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Angel Clare
Art Garfunkel

Columbia CK 31474
Released: September 1973
Chart Peak: #5
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Gold: 10/24/73

Art GarfunkelArthur Garfunkel's return to recording, a project that took some 18 months to complete, is one of the most lushly produced pop albums ever made. To the sweeter sound of the Simon and Garfunkel recorded canon a vast array of orchestral resources and the latest tricks in sound technology have been applied, the goal being to achieve a monumental Romanticism. That goal is achieved, but not without aesthetic sacrifices.

The production (by Garfunkel and Roy Halee) accentuates both the virtues and the limitations of Garfunkel's singing. The virtues are its choirboy loveliness and capacity to evoke an inspirational purity. The limitations are interpretative. Garfunkel employs too uniform an approach to too wide a range of material. He wants to make everything pretty, and he invariably succeeds, though in doing so he sometimes obscures the character of the material.

Art Garfunkel - Angel Clare
Original album advertising art.
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The two best cuts on the album are pop ballads with strong melodies and ultraromantic lyrics. "Traveling Boy," by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, a whoppingly sentimental I-must-go-for-the-road-calls-me number, is simply gorgeous. Even finer is the single, Jimmy Webb's "All I Know," a beautiful expression of the desire for a romantic passion to last forever. Produced with full orchestration and heavy vocal effects, both songs achieve the status of fantasy-artifacts, reminiscent in the accumulation of sound toward near-operatic climax of the earliest hits of Mario Lanza, to say nothing of the unique sound of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The third outstanding cut is a previously unrecorded Van Morrison song, "I Shall Sing," whose throbbing Caribbean arrangement is the album's most imaginative.

The rest of Angel Clare is more sweet than inspirational. Charlie Monroe's "Down in the Willow Garden," the bizarre story of a young man who poisons and stabs his girlfriend, is given a Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme treatment that renders it as flat as a pancake. The traditional "Barbara Allen" is so smothered in strings and such that the lyrics are almost unintelligible. "Feuilles-Oh/Do Space Men Pass Dead Souls on Their Way to the Moon" skillfully attaches to a Haitian folk song a Bach melody with lyrics by Art's wife, Linda Grossman. Here Garfunkel's sulken vocal and the lush production effect a synthesis that, though neither Haitian nor baroque, is lovely nonetheless. The same goes for Milchberg-Hammond-Hazlewood's "Mary Was an Only Child." Finally, we have Osibisa's "Woyaya," which with its children's chorus sounds like a spin-off from the Carpenters' "Sing"; another Jimmy Webb song, this one mediocre, called "Another Lullaby," and Randy Newman's "Old Man."




Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
Watermark

Album Review:
Simon & Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Water

Album Review:
Simon & Garfunkel
Greatest Hits

Single Review:
"Bridge Over Troubled Water"

Art Garfunkel Lyrics

Art Garfunkel Videos

Art Garfunkel Mugshots

The treatment given to the Newman song emphasizes the chief trouble with the album. Backed by saccharine violins, Garfunkel tries to turn this ironic little masterpiece of absurdity and fatalism into a sentimental eulogy. Here, and in the Monroe song, Garfunkel and Halee demonstrate most acutely their tendency to ride herd over any and all material in the interests of aural beauty. Where a song is congenial to this end, the result is an opulent, if somewhat overcalculated, success. Where it is not, the result is prettiness for its own sake -- which is pretty enough for me, if I don't listen too closely.

- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 10/25/73.

Bonus Reviews!

Art Garfunkel's first solo LP is based on soft, delicate textures. For finger snappers, it is best to skip past this beautiful package, for with rare exception, the mood is relaxed and gossamer. The singer's voice, naturally pliant and supple, is his best instrument. Paul Simon fans will undoubtedly pick up on this LP as it offers the same fine quality. Thus we see both singers taking off with fine solo efforts. Garfunkel, as he now plans to be known, takes his time. His phrasing is clean and distinct, allowing the full explosion of his lyrics to blast into your mind. He has some fine companions on this excursion: Paul Williams/Roger Nichols, Van Morrison, Jimmy Webb, Jorge Milchber/Albert Hammond/Mike Hazelwood in the authors department. And such instrumentalists as JJ. Cale, Jerry Garcia, Paul Simon, Tommy Tedesco, Milt Holland. "Woyaya" is the most inventive of the tracks, with its blending of a bouzouki, a large choir, and a ringing echo sound that adds a thrilling dimension to Art's multitracking efforts. Beautiful strings play in both a popular and classical setting on several of the tunes. The right instruments are matched with the right tunes. The strings have been given the skillful arranging direction of Jimmy Haskell, Ernie Freeman and Peter Matz. Best cuts: "Woyaka," "All I Know," "I Shall Sing" (the clever mixture of West Indian rhythms with a sweet sax section and a reggae feeling).

- Billboard, 1973.

Garfunkel (he was billed without his first name here) had a lot riding on his debut solo album, and Angel Clare, named after a character in Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, lived up to the heightened expectations for the man who had sung "Bridge over Troubled Water" and other Simon and Garfunkel favorites. Garfunkel took no chances, issuing as the first single Jimmy Webb's "All I Know," which was arranged in a similar style to "Bridge" and made the Top Ten. Elsewhere on the record, Garfunkel took a more spirited approach, notably on a version of Van Morrison's "I Shall Sing" that was reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" and made the Top 40. Certainly, there was enough firepower on the record, which featured guitarists Jerry Garcia and J.J. Cale. But much of it was filled with stately, orchestra-laden ballads, sung by Garfunkel in his naive, breathy tenor. If Simon and Garfunkel had been the thinking man's Everly Brothers, Garfunkel alone turned out to be the thinking man's Johnny Mathis. * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Angel Clare is Art Garfunkel's most powerful solo recording, with nice versions of Van Morrison's "I Shall Sing" and Randy Newman's "Old Man." * * *

- Leland Rucker, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.


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