After returning to “MacArthur Park” earlier this year, Jimmy Webb returns to record stores with a new album featuring some high-profile duets.
Many of these songs have become part of the fabric of popular music of the late 20th century through the original versions by artists such as Richard Harris (“MacArthur Park”), Joe Cocker (“The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress”), Linda Ronstadt (“Adios,” “Shattered”) and Glen Campbell (“Where’s the Playground, Susie,” “Honey Come Back”).
But it’s revealing to hear them coming from the veteran composer himself, with some help from singing partners including Keith Urban, Carly Simon, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Art Garfunkel, Cocker, Kris Kristofferson and Amy Grant.
Webb’s voice, once merely serviceable, especially compared to his formidable compositional skills, has become a more confident instrument with some of the color and expressiveness of country-rock pioneer Chris Hillman.
“Elvis and Me” is an autobiographical tract on Webb’s real-life meeting with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Probably the most compelling track here is Webb’s version of his 1968 expansive pop epic “MacArthur Park,” which boasts some wondrous vocal support from Brian Wilson, stamping it with the sonic fingerprint of the Southern California milieu out of which it was born 45 years ago.
His renditions don’t supplant the original recordings, but shine new light into some of the many nooks and crannies his elegant songs contain.
“Still Within the Sound of My Voice"
E One Music
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