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Musicians of Note

Jimmy Webb:
And So: On

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Jimmy Webb:
Letters

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Jimmy Webb:
Live At The Royal Albert Hall 1972

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Jimmy Webb:
Land's End

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Michael Feinstein:
Only One Life – The Songs
of Jimmy Webb

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Art Garfunkel:
Angel Clare

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Art Garfunkel:
Watermark

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Art Garfunkel:
Scissors Cut

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The Lasting Effect of Jimmy Webb, Page 2 of 4

by Mike Fallon


Into The 1970's

Due to his great success in the 1960's, I had visions of very great things to come in the 1970's from Jimmy Webb -- like he was going to be another Mozart, Beethoven, or more likely another Gershwin. So I was somewhat disappointed that he wasn't producing modern symphonies, piano concertos, and musical theatre along with even greater songs. In later years I realized that Jimmy Webb didn't have to be another anybody. He was great at who he was and is — Jimmy Webb, an American original.

During the 1970's he started producing his own albums with his own singing. In 1970 it was Words and Music and followed up in 1971 with And So: On. It was with his own singing that I initially had a problem.

In 1972 I was out of the Air Force and living back in California. I had never heard Jimmy Webb sing so I excitedly went out and bought his latest album And So: On.

With great anticipation I listened to all the tracks, and to my horror and astonishment, I found I didn't like his singing voice. I couldn't get past the twangy Oklahoma accent. I have since discovered that listening to Jimmy Webb sing is an acquired taste. I have since grown to love his singing voice over the years but it took awhile. What is amazing today is that I absolutely love this album. On second thought, maybe I only absolutely love half of it. I do love the strange album title though, And So: On.

I hate to say this, but I can see why his solo albums during the 1970's sold so poorly. Many of the songs he wrote for himself to sing just weren't that good compared to the great songs he wrote for other artists. Maybe he was experimenting or something. When you couple that with the fact that Webb was not that great as a mainstream "Pop" singer, was it any surprise that the solo albums didn't do so well? For even me, who worshiped Jimmy Webb above all other songwriters, his solo albums are not that high on my list of favorite albums of Jimmy Webb songs. However, I do have some notable exceptions for some of the songs on his albums like: "P.F. Sloan", "All My Love's Laughter", "See You Then", "The Moon's A Harsh Mistress", "The Highwayman", "Adios", and "Where The Universes Are".

Here are two samples from And So: On:

Jimmy Webb
"All My Love's Laughter" sample


Jimmy Webb
"See You Then" sample


Sometimes it's a little hard to believe that the same songwriter responsible for "MacArthur Park" and the album A Tramp Shining is the same songwriter who wrote Words and Music.

Words and Music has mostly unmemorable songs with only one song I enjoy listening to, "P.F. Sloan". I will say that by 1977 his solo efforts were much improved with the mostly enjoyable album, El Mirage. So it is kind of surprising that in the midst of all his fledgling solo efforts in the 70's that he writes an absolutely stellar album for Glen Campbell in 1974 called Reunion. Every song on that album is great!

Here is "P.F. Sloan" from Words and Music:

Jimmy Webb
"P.F. Sloan" sample


Of course Jimmy Webb still wrote songs for other artists to interpret. Art Garfunkel's 1973 album Angel Clare contained two Webb songs "Another Lullaby" and the lovely ballad "All I Know" which about brings me to tears when I listen to it. In 1978 Art Garfunkel's Watermark album featured mostly Jimmy Webb songs. My favorite on that album is "Crying in My Sleep".


Here are two Art Garfunkel songs by Jimmy Webb:

Art Garfunkel
"All I Know" sample


Art Garfunkel
"Crying in My Sleep" sample


In 1974 I absolutely loved (and still do) the Reunion album he did with Glen Campbell. Glen Campbell sounded better than ever singing Webb's pensive heartfelt songs. Wonderfully arranged and beautifully recorded, the production value of this album was top notch. And Jimmy Webb's songs here are some of his best. This is an incredibly moving and beautiful album that affects me just as much today as it did 36 years ago. I still well up with emotion when I listen to it. If I had to pick my favorite album of all time, the Reunion album would probably be it.

Three Glen Campbell songs from Reunion by Jimmy Webb:

Glen Campbell
"Just This One Time" sample


Glen Campbell
"You Might As Well Smile" sample


Glen Campbell
"Wishing Now" sample



In 1977 Jimmy Webb came out with his El Mirage album whose cover art has Webb standing pensively on a dark cloudy day next to a sunset (or is it a sunrise?) over the water. As one of my favorite album covers, the scene evokes all kinds of emotion in me. I love watching sunsets; watching the majesty of the sun slowly sinking down below the horizon and with it the constant shifting of light and color across the clouds and sky. If you pair that with the right music it can be a glorious experience. "Sunset" from Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite does that for me.

So when I got Webb's El Mirage album I was hoping the cover art was a portent of what was to come when listening to the music. By 1977 I was hoping that Jimmy Webb would come out with an album a la A Tramp Shining with its dramatic power and sweep, its dynamic orchestration and its "bridging" interludes. I was still looking for a "Classical" Jimmy Webb that went beyond just pop songs. But as with Webb's other solo albums of the 1970's this was an uneven effort for me. It is interesting to note that George Martin, who produced much of The Beatles music, produced this album, and I think that helped. There are a few songs I really do love on his album though: "The Highwayman" later made famous by other singers, "If You See Me Getting Smaller I'm Leaving","Christiaan, No", Where The Universes Are", "P.F. Sloan", and the gorgeous "The Moon's A Harsh Mistress".

Here are some wonderful song samples from El Mirage:

Jimmy Webb
"The Highwayman" sample



Jimmy Webb
"If You See Me Getting Smaller I'm Leaving" sample



Jimmy Webb
"Christiaan, No" sample



Jimmy Webb
"Where The Universes Are" sample



Jimmy Webb
"The Moon's a Harsh Mistress" sample


~Video~

It was a rare treat to see Jimmy Webb perform on TV over the decades. Here is a video of Jimmy Webb along with Cher and Art Garfunkel performing a medley of Jimmy Webb hits. I'm guessing that this was from a TV show back in the 70's. Watch Cher and Art Garfunkel "argue" over who likes Jimmy Webb better.
See Video (Small) or See Video (Large)


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