Breakaway is certainly superior to Angel Clare the first Art Garfunkel solo album. But it’s difficult to decide how much the singer had to do with its success, aside from having the good sense to choose Richard Perry to produce it. Releasing the album in conjunction with Paul Simon’s may have been commercially advantageous — particularly since “My Little Town.” the S&G reunion. is included on both — but artisticall it is an error of incalculable proportions. After hearing these two records side by side as they’ve been offered, who can doubt that Simon really is the artist. Garfunkel only the simple production tool?
Aside from “My Little Town,” whose grim realism belies the choirboy smoothness and cheerless romanticism of the rest, the strongest tracks here are the Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes for You” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever).” Unfortunately, the definitive versions remain the originals. Garfunkel and Perry contribute precisely what Johnny Mathis and any MOR producer would have: They remove the edge take no risks. There’s nothing wrong with being a plain crooner, of course — unless you juxtapose crooning with something more meaningful.
Part of the difficulty with the rest lies in the very perfection of Garfunkel’s voice. It is so good that it could be his curse, as it has been for Joan Baez and Johnny Mathis, forcing him into only one style, and that one bland. The contrast between “My Little Town” and everything else is devastating — it’s a matter of spirit. There’s a certain irony in “Disney Girls.” for instance, that Garfunkel just can’t reach. Perry’s production which never leaves the mode he establishes with the first piano chords of “I Believe” doesn’t help. If Perry has a fault it is that he establishes one style per record and almost never deviates: you can hear it on Ringo’s records and on Carly Simon’s. But those singers take a few chances vocally.
There simply isn’t enough at stake here for a truly interesting record to result. The only objective seems to be to make something that is easy to listen to — thus. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Waters of March” — which might be enough for any other crooner. But Art Garfunkel is the man who sang “Bridge over Troubled Water.” which made crooning mean something, however sentimental. Until his third album, at least. Art Garfunkel remains one of the great background voices — nothing more.