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Art Garfunkel's Long Walk

While traveling the world, he releases 'best of' album called, simply and appropriately, 'The Singer'

Art Garfunkel's new compilation album is out on August 28, 2012.

Art Garfunkel in London, October 1975. — Photo by Andre Csillag/Rex Features

If Art Garfunkel never sang another note, the lineup of The Singer would seal his position as a premier vocalist of the past half-century. The 34-song program hopscotches through the decades, starting with "Bridge Over Troubled Water," then skipping to his masterful 1993 treatment of Jimmy Webb's "All I Know." The songs are arranged to contrast and complement each other, inviting the listener to actually pay attention — a challenge Garfunkel says is sadly missing from too much music today.

"Does anybody listen to anything?" he asks. "Is music now just stuff that's part of the distraction? I've got to believe that there is somebody who gets caught up in the act of being held by something that's good and captivating. I want to be the singer who can hold someone for a second song, and even a third."

Garfunkel is not a fan of the "shuffle" feature on today's music players. On his megawalks, he does indeed take along an iPod, but he has devised a specific 160-track sequence that helps him warm up, hit his stride and then cool down, both physically and vocally. So if you're fortunate enough to be strolling along behind Art Garfunkel on one of his continental walkabouts, you'll get to hear him singing along with his own personal soundtrack.

Surprisingly few of those songs are his.

"Is that iPod in there?" he says, rustling through something. "Here it is."

Now Garfunkel is scrolling through his playlist of instrumentals, vocal warm-ups, rock, blues, jazz, comedy, poetry and pop, providing commentary along the way.

Snatam Kaur — "Indian music."

Steven Bishop — "Warm-up vocal exercises he gave to me."

James Taylor — "Now I'm ready to start singing with heart."

Everly Brothers — "I stick with their album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. First I sing Don's part, then I go to Phil's part."

J.J. Cale — "An old blues guy; wonderful 'attitude' music."

Chet Baker — "The arch-crooner."

Art Garfunkel — "Let's fall in love …" he croons softly, sampling one of the standards from his 2007 album, Some Enchanted Evening.

Does anyone ever stop and stare at the familiar-looking man walking along the roadside singing with one of the world's most recognizable voices?

"No, I keep it temperate," he says. "There are very few people who are passing me. I'm in a world of my own."

You may also like: Great summer songs of the 1960s.

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Art Garfunkel's old partner, Paul Simon, talks about his album So Beautiful or So What as we hear some excerpts from rehearsals.

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