Paul Simon Gregg Mitchell - Essay

Gregg Mitchell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

All the campus folkies were in a tizzy. The big day had finally arrived! After two years—two whole years—of waiting, they finally had a new Simon & Garfunkel album [Bridge Over Troubled Water] to mull over.

That the duo could only come up with 11 new songs in two years didn't seem to bother those fans. That nearly all of those songs were hopelessly mediocre fazed them even less….

Creedence Clearwater Revival can do an album in three months and fill it with excellent material. Simon & Garfunkel take two years—and reveal that they have nearly wasted their time….

Only six of the album's cuts are new. Thus, it is quite similar to their last album, Bookends, which also was made up largely of old singles, short instrumentals, etc.

Maybe Paul Simon has gotten fat and lazy. Maybe Arthur Garfunkel is devoting his time to acting or teaching. Whatever the cause, their music has gotten stale. The lyricism, drive and enthusiasm of Parsley, Sage etc., is gone. (p. 56)

The new album contains possibly their best song ever ("The Boxer") and their worst, "Frank Lloyd Wright." Of course, their many fans will be shocked to hear that S & G did not invent the bossa nova they utilize in the latter. (Simon, however, did invent the song's trite lyrics).

The rest of the album lies somewhere in between these two extremes, though more of the songs are closer to "Frank Lloyd Wright" than "The Boxer."… They are best on soft, melodic tunes ("Bridge", "Song for the Asking"), where Simon's occasionally perceptive lyrics come through.

Of course, the folkies loved it all, seeing in it "great originality" and "social comment." Only trouble is, everything they play someone else has played before, and everything they say they've said before.

It's really not that bad an album … but for two years' work? (p. 58)

Gregg Mitchell, "Records: 'Bridge over Troubled Water'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1970; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 58, May 14, 1970, pp. 56, 58.