Anyone who thinks Art Garfunkel is a fool probably thinks Ringo Starr contributed equally to the Fab Four. Granted, Art looks like Steven Wright's egghead brother, and his contributions to pop will never equal those of his pudgier ex-partner. But Garfunkel has an almost perfectly angelic singing voice, a string of hits to his credit, and a cozy life-style that doesn't seem to involve much work. With all his free time, in fact, he has perfected his basketball game to such an extent that he recently made 102 consecutive foul shots, and he's presently fulfilling a lifelong dream of walking across America. Perhaps we should all buy Afro wigs and practice our falsetto harmonies.
Cynics might say that most of Garfunkel's solo albums have little spine beyond their record jackets. But sometimes a little sentimentality goes a long way, and there are few better examples than Garfunkel, the Artie hits package (culled from his six solo albums) that Columbia unceremoniously dumped on the market in 1988. As sheer middle-of-the-road, unsmarmy mush-pop, it's surpassed only by the Carpenters' The Singles 1969-1973 in proving that wispy and saccharin are not necessarily bad words when it comes to pop. Tim Moore's ''Second Avenue,'' a breakup song that avoids sappiness, is a minor triumph of popcraft, as is Jimmy Webb's bittersweet ''All I Know.''
Garfunkel also includes exquisite fare like the wistful, quietly thumping ''A Heart in New York'' and his cuddly remake of Sam Cooke's ''(What a) Wonderful World'' with Paul Simon and James Taylor. Taken together, the 12 tracks are, yes, a little too sweet. But one day, Garfunkel will be recognized as the Lite FM masterwork it is. By then, the greenhouse effect will have reduced the North Pole to a large pool, the S&L crisis will have us selling apples on street corners and Artie will be scaling the Himalayas and having the last laugh.