific string arrangements, which seemingly stick the knife into the narrator’s desperation and hopelessness no matter how many he comes up gasping for romantic air and tries to turn the song into the simple romantic ballad it starts out as. In short, this is a forgotten classic track, letting Art soar into the distance like he does best while turning in often unexpected directions to catchy the listener out. Hammond
Unfortunately, like many an album on this list it seems, Breakaway then closes out on a rather dreary, lacklustre note with The Same Old Tears On A New Background. From the title alone you know where this song is going and the track doesn’t even begin to compare with writer Stephen Bishop’s other song on the album. Although superficially similar in feel and sound, this song lacks Looking For The Right One’s weighty emotional punch and although the lyrics are equally strong, the meandering melody struggles to convey its narrator’s true feelings. A pulsating middle section, with Art finally singing in full throttle, is much better if woefully brief, as the narrator realises he is back in the same old trap he promised himself he would never fall into again. A soothing ‘its alright’ end section cools Art’s ardour and for a fleeting moment seems to be coming back to this album’s optimism-after-a-disaster motto, but like the fading feelings between the couple this song never really catches fire.
The odd lapse in judgement aside, however, Breakaway is still a pretty impressive and consistent LP, which is more than a match with other period albums featuring love-lorn songs and string arrangements (and plenty that don’t, come to that). The odd attempt at new ideas are largely successful, the return of Art’s usual romantic style seems like the return of an old friend and Garfunkel is also in perfect voice throughout – but then, when have we ever heard him in anything less?