Jimmy Webb: On Record

Photo by Sasa Tkalcan/Helsinki Festival “I think the word is getting across,” says Jimmy Webb, “that we do have some great composers in our generation.” He’s doing his part to spread the word on his new album, Slipcover, for which he strips down songs by the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, and Joni Mitchell. Paring them down to solo piano amplifies the decisions these composers made: the melodic arcs and swells, the ingenious structures, the elaborate progressions, and the very specific emotions those elements convey. Of course, Webb belongs among the ranks of great composers, having written more than a few songs that are now considered pop classics, including “McArthur Park,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” and “Wichita Lineman.” What does paring these songs down to just piano accomplish? There’s an ongoing myth that all the great composers died in 1951. The idea is to redirect the attention towards some of these people who were truly gifted composers and start a Great American Songbook Part II. When it comes to chord structure and melody, we had some of the best composers ever in our ranks. Our generation didn’t fall on our face when it came to creating…

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