What makes for the perfect marriage of songwriter and singer? The magic is nearly indefinable when composer and lyricist meet a voice to serve as a muse; when two or three people, each with an inimitable gift, find themselves on a perfect, sympathetic and transcendent wavelength to bring each other’s music to life. There have been many such marriages across all genes of music: Dionne Warwick with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Frank Sinatra with Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen; Petula Clark with Tony Hatch; Meat Loaf with Jim Steinman. Yet surely one of the most special is that of Glen Campbell with Jimmy Webb. That enduring relationship is the subject of Fantasy Records’ upcoming CD/DVD set, In Session, due in stores on September 25.
Since Glen Campbell first recorded “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” in 1967, he became intimately acquainted with the words and music of Jimmy L. Webb. Formerly a staff songwriter for Motown’s Jobete Music arm, Webb had placed songs with big names (The Supremes) and lesser-known talents (Danny Day, The Contessas) when he attracted the ear of Soul City’s Johnny Rivers. The “Poor Side of Town” and “Memphis, Tennessee” man was the first to release a version of “Phoenix,” on his 1967 album Changes. Within a year, he was enlisting Webb to write and produce an entire album for The 5th Dimension (with whom he had provided the multiple Grammy-winning hit “Up, Up and Away”) and was recording almost an entire all-Webb album himself.
Glen Campbell’s recording of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” scored the singer a No. 1 Country LP, with its title song hitting No. 2 Country, No. 12 AC and No. 26 Pop. Before long, Campbell sought out Webb to craft a follow-up with a similar geographical bent. “Wichita Lineman” was inspiration borne from necessity. Even though Frank Sinatra famously called “Phoenix” “the greatest torch song ever written,” “Wichita Lineman” might be even better, a song of striking maturity for such a young songwriter. Campbell’s reading perfectly captured its evocative mood, and the album of the same name hit No. 1 on both the country and pop charts. “Wichita” the single went all the way to No. 1 Country and AC, and No. 3 Pop. Glen Campbell was officially on his way, and Jimmy Webb was the hottest young songwriter on the planet.
Over the years, Campbell has recorded roughly forty of Webb’s songs, from the chart-topping “Galveston” (which repeated the placement of “Wichita” on all three singles charts!) to the recent ‘Wish You Were Here,” from Campbell’s last (final?) album Ghost on the Canvas. Webb has been there every step of the way with his musical soul brother, even contributing songs during Campbell’s contemporary Christian period.
Hit the jump for all the details on In Session!
In Session was taped in 1988 in the Hamilton, Ontario studios of CHCH-TV for the syndicated Canadian television program of the same name. The show paired two artists with admiration and affection for each other, so who better than lifelong friends Webb and Campbell? This isn’t the first volume to arrive as a commercial release; Stax Records has previously issued the appearance of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan as a similar CD/DVD set. Campbell and Webb had recently collaborated at the time of filming on Campbell’s album Light Years, containing eight Webb-penned tracks. With Webb naturally at the piano, the show featured Campbell (equally naturally!) on guitar, singing and playing their hits like “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” and “Where’s the Playground Susie” along with lesser-known Webb tunes including Campbell’s only known recording of “Sunshower,” the title song of Thelma Houston’s 1969 album produced and largely written by Webb.
Jimmy Webb has acutely felt the pain of Campbell’s revelation that he has Alzheimer’s disease, which he’s valiantly fighting as he continues his acclaimed Goodbye Tour. “What is happening with Glen, which is basically his long goodbye, is really one of the most painful things I’ve been through in my life,” admitted Webb. “There’s no way it can compare to what has happened with the family, but in terms of someone outside the family, I would have to be the one who feels the most.”
In addition to the concert performances, In Session is also interspersed with excerpts from an interview with Webb as well as reminiscences between the two artists. The CD/DVD set is due on September 25 from Fantasy Records and Concord Music Group. You can pre-order here, and we’ll update with a track listing once one is confirmed!