The debut album of the Richard Harris
/ Jimmy Webb
songwriting partnership, 'A Tramp
Shining' was released in 1968 (on the long-dead Dunhill Records
, now part of ABC
) and contains the kitsch
masterpiece 'MacArthur Park
'. Like that song the album is simultaneously awful, brilliant, and endearing, an easy-listening masterpiece that was clearly intended to be a major artistic statement bridging the gap between pop and classical music, one that now sounds ridiculous.
The songs consist of a blend of light orchestral arrangements with Harris singing Webb's rambling, pretentious lyrics over the top. Harris' vocal delivery is similar to that of William Shatner, existing on the boundary between speech and song, although with the ham turned down slightly and replaced with alcohol.
In some ways 'A Tramp Shining' is a precursor to mid-70s progressive rock, albeit shorter and without endless soloing. The tracks are separated by short instrumental interludes and the album even has an overture.
'MacArthur Park' is the stand-out track, and the rest of the album is in a similar orchestral-pop-easy style. 'In the Final Hours' and 'Name of my Sorrow' are the other standouts (the former is actually quite good in a 'straight' sense). The album reached number four on the Billboard charts in July 1968 and was nominated for four Grammy awards.
It's currently available on compact disc on its own, and in a double-pack with Harris' second and final Webb collaboration, 'The Yard Went On Forever'.
The track listing:
Prelude ('A Tramp Shining')
'Name Of My Sorrow'
'Lovers Such As I'
'In The Final Hours'
'If You Must Leave My Life'
'A Tramp Shining'