Voices

Jimmy Webb

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Voices Review

by Mark Deming

Jimmy Webb may have been one of the most successful and celebrated songwriters of the '60s and '70s, but his efforts to expand his career into film scoring weren't always as successful. Webb was commissioned to create music for the films Love Story and Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, but in both cases the producers opted to use the work of other composers, and after finally getting his music onscreen in the revisionist western Doc (1971) and the curious semi-documentary The Naked Ape (1973), it wasn't until 1979 that Webb took another stab at writing for the movies. Voices was a romantic drama about a struggling singer and songwriter looking for his big break as he falls in love with a beautiful schoolteacher who is also a gifted dancer. However, the fact she's hearing impaired puts an obstacle between them, as well as holding her back from her dreams. Webb wrote the background score of the film, along with several songs performed by the characters on screen, and this album presents bits of both, as well as previously released tracks by Tom Petty and Willie Nelson that were source music in the movie. Burton Cummings, best known for his work with the Guess Who, provides the vocals for four numbers, while Andy & David Williams lend their ethereal voices to "The Children's Song," which is the strongest of Webb's songs here. Unfortunately, "I Will Always Wait for You" and "On a Stage" are emotionally overwrought and saddled with big arrangements that weigh them down rather tham bringing them to life, lacking the clear, incisive storytelling of Webb's best songs. "Disco If You Want To" and "Drunk as a Punk" reveal Webb's contempt for two major pop music trends of the late '70s without suggesting he has much understanding of them. And the extracts from Webb's instrumental score are well executed but not much more than utilitarian. Jimmy Webb completists and soundtrack buffs may be interested in this reissue of one of his lesser-known projects, but it's hardly up to the standards of the man who wrote "By the Time I Get to Phoenix."

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