Albums from the Lost and Found: Gallagher and Lyle's Breakaway and Art Garfunkel's Breakaway

by Jeff Fiedler

Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.

The Scottish musical duo of Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle got their first break in a very big way, being signed in 1968 by the Fab Four themselves to work as in-house songwriters for Apple Records and its performers. Mary Hopkin would be a particularly big beneficiary of the duo’s songwriting talent, recording five of their songs, including “Sparrow,” “International,” and “Heritage.” Shortly after, the duo would join the new British rock band McGuiness Flint (formed by former Manfred Mann guitarist Tom McGuiness and former John Mayall drummer Hughie Flint), who nearly topped the British charts on their very first try with the Gallagher-and-Lyle-penned “When I’m Dead and Gone,” which also stopped just a few spots shy of hitting the Top 40 in the U.S..

The two men would eventually leave the band in 1971 to become their own performing duo, recording a one-off album for Capitol before signing a more long-term deal with A&M that would result in six albums for the label. The biggest and best of these discs was 1976’s Breakaway, sporting such fine cuts as the vaguely Band-like, mandolin-infused “Storm in My Soul,” “Northern Girl,” and the lovely girl-grown-up ballad “Fifteen Summers.”

The album unfortunately failed to yield a Top 40 hit on this side of the Atlantic (though two singles did reach the Hot 100) but was a massive success overseas., going gold and spawning two U.K. Top Ten hits in the soft-rock of “I Wanna Stay with You” and the unique, clever, accordion-laden stomper “Heart on My Sleeve,” truly one of the greatest overlooked pop singles of the late ‘70s. The latter would also become a British hit for Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry, who even reached the U.S. single charts with his cover of the song (his only Hot 100 appearance as a solo artist until 1987’s “Kiss and Tell”), while Ringo Starr would also record the song on his album Bad Boy and release it as a single.

“Heart on My Sleeve” would by no means be the only song from the album to become a hit for another artist. Country singer Don Williams would reach the top of the country charts in America with his cover of “Stay Young," while Art Garfunkel would cover “Breakaway” (with the legendary Steve Cropper on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, Little Feat's Bill Payne on piano and synthesizer, and David Crosby, Graham Nash, Toni Tennile, and Beach Boy Bruce Johnston all providing background vocals!) and use it as the title cut of his second album, the song becoming a Top 40 hit for Garfunkel and also topping the Adult Contemporary charts.

Like Gallagher & Lyle’s album of the same name, Garfunkel’s 1975 album Breakaway (produced by Richard Perry and featuring a truly top-drawer cast of players) is similarly one of the finer overlooked pop albums of the mid-‘70s. Garfunkel’s solo debut, Angel Clare, had done reasonably well, spawning two Top 40 hits in the Jimmy Webb-penned, devastatingly pretty Top Ten ballad “All I Know” and the minor hit, the Latin-styled reworking of the Van Morrison-penned “I Shall Sing,” but it also didn’t sound too terribly different from Bridge Over Troubled Water stylistically. On Breakaway, Garfunkel tries to assert more of a unique personal stamp, abandoning the occasional forays into world music that peppered his debut and making a pure soft-pop album, heavy on electric piano textures and acoustic guitars, and showcasing the work of up-and-coming singer-songwriters like Stephen Bishop. Though the music is certainly soft fare, it’s also incredibly pleasing to listen to and the makeover fits Garfunkel quite well.

Aside from the title cut, there are two other Top 40 hits here, an especially relaxing and enjoyable mellow makeover of the Flamingos’ classic ‘50s ballad “I Only Have Eyes for You” (featuring session great Nicky Hopkins on electric piano and '70s pop star Andrew Gold on guitar, piano, and drums, while Stephen Bishop sings backup) and even a Simon & Garfunkel reunion on the sadly-now-forgotten Top Ten hit “My Little Town,” recorded with the famed Muscle Shoals rhythm section, which begins on a wistful note but gradually builds in intensity, ending with a fun, brass-laden vamp-out. Other highlights here include lovely covers of Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book closer “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” and the Beach Boys’ “Disney Girls,” the Stephen Bishop-penned “Looking for the Right One,” and the Albert Hammond/Hal David co-write “99 Miles from L.A.” (unexpectedly featuring former Wings drummer Denny Seiwell behind the drumkit.)  

Though its singles have sadly vanished from radio airwaves in recent years, the album remains his most best-selling solo album and a true must-own item for any fans of his singing. While Garfunkel never quite topped this album commercially or artistically, his next few releases (Watermark, Fate for Breakfast, and Scissors Cut) would all be enjoyable listens in their own right, the last of those three discs also including another Gallagher-and-Lyle-penned Hot 100 chart hit in the ballad “A Heart in New York,” a live version of which was also included on the Simon & Garfunkel 1981 reunion disc The Concert in Central Park.

As for Gallagher and Lyle, the duo finally called it a day in 1980 (though they’d reform in 2010), but both men went on to greater things behind the scenes. Gallagher (whose son Julian would similarly work in the business, becoming a successful songwriter in the U.K. for the likes of Kylie Minogue and Emma Bunton) would become co-owner of the record label OnSong and the first chairman of the Performing Artists Media Rights Association, while Graham Lyle would form a songwriting partnership with Terry Britten (best known for his work with Cliff Richard), Lyle and Britten going on to write a long string of hits for Tina Turner, including her Number One hit and trademark song “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome),” “Typical Male,” “Two People,” and “What You Get Is What You See.” Lyle and Britten would also pen one of the ten cuts (“Just Good Friends”) on Michael Jackson’s Bad album, as well as Crystal Gayle’s Number One country hit “Straight from the Heart,” while Lyle would also be responsible for writing the Judds’ Number One country hit “Maybe Your Baby’s Got the Blues.”