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CD Reviews: Review of Twilight of the Renegades by Jimmy Webb
Harris Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Entertainment Web Guide

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Jimmy Webb: Twilight of the Renegades (Sanctuary  2005)

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If there was ever any question of Jimmy Webb having achieved immortality as a songwriter, it can be answered during an episode from the first season of The Muppet Show.

During the episode, Fozzie Bear is prepping himself to perform "The Telephone Pole Act," repeating his mantra, "I am a telephone pole,” when Kermit walks up and says, "No one's ever going to believe you're a telephone pole."

Suddenly, a guy wearing a hard hat strolls onscreen, singing, "I am a lineman for the country / And I drive the main road," wraps a phone line around Fozzie's nose, and keeps on walking.

Kermit says, "I stand corrected."

Dude, when your song is a Muppet punchline, you’ve made it.

It isn’t just “Wichita Lineman” that’s secured Webb’s reputation, of course. There’s “MacArthur Park,” “Galveston,” “The Worst That Could Happen,” “The Highwayman,” “Where’s The Playground, Susie,” “Up, Up, and Away (In My Beautiful Balloon),” and many, many others. He is, in fact, one of the few songwriters of the ‘60s who can comfortably be spoken of in the same breath as Burt Bacharach.

Actually, Jimmy has a leg up on our man Burt, in that he can sing his own songs rather well. (Ever heard Bacharach crooning “Alfie” when they did that tribute special to him on TNT? He freely admits his own failing as a vocalist, but, still…ouch.) He doesn’t do it very often – Twilight of the Renegades is his first album of new material since 1993’s Suspending Disbelief – but, when he does it, it’s invariably something to look forward to hearing.

Webb’s lyrics tend toward the grandly poetic rather than the “moon / June / spoon” rhyme scheme, which may explain the lead track bearing the decidedly epic title, “Paul Gaugin in the South Seas,” as well as its epic length (almost seven minutes). Still, it’s the perfect launching pad for the album, setting the stage for twelve tracks which include delicate verses and, when the mood is right, soaring choruses; the latter is particularly evident on this opener, highlighting Gaugin’s search for paradise.

“Spanish Radio” is a classic Webb romantic lament, where the narrator, singing from the confines of Pocatello, Idaho, bemoans the fact that “I don’t eat fajitas much anymore / And salty margaritas I just cannot abide / But I still like to listen to Spanish radio / And think about the days when Jose Cuervo was my friend.” The melancholy “Time Flies,” meanwhile, is so lovely that it could almost appear in a Disney film, and, ironically, “Why Do I Have To…” almost sounds like a Bacharach tribute, with its muted horns.

This is not an album to be listened to as background music, although, given that it consists predominantly of piano ballads, it could certainly serve as such. No, this is a mellow disc which provides no end of subtle pleasures, both in its lyrics and its melodies, and it’s highly recommended for your next Sunday morning chill-out. Twilight of the Renegades serves as a reminder of what pop music was like before being “in your face” became an industry requirement, and it’s comforting to know that Jimmy Webb can still produce such beautiful songs, whether it’s cool or not. 

~Will Harris 


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