The temptation was to write off Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's reunion tour in 2003 as a money-grab to cash in on Baby Boomers with deep pockets and even deeper wells of nostalgia.
After all, the folk/pop duo that dominated the charts in the mid to late '60s hadn't recorded anything new together in decades. Their entire set was built on tunes that have been around 35 to 40 years, with a few Simon solo numbers thrown in for variety.
So maybe the songs are dusty and a little too familiar, but they really are great tunes, and in the time they were together Simon tapped into a creative zone that was remarkable. "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Homeward Bound," "Mrs. Robinson," "The Boxer," and "The Sound of Silence" are unmatched in the canon of American songwriters.
Live, these warhorses are fleshed out and given a more muscular, funky feel than in their original form. The pristine harmonies are still there, but with a full band of expert musicians "Bridge" gets a gospel treatment, with Simon taking liberties with his lines, and tracks like "Cecilia" and "I Am a Rock" kick into a higher rhythmic gear that gives them new life.
A new track "Citizen of the Planet" is predictably preachy, and a signal that they probably ought to stick with the old stuff. Simon and Garfunkel's body of work still stands strong as a testament to great song craft, something that can't be denied.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
This anthology is true musical strength from beginning to end. If you are of an age when doo-wop ruled the airwaves at the dawn of rock and roll, there's probably not a single one of these 37 gems that you won't remember. From a mixture of a capella and R&B, doo-wop blended catchy melodies, youthful harmonies, and occasionally nonsensical background vocals into a suave, exciting form of early rock. The songs range from the earliest doo-wop successes such as "Speedo" by the Cadillacs to the song often considered the last great doo-wop hit, "Denise" by Randy & the Rainbows. Unless you have boxes of doo-wop collections and don't mind wading through the peripheral hits they contain, this may be just what you need. It's in stores this week.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
This is McCartney's debut solo CD, but the 17-year-old is already an entertainment veteran. He was a member of Dream Street and stars in Summerland on The WB. As a singer, he does a creditable job on a disc that luxuriates in top-flight production values. But sometimes the tracks' influences are too obvious, from UK garage/soul singer Craig David to Jacksons-like R&B. Ballads have appealing melodies but no obvious emotion. Refreshingly, there is energy to burn in such cuts as "What's Your Name?" and "Because You Live."
- RICHARD PATON