A U.K. two-fer of Richard Harris' first two albums, 1968's A Tramp Shining and 1969's The Yard Went on Forever, The Webb Sessions: 1968-1969 is a handy introduction to some of the most over the top work by Jim Webb, perhaps the most cheerfully perverse songwriter of the '60s. Gifted with a brilliant sense of melody and an ear for wonderfully rich, almost symphonic arrangements, Webb was also fond of downright bizarre lyrical conceits that couched deep emotions in some of the most outlandish metaphors in pop history. (Who can forget "MacArthur Park" and its central image of a cake dissolving in a rainstorm as a sign of a failed relationship?) Richard Harris not being a singer by trade, he apparently had no ego to fight against Webb's more outrageous ideas -- unlike the Association, who famously turned down "MacArthur Park" only to see it become one of the top-selling singles of the '60s -- and so both albums are masterpieces of freakishly huge orchestrations, impenetrable lyrics, and Harris' stentorian, classically trained but oddly unmusical voice. The lesser-known tracks on The Yard Went on Forever, supposedly a concept album detailing Webb's recent divorce although one couldn't tell it from the lyric sheet, are even more groovy and strange than the more familiar A Tramp Shining, which almost sounds normal in comparison. Regardless, The Webb Sessions: 1968-1969 is absolutely necessary for anyone with a taste for the odd in '60s pop.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason