Composer-arranger-producer-musician Jimmy Webb is one the Great American Songbook's all-time noble latter-day contributors. Like Burt Bacharach, Webb stepped in at the evolutionary eleventh hour with a gift for mixing the simple and complex and helped to right what seemed to be an irreversible nosedive into bubblegum purgatory. Participating here as half of the titular An Evening with Grammy Legends , the cat is a master of evocative imagery and provocative metaphor, one whose work still stands today as some of the most inescapably ubiquitous and damnably irresistible pop confections ever slapped onto our musical buffet table. From his first breakout successes with “Up, Up and Away” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” through his extravagantly epochal groaner “MacArthur Park,” Webb freshened up and redefined late-1960s pop expression, and one of his most artistically significant efforts of that period was producing, arranging and contributing songs to Sunshower , the 1969 solo debut platter from veteran Motown R&B-soul enchantress Thelma Houston. Tonight's shindig reunites Webb and Houston, and as they revisit that underappreciated set's luxurious pool of material, the combination of Webb's laid-back acuity and Houston's exquisitely passionate pipes is bound to be a dead-sure thriller. After all, Webb and Houston are a hell of a lot hipper (and more talented) than most of the deadbeats to whom NARAS hands out Grammys, a fact sure to illustrated by the tenured twosome's own ardent effortlessness.

Fri., May 21, 2010

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