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A Tramp Shining

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Album Review

The artist's first collaboration with composer/producer Jimmy Webb is a great record, even 35 years later, encompassing pop, rock, elements of classical music, and even pop-soul in a body of brilliant, bittersweet romantic songs by Webb, all presented in a consistently affecting and powerful vocal performance by Harris. Harris treaded onto Frank Sinatra territory here, and he did it with a voice not remotely as good or well trained as his, yet he pulled it off by sheer bravado and his ability as an actor, coupled with his vocal talents — his performance was manly and vulnerable enough to make women swoon, but powerful and manly enough to allow their husbands and boyfriends to feel okay listening to a man's man like Harris singing on such matters. The production and arrangements by Webb were some of the lushest ever heard on a pop album of the period, with a 35-piece orchestra whose presence was more influenced by the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album than it was by any of Nelson Riddle's work with Sinatra. Strangely enough, "MacArthur Park" — the massive hit off the album — isn't all that representative of the rest of the record, which relies much more on strings than brass and horns, and has a somewhat lower-key feel but also a great deal more subtlety. One can also hear the influence of Webb's then-recent work with the Fifth Dimension in the presence of the muted female chorus on "In the Final Hours" and, much more so, on "If You Must Leave My Life" (perhaps the best song on the album, and the most complex, with heavy rhythm guitar, a great beat, and lush orchestrations), which almost sounds like a lost Fifth Dimension cut. None of the support musicians are credited, though it's a safe bet that Larry Knechtel, Hal Blaine, and Joe Osborn are among those present. The domestic CD sounds amazingly good, considering that it was mastered in the 1980s, but serious fans may want to opt for Raven Records' The Webb Sessions, which contains this album plus its follow-up, The Yard Went on Forever.

Customer Reviews

richard harris is a golden god. as is jimmy webb.

* the fact that no one has written anything yet about this surpassingly beautiful and deeply felt record, at once an irredeemably corny delight, and a heart in your throat, emotional passion play on heartache, writ large in swaths of strings and melodrama-melodies, made real by master songwriter jimmy webb and talk-singer extraordinaire richard harris - the fact that no has written anything yet - is plain unlawful. give over to this paisley, irridescent time-capsule concept record & you will be made whole again. top to bottom great but if you only get one track, get 'the paper chase.' (but don't miss the amazing, original "mcarthur park," written for harris.) you've never heard anything like this. really.

MacArthur Park (the original one) LIVES!

If you own the original album, this one's missing the Interludes, but it's fine the way it is. No doubt there's a cult following for "MacArthur Park" (and I'm one of 'em), but the rest is just classic good stuff you'll want to listen to. "In The Final Hours" and "Lovers Such As I" are especially good.

Ah, nostalgia

I was delighted to find this available on itunes. It was one of the first vinyl albums I ever bought, and the first in my collection of Richard Harris music albums. What sweet memories it invokes for me, with Harris' distinctive voice, and Webb's delightful songs. I hope they make more of Harris' work available very soon, as my old vinyls are now unplayable and I miss these songs. My favorite was "Slides." But this is a good start. I wish the rest of the album artwork was available, because the back had a wonderful photograph of Harris in a battered bathrobe sitting on a throne out in the middle of the woods. Affective.


Genre: Drama

The notion of Richard Harris -- macho, heavy drinking, two-fisted man's man -- as a popular singer would have seemed an absurdity to anyone who knew his work in 1967, ten years into his career. In less than a year from that time, however, Harris would be the most popular actor-singer in the history of popular music, with a gold record to his credit and radio play that rivaled the Beatles. The son of a miller, Richard Harris was educated at the Sacred Heart Jesuit College, and later studied at the...
Full Bio
A Tramp Shining, Richard Harris
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Customer Ratings