CHRISTIAAN WEBB, eldest son of the legendary Jimmy, has been following in his father’s rather large footsteps for over a decade. After first releasing music with his brothers – ‘Maroon’ (2006) is well worth a listen – his dad got in on the act three years ago and the whole family toured as ‘Jimmy Webb and the Webb Brothers’. Their reflective effort, ‘Cottonwood Farm’ is also worth hearing if you’re a fan of the great songwriter’s work (Galveston is a somewhat lost classic, and cements Webb the elder as a true legend).
Now though, Christiaan is striking out on his own. His debut solo effort, ‘A Man Possessed’, is a 12-song collection, which ‘represents the culmination of a life-altering spiritual journey’. Christiaan was heavily inspired by new age spiritualist, Don Miguel Ruiz. Apparently his texts have changed a die-hard freewheeler into a far more spiritual being. Some of the songs on the album came to fruition so quickly, fully formed, that Webb felt like ‘A Man Possessed’.
I am sceptical of the New Age movement, but you can tell from the off that Christiaan was inspired and enthusiastic recording this album. A change of direction from his older material with his brothers and father, it features a host of melancholic lyrics but entrancing melodies as well as a new soulful approach – all of which showcase a brilliant voice. Opener ‘Westward Man’ and ‘My Best Intentions’ remind me of Paul Weller, all punchy beats and shout-along choruses. Most of the songs on offer though are far more subdued in tone, sometimes backed by lush arrangements, sometimes a far simpler band setup.
By recruiting Romeo and Angela from The Magic Numbers (remember them?), Webb has fleshed out his voice on a number of songs, giving a syrupy sweet finish. This works for some of the tracks, but others lose some raw emotion when crooned by a trio. The highlights are the starker songs like ‘Life Support,’ which put their voices to best use. The best of the bunch, though, is ‘Midnight Moon’ – reminiscent of the work with his brothers, it’s a pared-down and gloomy affair which comes to life with a beautiful chorus.
A relaxed album with strong rock sensibilities, Beatles guitars chime behind a powerful and distinctive voice, ‘A Man Possessed’ is an exercise in classic song-writing. Though there is not much innovation on offer, Webb’s voice is great and he seems to be enjoying the writing process throughout. His engaging lyrics prove he is adept at discussing sensitive themes like love and death without overdoing the emotions or coming across as corny.
By mixing his rock and roll voice with some far more restrained performances, Webb has, generally, produced some classic songs. The quality of most of this album makes up for the occasional dalliance with ska beats and a horn section, and some of the songs even made me appreciate the Magic Numbers’ voices!
Perhaps Don Miguel Ruiz should be essential reading for all rock-n-rollers who want to go it alone.
(Released through Musicbox Records on 16th April 2012)