Angle Clare by Garfunkel
After the "divorce" of Simon & Garfunkel in 1970, Art Garfunkel emerged as a singer/not-songwriter on his own and in 1973 made his solo debut with Angel Clare — billed only as Garfunkel. His billing might seem insignificant, but its fitting for this first release by the angelic tenor. Simon drifted into uncharted sonic territory on his post-break up debut Paul Simon. But, Art Garfunkel, makes a "Paul Simon-less" Simon & Garfunkel album on Angel Clare. It is basically a continuation of Bridge Over Troubled Water, with grandiose, orchestral instrumentation, pensive inspections of subjects like, life, love and death, the same producer, Roy Hallee and large, Large, LARGE vocals by Garfunkel. And even Paul Simon makes an essentially anonymous appearance on Charlie Monroe's "Down In The Willow Garden," casually offering some guitar and backing vocals.
But you don't notice Paul Simon on "Down In The Willow Green" and you don't miss Paul Simon on the whole of Angel Clare. And that's because Garfunkel, who has hardly ever attempted to write his own music, has utilized the repertoire of some absolutely amazing songwriters like Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman, Van Morrison and Paul Williams. And though Angel Clare feels easy on the ears, it doesn't feel like easy-listening nor is it saccharine with some gutsy playing by the likes of Jerry Garcia, JJ Cale, and Larry Knechtel (who was the piano player on Bridge and subsequent tours.)
Angel Clare makes a good case for the merits of Art Garfunkel. Because it's sure hard to find them outside of his vocal. What exactly does he bring to the table? He's hardly ever attempted to write a song or record an instrument (there are apparently reports that he knows how to play guitar — but, no recorded examples of that.) But, at the end of the day, he serves a wonderful purpose with his "wonderful gift of a voice" (to quote Mr. Garfunkel directly.) He brings songs to life. If he was enjoyable as part of a Paul Simon song, he should be enjoyable as part of a Jimmy Webb song. And he is on both of Webb's compositions, including the album's hit single, "All I Know." And though critics hated his interpretation of Randy Newman's "Old Man," Newman loved it himself and so did I. It's so sensitive and beautiful — as is the album's best song, the opening track by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, "Traveling Boy."
Yep, Garfunkel could sure sing still without Paul Simon. He depended on songwriters and sometimes songwriters, who were less gifted singers, depended on him. And so there is an implicit blank space before Garfunkel's name on the album and that's the headspace I prefer to be in to enjoy this recording. Angel Clare is an album by Newman & Garfunkel, Webb & Garfunkel, Morrison & Garfunkel, Bach & Garfunkel, etc. He sings "I shall Sing," on the track of the same name, and you feel grateful that he continues to on Angel Clare. Great record.