At the start of 2018 Vocallion released another batch of quadrophonic SACD’s, two of which were from the beginning of Art Garfunkel’s solo discography. Engineer Michael Dutton has added his remastering magic to the discrete quad mixes of “Angel Clare” and “Breakaway,” which are sold separately on SACD’s that contain both a stereo and quad DSD layer, along with a standard red book CD layer for those on the go listening sessions.
While each album carries the elegant voice of Garfunkel, his debut 1970 album “Angel Clare” received high critical acclaim due in part to the excellent string section and fantastic arrangements of these well written songs. However, it was his second release, “Breakaway,” which carried a much more deliberate pop sound, and turned out to be his best selling album.
Taking no chances on his debut release, Garfunkel issued the single "All I Know" by Jimmy Web which he arranged in a similar style to his acclaimed "Bridge Over Troubled Water" masterpiece from the final record with Paul Simon. The back channels effectively carry the strings, while the core band and Garfunkel’s smooth vocals are spread across the front speakers. The quad version reveals many of the subtle instrumental flourishes previously buried on the original stereo mix, with the overall sonic character pleasantly warm, leaving plenty of high end definition and no tremendous hump in the bass. Dynamics are excellent, feeling completely natural, which are evidenced so well by the swells on the opening track "Traveling Boy."
While immersive, this is not a four corner mix, and certainly not experimental as found on other quad mixes from the era. Placements allow for a well-balanced listening experience, featuring a strong front stereo image, that yields a phantom center channel where Garfunkel’s vocals are so clearly defined. I really like the open and airy quality of the children’s choir that surrounds the sweet spot on “Woyaya,” and take note to the subtle drum kit centered in the back channels on the closing track "Another Lullaby," blending so brilliantly and enhancing the aural experience.
The album Angel Clare notably includes a spirited version of Van Morrison's "I Shall Sing" that was reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecilia," and fans can hear guitarists Jerry Garcia and J.J. Cale. While much of the album is filled with stately orchestra laden ballads, it is Garfunkel’s breathy vocals that gently carry listeners down a beautiful path of sentimental music so wonderfully presented in quad.
On his second record, “Breakaway,” Garfunkel turned to pop producer Richard Perry, who preferred to record in studios rather than cathedrals replacing the angelic aspects of Angel Clare with a lush pop folk-rock approach. This yielded Garfunkel's best-selling album with both the title track and his cover of "I Only Have Eyes for You" reaching the Top 40. Of course, the most prominent song is still the Simon & Garfunkel reunion single "My Little Town."
Breakaway follows much of the same quad spatial layout as Garfunkel’s debut release, albeit with a slightly lighter touch which accentuates the high end, allowing guitars to vibrantly shimmer and drums to posses greater snap. These masters are wonderfully transparent and showcase the clarity of the original recordings that have ample air, which provides for a very natural sound. Check out the very creative use of the soundscape on My Little Town where the drums spread from the front left channel to the back right channel. Acoustic guitars strum gently from the left rear, while vocals harmonize in the center up front with bass falling directly blow them. Horns punch from all corners lifting the dynamics, elevating this classic song to heights that I have never heard before.
I must remind readers that to fully enjoy quad it is best to have four identically matched speakers, as these mixes utilize the full range from any of these speakers at any given time. Both the songs “Breakaway” and “99 Miles from LA” utilize the backs to their fullest potential. Bass guitar floats across the soundstage emanating from all directions, with keyboards opening Breakaway from the right back. Harmony vocals beautifully take positions in the front and rear leading to a very discrete listen. I especially like the fingerpicked acoustic guitar that start 99 Miles from LA while Garfunkel passionately sings inbetween the front channels.
I absolutely recommend both of these quad SACD’s to all fans of Art Garfunkel and listeners who are in the folk-rock camp. Quad collectors should not miss this opportunity to add these excellent discs into their library, as they are truly reference quality for the era. Stunning overall recording quality that lives nearly 50 years on, grab these before they go out of print!