Jimmy Webb


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- Jimmy Webb -- vocals, keyboards

 

  supporting musicians (1977)

- Harry Bluestone – concertmaster 

- Billy Davis - vocals 

- Lowell George – slide guitar 

- Jim Gordon – drums

- George Hawkins – vocals 

- David Hungate – bass 

- Kenny Loggins – vocals 

- Clydie King – background vocals

- Larry Knechtel – bass 

- George Martin – arranger, conductor, keyboards, synthesizer 

- Harvey Mason – percussion 

- Sherlie Matthews – background vocals 

- Dee Murray – bass 

- Nigel Olsson – drums 

- David Paich – keyboards, synthesizer 

- Dean Parks – guitar 

- Herb Pedersen – banjo, 12-string guitar, background vocals 

- Fred Tackett – guitar 

- Susan Webb – background vocals 

 

 

 

 

- The Strawberry Children

- Jimmy Webb and the Webb Brothers

 

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  El Mirage

Company: Atlantic

Catalog:  SD18218
Year:
 1977

Country/State: Elk City, Oklahoma

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $25.00

 

 

George Martin handling production for one of America's best known song writers ...  Sounds promising.  

 

Signed to Atlantic, there were clearly high hopes for 1977's "El Mirage" o be Webb's breakout release. Atlantic clearly shelled out some big money to record the collection.  In addition to hiring George Martin to produce, the collection sported one of the year's most impressive collections of studio musicians, including the cream of L.A. sessions players, and a sizable part of Elton John's touring band.  Having heard Webb's earlier album's this ballad heavy set wasn't a major departure from those previous releases.  The biggest difference was actually Webb's voice.  Whereas on his earlier albums Webb's vocals lacked a certain confidence and tended to be inconsistent, this time out he seemed to have gained considerable confidence.  The performances weren't perfect (check out parts of 'The Highwaymen'), but it made for a significant improvement over earlier albums.  That's not to say everyone was going to love the collection.  Exemplified by performances like 'Christiaan, No,' 'Where the Universes Are' and 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress', Webb's ballad heavy, highly stylized catalog was a niche product.  Taken individually virtually every one of these tunes was worth hearing.  Taken in one sitting I found the results tended to overwhelm and drift towards a certain sound-the-sameness.  Imagine a diabetic overdosing on sugar.  Elsewhere, some of Webb's more obvious stabs at a commercial breakthrough fell flat - 'Mixed-Up Guy' even reflected a touch of disco.  Not perfect, but probably Webb's best solo release.

 

"El Mirage" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Highwaymen   (Jimmy Webb) - 3:51  rating: **** stars

Outside of 'MacArthur Park' and the songs he placed with Glenn Campbell, I'm guessing that 'The Highwaymen' is Webb's best known work; serving as an inspiration to one of country music's first "super group" collaborations in the form of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.  Collectively they adopted The Highwaymen name and enjoyed their first hit with a cover of the tune.  Musically the tune follows in the path of eclectic, hyper-literate tunes like 'MacArthur Park.'  Okay, it's certainly better than the former, through Martin's production (horns, strings, backing vocalists, etc.) threatened to drown Webb.  Recorded during an appearance on BBC television, YouTube has a performance of the tune: Jimmy Webb - The Highwayman - YouTube   The song was tapped as a promotional 45 in the States and as a stock single in the UK:

 

- 1977's 'The Highwaymen' (mono) b/w 'The Highwaymen' (stereo)  (Atlantic catalog number 3426)

- 1977's 'The Highwaymen' b/w 'Christiaan, No' (Atlantic catalog number K 10931)

2.) If You See Me Getting Smaller I'm Leaving   (Jimmy Webb) - 3:53   rating: **** stars

To my ears 'If You See Me Getting Smaller I'm Leaving' sounded like a James Taylor outtake.   The title was cumbersome, but the autobiographical look at his dying solo career and glorious refrain saved the song from oblivion.  The song was apparently written for Waylon Jennings who recorded it a couple of years earlier.  Atlantic tapped it as the album's leadoff single:

