CD Review: Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb – In Session (Fantasy, 1988/2012)
Recorded in 1988, this CD/DVD set brings together the singer-and-songwriter pair who broke through in 1967 with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” The duo would score several more hit singles, including the multi-chart topping “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston,” along with lower charting singles “Where’s the Playground Susie” and “Honey Come Back.” Each partner had tremendous success on their own, but the combination of Webb’s emotionally evocative lyrics and Campbell’s country-tinged pop vocals created something unique. Though they continued to work together off and on, including a full-length 1974 album Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb, their collaborations never again struck the chart gold of their late ‘60s run.
Campbell and Webb continued to perform together at select events over the years, but commercially released recordings of their pairings are few. This set, recorded for the Canadian television show In Session, is released here for the first time. The duo reprises their biggest hits, and adds other songs from both their collaborative catalog and Webb’s own rich collection of compositions. Campbell remains deeply engaged with the hits, taking “Galveston” at a slow, mournful pace, and adding thoughtful touches to “Wichita Lineman,” including a fetching acoustic guitar solo; he also rescues “MacArthur Park” from the drama laid into Richard Harris’ original hit, singing the song lyrically rather than performing it as a dramatic script.
The arrangements are relatively simple, with Campbell on guitar facing Webb on piano, and backing of bass, drums and synthesized strings that leaves the focus on the vocals and the songs. The duo’s personal and musical chemistry is evident in the between-song banter and the knowing looks they exchange. The DVD opens at the end of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and unfortunately, that fragment is all you get. Webb is also included in interview segments inserted between (and, distractingly at times, overlapping and during) songs. The segments are banded as separate tracks on the DVD, but not on the CD, where they distract from the set’s flow. This is a nice artifact of Campbell and Webb’s 45-year partnership and friendship, and the musical fruit they’ve nurtured.