BWW CD Review: Brad Simmons THE SIMON AND GARFUNKEL COLLECTION Will Ease Your Mind
One need not be a Simon and Garfunkel fan to enjoy The Simon and Garfunkel Collection, the tribute CD by Brad Simmons who, obviously, is an admirer of the works of the much loved and revered singing duo from the 1960s/70s. A person could take up Simmons' album having either never heard this music before or being a student of the works of Art & Paul, and the enjoyment of the recording would be equally pleasurable, for different reasons. For the newcomer, the songs will appear melodic, poetic, thoughtful and playful; for the expert, the recordings will provide an eye-opening experience showing how an artist can explore, revisit, reinterpret and reinvent, all the while paying homage to the original material, and though some die-hards might turn their nose up to the treatments now and then, others will find the experience rewarding. It's not unlike the difference between Austen fans who either did or did not embrace the changes made to the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice - some will, some won't.
This writer did.
From the opening track, "The 59th Street Bridge Song," it is clear that, while the music belongs to Simon and Garfunkel, the stories belong to Brad Simmons. Wherever that place is that Brad went to when making the choices, acting, and arranging, for each number, it is one informed by the experiences of his life. Maybe "Homeward Bound" reminds him of what he was going through at a time in his life, or "The Sound of Silence" brings back memories of where his personal growth was the first time he heard it, but when he sits down to play, to sing these songs, it is very personal; in that intimacy is told a tale uniquely Simmons' with a road map planned out by Simon and Garfunkel. The journey is much more flashy than that of the original artists, definitely more theatrical, with roguish, adventurous, sometimes haunting, sometimes quirky qualities weaving their way throughout the music. While Misters Garfunkel and Simon were possessing of a wholesome, laidback quality to their vocals, Mr. Simmons places his vocals right up front in a strong, commanding manner that gives the CD teeth, kind of like having Adam Lambert cover the songs of Olivia Newton-John. It's a refreshing way to live inside of the S&G house, only decorated in a different way.
Working with music as famous as the catalog with which he has created the CD, Mr. Simmons creates a healthy balance between the soft slow roll of a Simon & Garfunkel ballad, keeping things in the heart with tracks like "Scarborough Fair" (inventively mashed-up with "El Condor Pasa") and, of course, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and the upbeat, jaunty mood of cuts like the immensely fun "At The Zoo" and his compelling re-telling of "Mrs. Robinson," which takes the words "God bless you.." to heart, as the song becomes reminiscent of a bluesy, soulful gospel prayer for the famous fictional female. It's an ambitious undertaking, the kind that audiences of Mr. Simmons have come to expect from him, as an artist interested in pushing boundaries, trying new things, and being unapologetically original. That is exactly what Simmons has done with this CD, one that scores big with recordings of "The Boxer" (featuring iconic Alice Ripley) and a rendition of "Bookends/Old Friends" that will leave the listener with the most blissful, aching, reflective and wistful need to step outside to feel the sun and wind on their skin, as they remember where they were and what they were doing the first time they heard that music.