How many times while watching one of our quality entertainment programmes, such as The X Factor, Britain’s got Talent or The Voice, have you heard the esteemed judges/mentors explain that they could quite happily listen to a singer steeped long in Mariah Carey ‘sing the phonebook’?
In reality you wouldn’t want to hear any of the previous winners of any of these contests breaking out the Yellow Pages. It’s also difficult to think of anyone that could do justice to my Durham and Wearside edition of BT’s finest publication.
Possible nominations could be Harry Belafonte. Or, if still with us, Nina Simone. Or possibly the embarrassingly haired Art Garfunkel.
Or so I thought until I re-listened to Art’s ‘Watermark’ for the first time in at least 25 years.
The pedigree looks good – one of the finest singers in the world (Mr A Garfunkel) is teamed with songwriting genius (Mr J Webb); there’s the additional benefit of a cover version of one of the best love songs ever written (with backing vocals provided by Paul Simon and James Taylor). Sounds like a ‘slam dunk’.
Standing much more than head ands shoulders above everything else here is Art’s fabulous version of Sam Cooke’s ‘What a wonderful world’. Perhaps Art and Paul’s finest vocal performance. Maybe James Taylor’s too.
Jimmy Webb’s songwriting genius is very much in evidence on the heart-wrenching opening track ‘Crying in my sleep’ and on the beautiful ‘Watermark’. However when he wrote/arranged the remainder of the tracks, particularly the clumsy ‘Marionette’ and the awful ‘Mr Shuck ‘n’ Jive’ his genius was patently on holiday on the other side of the world.
Listen carefully for one of the most painful moments in pop – when Art attempts a scat interlude on ‘Mr Shuck ‘n’ Jive’. You’ll either laugh out loud or pull a Scooby Doo ‘Huh?’ face. I did both.
Incidentally, I always use Art’s hair on the cover of this album (and on ‘Fate for breakfast’) as a barometer for determining when my own hair is ready for a trip to the legendary Bishop’s Barbers.
Label – CBS
Year - 1978