Ten Easy Pieces

(1996), 9.5/10
Jimmy Webb always had the reputation of a songwriter who couldn’t sing, and he struggled to sell records even though he was writing pop masterpieces like Glen Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘Galveston’. But by the 1990s, his reedy voice had filled out to a deeper and more attractive instrument, and his re-recordings of ten classic songs from his songbook are gorgeous; he’s not a virtuoso singer, but he’s more than capable of handling his own beautiful melodies. While there are a couple of dozen backing musicians credited, including Michael McDonald and Shawn Colvin on backing vocals, most of the time it’s easy to forget they’re there, as the focus is squarely on Webb’s piano and voice. Most of the songs are among Webb’s best known – the anti-war protest of ‘Galveston’, the existentialism of ‘Wichita Lineman’, the elegance of ‘All I Know’, and the moody ‘The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress’ are among the all time contributions to the pop songbook from Webb, and his emotive readings here often eclipse the more familiar recordings. I sometimes feel like skipping the eight minutes of ‘MacArthur Park’, but otherwise it’s an almost flawless collection of enduring pop songs.

This isn’t featured on the album, but I love this Jimmy Webb and Paddy McAloon take on ‘The Highwayman’ from 1991:

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