We continue the Art for Art’s Sake series of posts, in which the Seventies solo career of Art Garfunkel is picked apart, one song at a time. We’re halfway through Side One of Angel Clare, so pull up a seat.
The phattest, funkiest, stone-gassiest groove in Art Garfunkel’s three-song-old solo career begins modestly, with what sounds like a pair of hands patting out a beat on a kitchen countertop.
Other instruments drop in casually, one at a time, as if they have to put out their cigarettes first.
There’s a clicky bass; a strummed acoustic guitar; some higher-pitched stringed instrument (maybe another guitar played way up high?); bari sax; timbales; and finally an entire horn section straight from Barbados or someplace, with a delightfully sharp-edged lead from the alto sax.
No more than forty seconds removed from the bloody travails of the willow garden, we are treated to a genuinely bouncy sand-between-the-toes Caribbean jam.
Over this backdrop, Mister Garfunkel the singer discusses the circumstances in which he intends to pursue his profession. (SPOILER ALERT) The answer is pretty much “you name it, Bunky” — when he’s high or low, when he’s right or wrong, when it’s night or day, he shall sing, la la la, and like that.
This glass of tropical punch served as the second single from Angel Clare. It insinuated itself into enough hearts, minds and toes to sneak Art onto the Top 40 for a single week in February 1974, only 14 spots behind Gordon Sinclair.
(Wiki says it was a much bigger hit on the adult contemporary chart, reaching No. 4.)
And for what it is, it ain’t all bad. As a statement of purpose, it avoids being indigestibly heavy. As a lite jam, it lite-jams.
If there is any drawback to Art’s joyous song, it is the relative lack of actual song beneath the joy.
Written by Van Morrison, of all people, “I Shall Sing” is a two-chord wonder — no intro, no bridge, no coda (no guru, method or teacher, either) — that’s skating on progressively thinner ice once it passes a minute-thirty.
Art and company use every arrangement trick in the book to pad it out to single length, including a few more go-rounds at the very end than are strictly necessary.
You’ll also note that in the first verse, we hear one Garfunkel; in the second verse, two; and in the third verse, three; at which point the gimmick reaches the outer limits of plausibility.
No matter. Just relax and enjoy the soaring sax leads, played by well-traveled hornman Jules Broussard, who was part of Van Morrison’s recording group at around the same time.
And enjoy Art’s temporary departure from reality and responsibility.
He’ll get bogged back down in slow strings and earthly travails soon enough.