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Art Garfunkel “Everything Waits To Be Noticed” (2002)
Bounce/The Thread/The Kid/Crossing Lines/Everything Waits To Be Noticed/Young and Free/Perfect Moment/Turn, Don’t Turn Away/Wishbone/ How Did You Know?/What I Love About Rain/Every Now and Then/Another Only One
‘Bounce’ isn’t the most auspicious place to start the album, being one of the slightly poppier, louder songs we’ve just been talking about. There’s nothing wrong with the lyrics though, which are very similar to the Jerry Garcia spin-off Dead song ‘The Wheel’ (its on his first album ‘Garcia’), about how our destiny rolls around like a wheel, taking us to great heights and horrifying lows seemingly on a whim. The main difference is that Garcia (and lyricist Bob Hunter) see this directionlessness as being deliberate, a chance to learn all life’s lessons from all angles before we die. On ‘Bounce’ the direction is simply random because that’s what life ‘is’ – there is no one looking over our shoulder to pull our strings for us. On many songs that would be a negative thing but this song is ‘up’, with Art’s narrator deciding that this means we all have the chance to control our lives and that, even if we are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea on occasion, we also have the chance to put things right. There’s also a memorable chorus line about how each of us have ‘diamonds’ for our hearts and want to help each other and that its only because the world we live in is ‘dark’ and spends so long developing our ‘negative’ side that we forget all of this. There’s even a sort of half-reply to Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds Of Silence’ in the idea that man is left solitary and afraid to communicate because of the ‘darkness’ of the world, where the only ‘articulation’ we feel is in the heart and something so hard to put into words. The most intriguing lyric, though comes at the end when something nasty happens out of the blue to change our life around for the worse and the narrator is left sadly asking after something terrible has happened whether he is wrong and really he’s the only person with a ‘diamond in the darker side of me’. That’s a great idea for a song – alas there’s nothing in the music that comes close to matching the words and for the most part this is just a generic pop song without the developments or new understandings learnt by the end of the song coming through (an eerie, slower coda for that last verse would have worked a treat). The three voices of Art, Billy and Maia also sound less unified here than they do across the rest of the album (was this an early track recorded, perhaps, before singing with each other became second nature to them all?) A frustrated opportunity alas, but read the song as a poem rather than a song and you won’t be disappointed. Interestingly the song was written not by the usual album writers but by Garfunkel’s faithful songwriter Graham Lyle (albeit working with Billy Mann rather than Gallagher).
‘The Thread’ is much better, with a very CSN like feel in the eerie way the three voices overlap and thread around each other, sounding like one voice shaded in different colours rather than three separate voices working against each other. The song is better too, with the clever cod-Spanish arrangement this time the match of the lyrics (which started as a Garfunkel poem). There’s another neat nod to past successes, with the narrator around the corner from the 59th Street Bridge (where in Simon and Garfunkel’s day he was ‘Feelin’ groovy’) now an older and wiser man remembering past loves as he walks down 53rd Street. The theme of the song returns to the idea of destiny and the idea that there are people who are destined to be in our lives, however well we get on with them. The narrator meets his soul-mate while looking for directions (a good metaphor for his life), but so strong is the ‘pull’ between the two people it’s the ‘future’ they’re looking out at, not the maze of buildings they see in the present. The relationship goes wrong (the scene shifting to ‘seven years later and two blocks south’ in a classic line and the loved one goes off in a car, a ‘scar’ down her cheek. I’m willing to bet my Simon and Garfunkel CD collection that there’s at least a little of Laurie Bird in this song (New York is where Arty lived both at the time of her death and at the time this album came out and he couldn’t help but be reminded of his lost loved one as he went about his daily business). If it’s Art’s emotions at the centre of this song, though, that doesn’t mean the ‘other’ two shouldn’t take a bow: Sharp is particularly, well, sharp in this one, turning in a sumptuous vocal dripping in nostalgia and regret. There’s a lovely understated tune here too that might not grab you on first listening but will reverberate around your head the more you get to know the album (everything waits to be noticed, remember), like a slowed down version of ‘I Am A Rock’.
‘The Kid’ goes one better, however, being my favourite song on the album. A slightly older song than most of the album, it was written by Mondlock before the project started and is a simply gorgeous song about ‘the kid’ of the title dreaming and drifting his way through life. In the first verse he’s ‘run away’ to join the circus and even the mundane reality of washing elephants can’t stop his imagination picturing himself up on the high wire. The second verse has ‘the kid’ stuck inside on a school day sitting a boring geography exam and staring out of the window dreaming ‘beyond just the school yard’ and experiencing the places mentioned on his test, not just reading about them from books. It’s the third verse, though, that makes the song and might well be why Garfunkel, with Laurie still very much on his mind, picked up on the song: ‘I’m the kid who thought we’d always be lovers, always held out that time would tell’ before adding in a moment of honesty that he got the timing wrong and that ‘time was talking, but I just wasn’t listening – no surprise if you know me well’. The kid who spent his whole life dreaming of the future missed how great the present could be and now bitterly regrets it, a moment that really resonates on this track with the quiet, sighing melody and its slow shrug of the shoulders. A fine final verse then ties up all the loose endings, admitting that dreaming so hard has often caused him trouble but acknowledging, in a moment of sheer poetry ‘I could no more stop dreaming than I could make them all come true’. Art’s vocal on this track is magnificent, all wide –eyed innocence turning into bitterly felt regret, but you sense that Mondlock’s song could be done by the Spice Girls and they still couldn’t ruin it. Tuneful, lyrical, heartfelt, honest and intelligent, ‘The Kid’ is everything music is at its best and is one of my favourite songs in my whole collection, perfectly written and perfectly performed. Why this song didn’t become a major hit, even in the empty pop charts of 2002, I shall never know.
Anything would risk falling flat on its face after ‘The Kid’ and alas ‘Crossing Lines’ is far from the best song on the album. It’s a song much more in keeping with the mid-tempo songs Art favoured on most of his 1970s and 80s records, not fast enough to really rock and not slow enough to bring out the beauty in his voice. It’s a song by Maia Sharp among others, but surprisingly her vocal takes a back seat to Art’s and Buddy’s on this song that extends the metaphor of ‘The Thread’ by having a whole song about the narrator and his loved one ‘lost’ in a car and that being a metaphor for their relationship. There’s a sweet little tune in here, again like much of the album it might not stand out on first listening but does on repeated plays, but the lyrics are rather corny compared to the rest of the album and the final verse, where the line ‘We think we’re lost, but just out of reach is a handful of maps folded underneath your seat’, seems like a pretty hurried resolution on an album that’s all about ‘patience’.
The title track of the album is another gem, however, so softly spoken it almost isn’t there, with the same acoustic strumming that appears on all of Arty’s best songs (from ‘Mary Was An Only Child’ to ’99 Miles From L.A.’ The theme of the song is simple, celebrating all those moments in life that cause the major developments in your present and future without appearing that way at the time. Despite becoming something of a ‘shopping list’ the song is very clever in its structure with no chorus except the one repeated line but two middle eights for variety, one talking of regret on ‘the whispering pains that say you’re living’ (the key line of the album as mentioned above) and another looking to the future and ‘longing for brighter days’. Along the way we get such disparate things waiting to be noticed as ‘the missing line in a telegram’ ‘the middle child’ and ‘the full potential of a love affair’, three very different ideas that could all have been turned into songs in their own right. The song is slow, courageously slow in fact, but that simply gives the song the space for the three voices to properly take flight for the first time. It’s particularly lovely to hear Art singing in the lower part of his register, something he doesn’t do very often due to his glorious falsetto and its particularly lovely here. The only song credited to all three main musicians on this album (Art, Buddy and Maia), it’s fitting that this is the song that best shows off their lovely three-part harmony.
‘Young and Free’ is another good song by songwriter Richard Julian that’s sung mainly by Garfunkel, appearing to relish a song about love making you feel ‘young and free’ whatever your age. Whether deliberate or accidental there’s more than a similarity here to ‘Think Too Much’, a Paul Simon song that ended up on ‘Hearts and Bones’ but was originally recorded as part of an aborted Simon and Garfunkel reunion album. In 1983 Paul reluctantly admitted the flaw in his character that he ‘thought too much’ and actually recorded and released the song twice (once as a comedy, once as a tragedy). Art treats the idea as comedy, laughing his way through the line ‘Think too much – keeps you old and grey and out of touch!’ The chorus of the song is clever, with a great hook, but alas the song doesn’t really get going until the last verse which finds the narrator immobile and passed out on his bed (the breezy way the singers play it here it sounds as if he’s passed out from drinking and having a good time, with the song a hymn to gloriously wasted days of youth, but you could also read it as an old man on his deathbed, regretting the fact that he worked too hard and didn’t ‘waste’ more days having fun; the fact that the title line sung so often throughout the song is replaced by ‘Autumn Days’ suggests this too). Sweet, but not up to the high standard of the album.
‘The Perfect Moment’ – another Garfunkel poem set to music by Mundlock and collaborator Pierce Pettis – is the other drop dead gorgeous song on the album and another I’d be willing to my Art Garfunkel collection is at least partly about Laurie. The song unfolds slowly like a cinema film pulling back from ‘the perfect moment’ to tell a full story – which is rather fitting as the narrator meets his soulmate in a queue for the cinema. The song was, in fact, inspired by something Laurie said to Garfunkel after they fell in love, that she had actually met him as a ‘star’ before the ‘first time’ they fell in love (a situation moved to a cinema queue here). Sensing trust and kindness in her eyes, the narrator gets up the courage to ‘meet’ her properly ‘the first time’ when they pass each other again, with both meetings a ‘perfect moment’ that changes both of their lives. Alas by the third verse the pair are separated, with the narrator admitting that ‘I wasn’t ready for the last time’ – and if you know the story of Laurie Bird its hard not to see this sudden unexpected and decidedly final separation (where the narrator is ‘supposed to let you go into the blue’ but finds ‘I’m still holding you’) as being about suicide. Art’s dreamy slow vocal on this song makes it clear how much the song means to him, although the others back him up admirably (especially Maia’s higher harmony part), their three voices seemingly giving comfort in the darkness. Mondlock’s melody is lovely too, one of those real McCartneyesque tunes that sound so obvious and simple they should have been around for millennia and, more importantly, it’s the perfect match for the thoughtful, melancholic lyrics. When a song this powerful is performed this well it’s powerful indeed and anyone whose ever lost a loved one will be sobbing by the last verse, such is the power of the mood and the perfection of the writing and performance, a perfect moment on a pretty good record.
‘Turn Don’t Turn Away’ undoes much of the good work, though, sadly, being a noisier less graceful song by Garfunkel and Mondlock in collaboration with Billy Mann (who co-wrote the opening song on the album). If this song was another Garfunkel poem turned into a song then its noticeably poppier and more song-orientated than the others, even if it fits the idea of memories and nostalgia on the album, with everything the narrator sees reminding him of happier times. Another song about a break-up, the narrator tries hard to have ‘patience’ and remember that under pressure ‘diamonds used to be coal’ (a line David Crosby used back in 1989 on ‘Arrows’, incidentally), but there’s none of the hooks or the majesty of the other songs on the album to elevate this song above the ordinary. Mondlock’s lead vocal doesn’t have the weight of the three leads of the other songs here, although there is a clever passage when Garfunkel starts singing alongside him at the last place you’d expect (the second line of the second verse, ‘Like waters runs over stone’). The electric guitar part, though subtle, also sounds like an intrusion after seven straight songs without anything electric. The worst part though, is the final verse seemingly whispered by Mondlock down a megaphone, which is surely taking the understated-becoming-loud theme a little too far. Too be fair, though, just when you think the trio are at last about to under-deliver on the album and release a horrible song they suddenly plunge into a glorious a capella chorus, which finds all singers in full flight, which comes close to singlehandedly rescuing the song. Still, in the context of the other gems on the album, it’s rather anonymous.
‘Wishbone’ is lead by Maia Sharp despite the fact that she’s the only one of the three not to write the song (which is another Garfunkel/Mondlock/Mann composition). This is another song of lost opportunities, with the narrator clutching their ‘wishbone’ from the Sunday roast but unable to communicate their wishes out loud. Time then rushes forward a couple of decades with the narrator in a new life but still thinking of the ‘old’ one that might have been, glancing at her watch on the day she knows is ‘his’ birthday and realising with a shock that by now ‘he’d be 45. There’s what might be a reference to the Hollies classic ‘Air That I Breathe’ in the last line (when will Arty do a version of that, it would be great!) sung from the opposite perspective – that ‘the air you breathe was everything’ and how could I ever have let you go? Encouraging the listener to ‘hold the ones they love like there’s no tomorrow’ this is another ‘grower’ that becomes much more melodic and lyrical the more you listen to it as, like the narrator in the song, it waits to be noticed. Despite the sad theme there’s a lovely earnest, almost bouncy melody to this track that means you can even forgive the clichéd saxophone solo in the middle and while it’s not up to the two magnificent highlights of the record there’s still enough theme, tune, emotion and intelligence to make this song a cut above the average.
‘How Did You Know?’ is a more straightforwardly commercial song than most on the album that seems to return to the idea of ‘A Perfect Moment’ and ‘The Thread’. The narrator asks in wonderment how his loved one could possibly have worked out that he was ‘the one’, introduced by friends ‘through the dim light of insight’, both of them knowing that their ‘threads’ were destined to twine round each other for years to come. So far this is all pretty straightforward, especially given that the song is accompanied by one of the simpler melodies on the album, with less chord changes than most songs on the record, but the first verse is puzzling. The couple are walking through a busy train station and get separated in the rush – a useful metaphor for going separate ways you’d think, but instead ‘you vanish with a smile – you knew that I would be a while’. Hmm, odd, especially given that this scenario is never referred to again throughout the rest of the song. A decent production and a strong vocal arrangement goes some way to rescuing the song, especially Maia’s lead vocal (she cow-rote the song with Art and Billy Mann) and the astonishing, complex atonal harmonies on the word ‘understood’ in the second to last verse. It’s the very final verse, though, reduced to three short lines that should have made up the full song, featuring the excellent lines that ‘We were just staggering the rhyme, love is timing without time, and yours had faith in mine’. A song about the magic of blind faith, perhaps it’s fitting that the listener has to take so much ‘blind faith’ on a song that appears so simple on the surface and yet doesn’t quite connect all the dots when you study it closely. A bit of work could have made it another stellar contribution to the album – alas it simply sounds a bit muddled here.
‘What I Love About Rain’ is another of the album’s aching ballads that Garfunkel was born to sing by songwriters Aschmann and Kimmel, although again the sentiments sound rather more muddled the more you analyse what sounds at first like a very simple song. ‘I love the rain...it’s way of turning blue to green...and that’s what I love about you’ is far from the most romantic line ever written, but it looks like the rain here is the old AAA standby metaphor of rain washing the past away and suggesting re-birth and baptism (see a whole host of albums from The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ on down). It’s the excitement the narrator feels when he’s with the person he loves that’s special, the feeling that things can be different and be put right by someone special, love giving the narrator the ability to see life in a completely new way. Despite a decent tune this song doesn’t really take off like the self-written songs on this album do and the vocal arrangement is more muddled here than it is elsewhere on the album, with a faintly irritating mandolin accompaniment getting in the way.
‘Every Now and Then’ is much better, another song on the theme of wondering about past loves and past lives and how the present might have been different if the past had turned out ever so slightly different. This Brooks/Mondlock song has no input from Garfunkel this time around but its easy to see why the song appealed to him: the lines about being happy in the present and that he’d ‘never trade’ between his two lives but that it will never stop him being curious about how his life with another might have worked out is clearly apt. As in so many other songs on this album memory is key, but this time the narrator seeing things that remind him of his lost loved one inspired wistful regret rather than aching sadness, with a particularly moving chorus that tells us that in the present ‘she is real – but you were too, and every once in a while I think about you’. Like much of the album, life travels not in straight lines but in curves and its a natural human re-action to wonder who your life might have been had you stayed with certain people and let others slip out of your hands. Art sings the song brilliantly again, louder in the mix and more confident than in many places on the album, although as ever it’s the three-part harmony of Art, Buddy and Maia on the chorus that adds the icing on the cake, turning the song into a proper spiritual balm. The third of the album’s highlights, dripping with emotion but in a quieter, more understated way that suits the mood of the album.
‘Another Only One’ tries to go against the grain of the album, being somewhat of a ‘torch’ song, complete with strings and a rather more OTT vocal than normal (that’s in comparison to the rest of the album anyway – on pretty much any other Art Garfunkel record it would be the muted track on the album!) The song is another ‘outside’ track, although the presence of a Christopher Sharp in the writing credits does make me wonder whether it might be a relation of Maia’s (the internet isn’t very helpful, sadly, although Maia sings lead for the most part here) and like the other ‘outside’ songs its not up to the originals on the album. It’s not bad though and has a killer middle eight with a key change at just the right part to give the song a much-needed ‘push’. It also fits the mood of the album of a ‘thread’ running through life, although this time around that’s a sad thing because once the person you loved is out of your life forever there’s no other ‘only one’ to replace them with. Interestingly the narrator rejects the advice of ‘giving it time’, which seems to be what the rest of the record’s been suggesting for the past hour (‘everything waits to be noticed’ after all), so sure is she in her loss that there is no ‘another only one’ to come in her life; she had one soul-mate and that was it. A sweet tune and a fair lyric combine to make a memorable song, but this piece doesn’t have the majesty of some of the others on this album and seems an odd choice to close the album (the title track would have made a far more fitting choice).
Still there’s no one track on ‘Everything Waits To Be Noticed’ that’s truly terrible and there’s much to love, from the slow understated acoustic sound to the way the themes of the ‘thread’ of life and wondering about lost loves criss-cross their way through so much of the album’s lyrics. At least three of the songs on this album deserve to be heralded as classics, by far and away the best things Arty put his name to since his Simon and Garfunkel days (and I say that as a fan of his solo work which, although patchy, usually has two or three gems per album). There’s just something so unique about this album’s sound and gravitas that makes it really special and it’s an awful shame that, to date, all three singer-songwriters who did so much to make the album come alive have gone their separate ways – none of them all that successfully it has to be said. This album deserved better, but then as the album keeps reminding us throughout ‘everything waits to be noticed’ and this album might well yet have it’s day. Let’s hope a re-issue sometime in the future (perhaps with Buddy and Maia’s solo versions of their songs for the album) will help get it a new lease of life. Certainly I regret not noticing it earlier in my record collection, but then this was never meant to be an album you were meant to fall in love with straight away – it’s a subtle, graceful, intelligent album that gradually seduces you rather than changes you life in a single note. I’m glad I finally noticed this album because its rewarded me so much during the past couple of months with its lovely yearning melodies, its thoughtful lyrics and its often beautiful performances. I only hope that this lovely, impressive album will be noticed by a few more people who may well end up loving it as much as me.