Saturday, December 14, 2019

Troubled Waters

One of my Top 20 LPs is Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends, with classics like "The Zoo" and "Mrs. Robinson," but more specifically, the beautiful title track, Old Friends and one of the most poignant and beautiful songs ever released, "America."

The duo would follow up with Bridge Over Troubled Water, their 5th and final LP. Simon would continue writing and performing, and Garfunkel would pursue his film career before releasing his solo LPs. 1970 was a contentious year for the duo and despite the incredible success of their final LP, with the No. 1 title smash, the recording of the LP was laborious, particularly the production of "The Boxer." The pair, because of the lengthy recorded process, declined to perform at Woodstock. With production of The Boxer lasting more than 100 studio hours (unheard of), there was just no time.

The initial recording session for "The Boxer" was at Columbia Recording Studios in New York. Based on other obligations, including Art Garfunkel's role in Mike Nichol's Catch 22, the 2nd session was delayed and then recorded at Columbia in Nashville. Back to NYC for the third and final section, for which the horns were recorded at St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University, then back to the studio for the strings. Hal Blaine's echo chamber reverb effect for the drums was recorded in a hallway with a tiled floor. "There we were with all these mic cables, my drums, and a set of headphones," said Blaine. "When the chorus came around — the 'lie-la-lie' bit — Roy had me come down on my snare drum as hard as I could. In that hallway, right next to this open elevator shaft, it sounded like a cannon shot! Which was just the kind of sound we were after." The incredible guitar is by Nashville's Fred Carter Jr. Of the session, Carter said, "Paul and I sat down to cut the basic track, and suddenly I’m surrounded by seven or eight different microphones — in front, behind . . . he even mic'ed my breathing!"

Like Bookends, the album's recording was quite experimental, including the use of 16 tracks (actually, two 8 track recording units) and while it proved a monster success, by the time Bridge was complete on January 26, 1970, so was the career of the duo. Bridge Over Troubled Water would go on to become Simon and Garfunkel's greatest success, scoring a sea of Grammys and topping album surveys worldwide (in the U.K. it charted for more than 300 weeks total, 41 of them at number one).

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