Best Homeward Bound

“Homeward Bound” exists in many incarnations. From the folk-rock Simon & Garfunkel arrangement of the 1960s to the Flamenco and piano jazz Simon & Garfunkel take from 2003-04, Paul Simon’s best road song has clearly stood the test of time. But what’s the best version?

Well, I’m partial to the “Old Friends” tour approach, which highlighted the band. Warren Bernhardt takes the melody to new, interesting places on piano, Mark Stewart adds an atmospheric guitar part and Larry Saltzman introduces some Spanish flavour on guitar.

But something about it isn’t quite perfect. Maybe it’s over-arranged.

In 2002 Simon toured Europe, stopping for a night in Liverpool, as close as he’s going to geographically get to the song’s origin. The performance stellar, largely due to the rather loud audience participation. But it, too, is off. Maybe it’s the undeniable cheerfulness; “Homeward Bound” is a sad song, a solo expression.

The best performance, it turns out, is from a TV taping in Cleveland, for the short-lived VH1 program “In Tune,” featuring Paul Simon and John Mayer. Simon’s singing captures the song’s tenderness and longing, and the guitar accompaniment is perfect (catch the fill in the third verse, and the harmonic period at the end). If anyone has the video handy, drop me a line.

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