 

 

- 1977's 'If You See Me Getting Smaller I'm Leaving' b/w 'Christiaan, No' (Atlantic catalog number 3407)

 

Recorded at new York's City Winery, YouTube has a live May 2019 performance of the song: Jimmy Webb “If You See Me Getting Smaller” Live at City Winery Boston, May 15, 2019 - YouTube

 

 

 

 

 

3.) Mixed-Up Guy   (Jimmy Webb) -  3:40   rating: *** stars

Maybe it's just my old ears, but 'Mixed-Up Guy' reminded me of something Webb might have penned for the late Glen Campbell.  With a '70s top-40 feel (perhaps even a touch of disco), Webb's vocals even reminded me a bit of Campbell's delivery.  The arrangement was just a tad to MOR for the song to be really good.  Blame the chirping backing singers.  

4.) Christiaan, No   (Jimmy Webb) -  3:07   rating: **** stars

Pretty, sentimental, and commercial ballad that served to highlight Webb's surprisingly nice voice.  Interesting to compare this to Glen Campbell's slightly more country-tinged version of the tune.  Webb's original is better.  Actually I've always thought this one had kind of an Elton John flavor which may be a reflection of the fact most of John's touring band was on the album.

5.) Moment in a Shadow   (Jimmy Webb) -  3:39   rating: ** stars

Well, Martin's over-the-top production managed to turn the ballad 'Moment In a Shadow' into MOR slush.  

 

(side 2)

1.) Sugarbird   (Jimmy Webb) - 3:25   rating: *** stars

Opening up with a tasty bass line, 'Sugarbird' introduced a light reggae vibe to the mix.  Extra star for the bass line.  Deduct a star for the needless orchestration.

2.) Where the Universes Are   (Jimmy Webb) - 3:34   rating: ** stars

'Where the Universes Are' opened up as a spare, acoustic ballad, and then shifted into an over-the-top, overly-orchestrated arrangement that threatened to drown Webb.  The song was tapped as an English single:

 

 

 

 

- 1977's 'Where the Universes Are' b/w 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' (Atlantic catalog number K 10978)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.) P.F. Sloan   (Jimmy Webb) - 4:17   rating: **** stars

Webb had previously recorded 'P.F. Sloan' on his 1970 "Words and Music" debut.  I remember thinking the original had kind of a Michael Nesmith and the Monkees flavor.  The remake wasn't a radically redo, but still stood as one of the album's standout performances ...   Taken from an early-'70s appearance on English television,  YouTube has a live performance of the song at: JIMMY WEBB P F Sloan - YouTube 

4.) Dance To the Radio  (Fred Tackett) - 3:06    rating: **** stars

The only cover tune 'Dance To the Radio' featured a commercial country-rock feel.  To my ears the song actually had a Little Feat feeling.  Wonder if it had anything to do with the fact Fred Tackett and Lowell George was featured on lead guitar?   Had I been responsible for marketing, this was the song I would have tapped as the lead single.

5.) The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress   (Jimmy Webb) - 3:06     rating: **** stars

One of Webb's best know compositions.  It's certainly a beautiful song.  Strictly my opinion ...  teh Webb original is better than Joe Cocker, or the Glen Campbell's covers, but not as good as Linda Ronstadt's.  Admittedly, Ronstadt's version is probably the one most folks have heard.  It's certainly the one I was familiar with.  Recorded in 1988 as part of a "Salute to the American Songwriter", YouTube has a clip of Webb and Ronstadt performing the tune: Jimmy Webb & Linda Ronstadt THE MOON'S A HARSH MISTRESS - YouTube

6.) Skylark (A Meditation) (Instrumental)  (Jimmy Webb - Paul A. Skylar) -  3:37   rating: *** stars
Almost new-agish, the synthesizer powered instrumental 'Skylark (A Meditation)' was a strange way to end the album.  The melody was certainly pretty, but it just felt out of place on the album.  Imagine a sibling to Crosby and Nash's 'Whistling Down the Water.'  

 

 

 

 

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