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Album Review

"If you think this is going to be a whole evening of anecdotes about dead're basically right," Jimmy Webb tells his audience with a faint laugh in this live recording, which captures a show in Wales during Webb's 2005 tour of the United Kingdom. The legendary songwriter was touring in support of his 2005 album Twilight of the Renegades, which he describes here as a collection of songs "in memory of some great characters I've known in my life — rogues, renegades, rapscallions, people who like to swim upstream." Fittingly, Live and at Large features Webb singing 11 numbers from his songbook, many of which will be familiar to longtime fans, and most are prefaced by stories about friends and artists in some way associated with the tunes. As one might imagine, Webb has some memorable tales to tell about his friendships with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Waylon Jennings, Rosemary Clooney and Harry Nilsson, while also sneaking in a few kind words about the still living Glen Campbell and Art Garfunkel. Webb's not a bad storyteller, but the real strength of this album comes when he sings; Webb's voice is in fine shape and he brings an intelligent and emotionally compelling sense of drama to songs like "Highwayman," "Wichita Lineman," and "Didn't We," lending a fresh perspective to songs most listeners probably know by heart. And while Webb is accompanied only by his own piano, his skills at the keyboard are estimable and he brings a wealth of tonal color to the songs, suggesting a real arrangement rather than a skeletal accompaniment. The disc closes out with "MacArthur Park," which is arguably the album's weakest moment — at over ten minutes, this version adds three minutes to the rather overstuffed recording that was a hit for Richard Harris, and while Webb makes more sense of the lyric than the majority of interpretations, this cake has thoroughly melted by the time the tune finally comes to a close. Apart from the overwrought finale, Live and at Large is a fine audio snapshot of Jimmy Webb the performer, and it's no small compliment to say he's nearly at good as singing and playing his songs as he is at writing them.

Customer Reviews

a candid portrait of a masterful songwriter/performer

Jimmy Webb needs no introduction, although he is easily bypassed by the casual music listener who would only know his beautiful songs by the various artists who recorded them. But those who really know music, know Jimmy Webb, for he stands among the very best composers of sophisticated pop music of the latter half of the twentieth century. He is still going strong, and in my opinion is better than ever. Jimmy's reputation as a masterful songwriter has long been established, in fact going back to the late sixties with his very first hits (the epic 'MacArthur's Park' and those exquisite pop songs sung by Glen Campbell). But the public by and large was not privy to his innate skill as a performing artist. Upon hearing his first 'solo' release about ten years ago, 'Ten Easy Pieces', I was personally amazed at the refreshingly authenticity of this artist performing his own well-known tunes in his own unique way. This LIVE recording, more than a decade later, treats us to a portrait of a mature artist, perhaps a bit more confident and comfortable in the role of performing artist. In this remarkable performance Jimmy Webb astounds his captive audience with the first-hand power and passion of his total musicality. He ad-libs through his songs as if making up the arrangement on the spot. He varys his vocal timing and inserts experimental piano phrases like the true master he is... with complete abandon and a sense a true freedom that only comes through many years of experience. His command of the keyboard is self evident but it is his vocals that are the most impactful to this listener. Passion, clarity of purpose, and sheer joy of expressing his gifts are communicated in every note. This man can sing with the best of them. These are songs that stand alone apart from any other 'more polished' studio recordings. This is truly music that stands all by itself by one of the greatest living composers we have. Listen to this performance, and you will see what I mean.

Jimmy Webb Is an American Treasure

Jimmy Webb is a true American treasure. His music is right in there with Burt Bacharach, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paul Simon, and some of the other greats. He is not quite as well known, but as with those other greats, the world would be a darker and sadder place without him. Although he is better known as a writer than a performer, I think his voice and style have greatly improved with age. A list of just some of his music would go on for many pages - By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Didn't We, Galveston, Wichita Lineman, Highwayman, MacArthur Park and on and on. Both the music and some of his commentary on this are very worth getting. Highly recommended. Chuck Pekor Atlanta, Georgia

A Great Live Performance

In this gem of an album, Jimmy Webb laments the passing of some renegade singers who recorded his works. But I think the real tragedy is that there aren't many songwriters like Jimmy Webb out there. His songs stand out and stay with you over time. "Wichita Lineman, All I Know, and, of course "MacArthur Park" come back as old friends, sounding just as lyrical and haunting as they did when they were hits decades ago.
Before buying "Live and at Large," I'd never heard "No Signs of Age" or "Paul Gaugain in the South Seas." Like most of the songs on this album, their melodies are long and complex. It takes a few listens before they sink in, but it's great in these times of mechanized "music" to be muscially challenged by true song writing craftsmanship. Case in point, "Time Flies," a song once recorded by Rosemary Clooney. A gorgeous melody that grows on you with every listen.
Webb's piano playing is worth listening to on its own. (Check out all the intros and outros to the sections in "MacArthur Park.") The album, "A Tramp Shining" recorded with Richard Harris on vocals, is punctuated by these little orchestral vignettes, all scored by Webb. I'm reminded of Samuel Barber, in the classical field, or the film composer John Barry.
Praise aside, as Webb himself wryly notes when he quotes the late Harry Nilson, his songs "got no humor." True. Webb strives for a high romanticism that doesn't mix well with irony or satire (leave that to Randy Newman.) Moreover, as lush and wonderful as his piano playing is, I wish he'd sometimes lighten up his touch on the keyboard. It seems like the louder he plays, the louder he feels he has to sing, and, like many tunesmiths who are songwriters first and singers second, that's not always to good effect.
But these are minor crticisms. Jimmy Webb's "Live and at Large." highlights what a large talent he is. it has been wonderful revisiting the better known songs of this collection, and a pleasure getting to know the ones I'd never heard. Tom Miller, New York


Born: August 15, 1946 in Elk City, OK

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Jimmy Webb is that rarity in rock music, a professional songwriter who achieved stardom in that capacity. Rock music has its share of great songwriters, but most of them -- Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Gene Clark, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend -- became best known for their own recordings of their best work. Webb has also performed live, and recorded fairly extensively, but his performing career never approached his success as a composer. His songwriting...
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