Jimmy Webb

And So: On

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After penning a series of middle-of-the-road pop hits in the late '60s and early '70s ("By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Up-Up and Away," "MacArthur Park," etc.), 24-year-old Jimmy Webb launched his career as a recording artist in his own right with Words and Music in November 1970. (Jim Webb Sings Jim Webb, a collection of demos never intended as an album had preceded it, but Webb disavowed the release.) Reprise Records may have expected the album to sell on Webb's name, but it didn't, especially because, compared to his hits, it was under-produced (most of the instruments were played by the songwriter and Fred Tackett) and because Webb's writing had taken a more personal tone; for example, he devoted a three-song suite to the travails of being a songwriter. With the disc's commercial failure, Reprise was prepared to give him a second chance, and as soon as possible. So, in May 1971, only six months after Words and Music, And So: On was released. Webb hadn't had time to write an album's worth of new material. In fact, only four songs -- "Met Her on a Plane," "Laspitch," "One Lady," and "If Ships Were Made to Sail" -- carried 1971 copyrights, and songs dated back as far as 1967. (The earliest was "Marionette." In his liner notes to the 2006 reissue, Richie Unterberger speculates that Webb may have been "lightly mocking" "MacArthur Park" in "Marionette" since both songs have lines about things being left out in the rain. But since "Marionette" seems to have been written before "MacArthur Park" that appears unlikely.) "All My Love's Laughter" had been recorded by Ed Ames in 1968, and "Pocketful of Keys" by Thelma Houston in 1969. And some of the material was being repurposed. Reportedly, "Highpockets" and "Laspitch," both character songs, had been written for a proposed Broadway musical. As a result, And So: On was an album of different moods that didn't quite hang together. Ironically, the age of some of the material made it sound more like Webb's hit period than Words and Music had. One could easily imagine Richard Harris recording "All My Love's Laughter" or "Pocketful of Keys" in the wake of "MacArthur Park," for example, but "One Lady" and "See You Then" (copyright 1970) sounded like the personal, confessional statements more typical of Words and Music. Another problem was that, although Webb had an adequate singing voice, in fact a voice superior to that of some singer/songwriters of the time, especially on the earlier songs he was not writing for that voice's limitations, which made him sound like a worse singer than he was as he strained for notes he couldn't reach. The album thus often came off more like a songwriter's demos than the finished work of a professional performer. (Not surprisingly, it was later mined by others. Roberta Flack quickly covered "See You Then," the first of several recordings; Ian Matthews did "Met Her on a Plane" in 1972; Scott Walker tried "If Ships Were Made to Sail" in 1973; and Art Garfunkel put "Marionette" on his almost-all-Webb album Watermark in 1978.)

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