Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

This was the first album I ever owned, part of a four-pack of Simon and Garfunkel cassettes my parents got me in junior high, and even to this day this one is still the standout. It was more than just the folk music of their early days and even transcended the eclectic wider-world feel of Bookends, yet remained grounded in the human stories and the murmuring vocals they started with. It didn't hurt that there was much more of it, too; there are many strong tracks here, not least the opening title track with Spectoresque reverb and shimmery stings of percussion like seawater splashing on rock, plus the tortuous memories of "The Boxer" past his prime and the meditative airy B-side "The Only Living Boy in New York," though as a kid I gravitated towards the peppier ones such as the slightly salacious "Cecilia" and "Baby Driver." Indeed, the song I'm personally most fond of, even though it is by no means their best work, is the unreliable narration of "Keep The Customer Satisfied" who winds his suspect tale of persecution with a rockabilly feel and a full set of brass that is in fact just as satisfying as advertised. The live "Bye Bye Love" seems tossed in at the last moment, and "Song For The Asking" yields a wantingly wan goodbye for their last and greatest work, but precious few of their albums together or solo have ever approached its excellence and its appeal is practically universal. The 2001 remaster adds two demos, the Haitian folk song "Feuilles-O" which is engaging but far too short and too much of a throwback, and a disappointingly flat-sounding earlier take of the title track; neither are at all as compelling as the main work. (Content: mild adult themes in "Cecilia" and "Baby Driver.")