Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Waxed - Record Review from Issue #6 Nov-Dec 1996

Jimmy Webb

Ten Easy Pieces (Guardian)

For better or for worse, I must own up to the fact that my record collection contains approximately 250 different versions of the 10 songs on this disc. And while it may say something about my sanity (or lack thereof) that I spent countless hours in 1993 and ’94 scouring used-vinyl bins for LPs with Jimmy Webb songwriting credits on them by artists ranging from Urge Overkill to Liberace and all points inbetween, it says even more about Jimmy Webb’s songwriting that so many versions of his songs have been recorded.

The great irony, however, is that Webb has never before released his own recordings of seven of the 10 songs on Ten Easy Pieces, despite a solo career that has included eight albums. This is the first chance to hear the writer’s own interpretations of landmark compositions such as “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” (74 versions in my collection), “Wichita Lineman” (51), “MacArthur Park” (40) and “Didn’t We” (37), save for an off-the-cuff live version of “Wichita” on a Razor & Tie In Their Own Words compilation a couple years back.

Webb has wisely decided to deliver his classics in the simplest form possible here — largely as piano-and-vocal-only recordings, with the occasional touch of cello, pedal steel or oboe, plus backing vocals on a couple tracks by the likes of Shawn Colvin and Marc Cohn. Rendered in such an exquisitely straightforward manner, the songs are revealed for what they are, at heart: Simply songs, not country songs, or soul songs, or jazz songs, or punk songs, or disco songs — even though they’ve been delivered in all of those forms (and then some) over the decades.

And what’s at the heart of a great song? In Webb’s case, it’s almost always a melody that triggers an emotional reaction like a pheromone, such as the reaching-for-the-sky turn that rises when a lover is “standing there, looking out to sea” in “Galveston”, or the dramatic descension that strikes when the tragic hero confesses “I fell and fell alone” in “The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress”.

But the proof is also in the lyrics. Webb could spot a man working on a telephone pole in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma, and turn it into “Wichita Lineman”, perhaps the ultimate song of unrequited romantic longing. He could also lay his thoughts on the line as simply and clearly as possible, as in “All I Know”. And then there’s the weird shit; “MacArthur Park” may be a much-parodied and ridiculed epic of melodrama, but imagine being the person who actually cooked up that little “cake in the rain” scheme.

That Jimmy Webb, who turned 50 in August, went so long without recording this album is remarkable (if not unconscionable). That it’s finally here now goes a long way toward shoring up a significant gap in popular music history.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #6 Nov-Dec 1996

Cover of Issue #6 Nov-Dec 1996

Sorry, this issue is SOLD OUT

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter