Art Garfunkel wrestles with musical future as he releases two-CD song collection

Source: Canadian Press
Published: August 26, 2012
Author: Victoria Ahearn

As he reflects on the past with a new collection of mostly older tunes, legendary pop-folk singer-songwriter Art Garfunkel is also wrestling with his musical future.

The harmonizing master of Simon & Garfunkel and solo-artist fame, who releases the two-CD retrospective collection "The Singer" on Tuesday, has battled vocal cord paresis for about two years now and took a break from performing live until recently.

And though the six-time Grammy Award winner says he's "95 per cent" healed, he's unsure of what will happen with his music career.

"I was nervous in Williamstown, (Mass.,) was it three nights ago or four nights ago, the first show in quite a while," Garfunkel said in a recent telephone interview from Northern Greece, one of several stops on his ongoing, years-long "walk across Europe."

"But it's all going to be OK, I feel it in the bones. I will corral this experience and triumph."

The recovery of the 70-year-old's beloved dulcet tones aren't his only obstacle to entering the studio and recording a full-length album of new tunes, though.

"I don't know what comes next," said the New York native, who is also a Golden Globe-nominated actor and a poet. "For me, as a singer, I'm only now just last week getting back onstage and trusting that I can sing again. So beyond stage comes recording. Recording is skittish for people like me. How do you get paid? How do you track it? There's no charts anymore. How do you know if people like it? What's the form? Radio is dead.

"So I am nervous about going into the recording studio. What if I get passionately involved in making what I call a masterpiece and the world receives it as: 'We have no room for masterpiece, the concept is dead'?"

Garfunkel also longs for the days of analogue and pre-piracy.

"I must say the whole idea of recording in the studio, which was the fun of crafting it and singing in private and being shy but being a perfectionist, it ruled my life until the age of digital. And when I saw 'The Social Network,' that movie, I had to leave the theatre because it's all about theft, Napster," he said.

"If somebody does something and somebody else likes it, just take it, nevermind the copyright, it's all owned by the people. This is terrible for people like us who love the old days of vinyl, where you made a thing with a beginning, a middle and an end."

With "The Singer," Garfunkel went great pains to make sure each song would flow perfectly into the next, and he's hoping fans will listen to the tunes in sequence.

The 34-song collection, which he put together himself, includes his solo work as well as tracks from his Simon & Garfunkel years. The project also has two new songs — "Lena" and "Long Way Home" — as well as his personal notes on each tune.

Garfunkel said "it was a delight" choosing the titles, which include "The Sound Of Silence," "I Only Have Eyes For You," "Scarborough Fair/Canticle," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (from the heralded 1970 album that led to his first breakup with onetime musical partner Paul Simon).

Through the song-selection process, "I gained a certain self-respect like I have never known for myself," he noted.

"Self-respect, man. I really got a kick out of some of my performances. I did my job good. I don't listen to past work often. When I'm making it, I play 'em hundreds of times, stroking the record and finessing the mix. When it's over, it's gone for years."

Jazz-pop musician Maia Sharp, who's worked with Garfunkel before, produced the two new songs on the album. She also wrote "Long Way Home" while her father, Randy Sharp, wrote "Lena," which features Dean Parks on guitar.

"You've got to play this ... because Dean Parks on electric guitar, with his fuzz and distorted insanity that grows in the fade, is really a master's touch," said Garfunkel, who has occasionally reunited with Simon over the years.

Of the established tunes, Garfunkel is particularly proud of his singing on "Kathy's Song," a live recording from the Old Friends tour he and Simon did in 2004. Originally recorded for their 1966 hit album "Sounds of Silence," the track features Simon on guitar and Garfunkel singing.

"His nuancy guitar support and the loving, caressing guitar work that Paul Simon does on a Martin acoustic guitar just kills me and it makes me sing lovely," said Garfunkel.

"I ride that guitar like a jockey on a horse that is having a fabulous little spring."