Monday, September 24, 2012

Glen Campbell And Jimmy Webb: "In Session..." (2012) CD/DVD Review

Glen Campbell is known for several hits songs, including "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Honey Come Back" and of course "Rhinestone Cowboy."  The writer responsible for most of those songs is Jimmy Webb.  The two have performed together often over the years. And in 1988, Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb recorded a show for the television series In Session. On that show, they performed many of the songs that Webb wrote for Campbell, and also talked a bit about several of the songs.

Now Concord Music Group is releasing a 2-disc edition of that performance. The first disc is a CD, and the second is a DVD of the program.

If you don't own any Glen Campbell or Jimmy Webb albums, this is probably not the album to start with. This is for fans, for the tracks include some spoken introductions, and even some mistakes and interruptions. If somehow you haven't heard these songs before, this stuff will likely be of little interest. But for those who are fans, these discs work as an truly interesting document, and feature some wonderful performances. And of course a lot of these songs will be familiar to many people, particularly "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston." All the songs were written by Jimmy Webb, who plays piano on these tracks. Glen Campbell is on guitar and vocals.  (The other musicians are not listed - and that's talked about in the liner notes.)


The CD opens with Jimmy Webb talking about meeting Glen Campbell on a Chevrolet commercial. He says how at the time he had long hair, and that the first thing Glen said to him was "Why don't you get a haircut?"  Jimmy adds, "He and I were sort of on the opposite side of the political spectrum at that time, and I don't know whether we really liked each other very much. But as time went on, we became very, very close." They then go into "Light Years" (which, yes, is a cheesy song).  (On the CD, the spoken introductions are not presented as separate tracks, but are on the same tracks as the songs.)

There is a really nice rendition of "If These Walls Could Speak." It's a simple version, letting the vocals tell the story, and Glen's voice sounds so good.  There is no spoken introduction, just the song.

Regarding "Galveston," Jimmy Webb talks about how when Glen Campbell recorded it, it was faster than he'd intended. And in the intervening years it has slowed to where it should have been originally. "Songs know how fast they want to be sung," he says. It's interesting, because he's essentially boasting that he was right, and Glen was wrong. The track then has a really good version of that famous song.  (By the way, a live version of this song was released earlier this year on Glen Campbell's Live In Japan.)

"MacArthur Park" features the lines, "Someone left my cake out in the rain/And I don't think that I can take it/'Cause it took so long to bake it/And I'll never have that recipe again." Glen gives an earnest delivery on what are possibly the goofiest (if not stupidest) lyrics ever. And then - shockingly - there is an interruption in the song. Jimmy Webb talks about the lyrics right after that moment, as the song continues to play in the background, which is very odd. It's as if after lyrics that ridiculous, they felt that an explanation was needed immediately, that it couldn't wait until the end of the song. Jimmy says about the lyrics, "I guess the controversy is, Are they any good? Or do they mean anything? Or is this guy putting us on?"  Then: "No, I'm not putting anybody on." Okay, then. Nearly five minutes in, the song takes on a new energy that is really cool, and features some nice work on electric guitar.

The CD also features a nice version of "Wichita Lineman," which is such a good song. I like the lines,  "And I need you more than want you/And I want you for all time." There is also some really nice acoustic guitar work by Glen Campbell.

There is no introduction to "Sunshower," just the song. I really like this track. It's kept simple, and so the beauty of the song shines through plainly. According to the liner notes, this is the only recording of Glen Campbell performing this song. It's really good, though near the end he makes a mistake and stops, saying, "I'm going to get that right."

There is also no introduction to "Still Within The Sound Of My Voice," the album's final track, and, to my ears, one of the strongest tracks on this release.


The DVD contains all of the songs from the CD, plus more stage banter from both Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb, as they discuss various songs. For this performance, Jimmy Webb is seated at the piano, and Glen Campbell is seated, facing him. That setup creates a nice, intimate, close feel between them.

Oddly, the DVD begins in the middle of "By The Time I Get To Phoenix." Then it goes to a bit of an interview with Jimmy Webb. He's at the control booth, so this was clearly shot separately from the performance. This is the "Get a haircut" bit before "Light Years." And then after the song, there is a bit of Glen talking about the take, which is a cool moment (and which is not on the CD).

When talking about "If These Walls Could Speak," Glen asks if it's true that Jimmy wrote the song for Waylon Jennings. And then after the song, Glen jokes that he sounded like Waylon there in a couple of places. These are the moments that make this DVD wonderful.

There is no introduction to "MacArthur Park." And yes, the interview interrupts this song on the DVD as well. It cuts to it, then back to the song. In the video we see that it's Glen Campbell who is playing the wonderful electric guitar part in this song, as well as the acoustic guitar. The electric was recorded later, and we get a bit of split screen action showing both at once, which is pretty cool. I really like that electric guitar part.  The end credits come up toward the end of this song. Apparently this was presented as two programs.  (Oddly, the first part is approximately twenty-four minutes, while the second is only eighteen.)

Like the first section, the second section comes in toward the end of a song - this time "Almost Alright Again."  During "Wichita Lineman," you can see how much Glen loves this song. Watch his face especially near the beginning.

Glen stands for the performance of "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress," doing just vocals, not playing guitar. And for this song he's wearing an Angels baseball jacket.

Glen and Jimmy talk about "Honey Come Back," a cool moment that is not on the CD, and they play a bit of that song. They then talk about "Sunshower." This is probably my favorite section of the DVD. It was my favorite track on the CD, and I love it even more on the DVD. You can really see how much Jimmy Webb is enjoying watching Glen play it.

CD Track List
  1. Light Years
  2. If These Walls Could Speak
  3. Galveston
  4. Where's The Playground Susie
  5. MacArthur Park
  6. Wichita Lineman
  7. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
  8. Sunshower
  9. Still Within The Sound Of My Voice
In Session... is scheduled to be released on October 9, 2012.  Two years ago, another In Session performance was released as a two-disc set, that by Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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