On the subject of his upcoming, career-spanning retrospective two-CD collection, The Singer (due out 28 August), Art Garfunkel can't hold back his enthusiasm. "I really love my album," he says with a laugh. "I’m so unjaded. If singing ever meant anything to me – and it is my identity, it’s my life – then The Singer is what I did on earth."
The 34-song set, which includes classics from his legendary partnership with Paul Simon, as well as some of his own solo hits and teamings with artists such as Graham Nash and David Crosby, James Taylor, Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock, among others, was a labor of love project for Garfunkel, who hand-picked the tracklisting.
“The exciting thing for me was combining Simon & Garfunkel cuts with Artie Garfunkel solo cuts," he says. "I’ve made 12 solo albums; I’ve had a lot of great nights in the studio with some terrific musicians who have really opened up the voice. So, when I look back at my own body of work, combined with the cream of the Simon & Garfunkel stuff, I’m left with a lot of cards to play."
In his own idiosyncratic way, Garfunkel likens his song-selection process, something he calls "the game for the ear," to that of a ball club manager plotting a starting lineup. "It's very similar," he says. "You look at what you have and go, ‘Who’s my shortstop to lead off?' You serve up to the ear – this is my compilation style – exactly what it wants to hear next. There’s a natural, organic flow. And what you get is, ‘This singer, Artie Garfunkel, can sing. And he can do it from tune to tune, with and without the partner.’"
Describing his approach to singing, one which has landed the Forest Hills, New York, native in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (along with former partner Simon), Garfunkel says, “Music is play. You play with the notes, you play with the sounds. If nobody is listening and you’re private, and you have a nice room with reverb, you can play with the tone of your own voice as you sing. You can change that tone and move into the category called ‘beautiful.’ You can move into the category called ‘This sounds like James Dean looked on the screen.’ There’s something cool going on in the sound, and you explore that stuff. You’re chasing after charisma."
On the following pages, Art Garfunkel talks about six of the tracks on The Singer, a package that he calls "just the right proportion of Simon & Garfunkel songs to solo recordings. I'm extremely proud of it."