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MacArthur Park by Jimmy Webb

Spring was never waiting for us girl it ran one step ahead as we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages and were pressed
In love's hot fevered iron like a stripped pair of pants
I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees
And birds like tender babies in your hands
And the old man playing checkers by the trees
MacArthur Park is melting in the dark all the sweet green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never had that recipe again oh no

There will be another songs for me for I will sing it
There will be another dream for me someone will bring it
I'll drink the wine while it is warm and never let you catch me looking in the sun
But after all the loves of my life after all the loves of my life you'll still be the one
I will take my life into my hands and I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And my passions flow like rivers through the sky
But after all the loves of my life oh after all the loves of my life
I'll be thinking of you and wondering why
MacArthur Park is melting...

A short while ago I was searching the Internet for articles about Jimmy Webb, who I rate as one of if not the finest songwriters of the modern era.

In particular I wanted to read about the monumental MacArthur Park which was, is and always will be one of my favourite songs.

I didn't find much apart from one site where a journalist had voted the lyrics of MacArthur Park to be the worst ever written. Apparently in a survey more than 10,000 people agreed with this scribe. Second place apparently went to "Yummy Yummy Yummy, I've Got Love in My Tummy."

The writer pointed out that the "appalling" MacArthur Park had been featured on over 50 different albums.

Now I had a problem with the logic of this man. Firstly if MacArthur Park is as bad as he claims, why have countless artists recorded it on vinyl and subsequently CD? This shows an immediate flaw in this reporter's logic. Secondly could it be that the people who feel that MacArthur Park's lyrics are the worst ever written have no perception of the song whatsoever. They have no understanding of what makes a great lyric and what makes a challenging song. The same people would probably struggle with Surfs Up by the beach Boys - another of the all time great lyrics.

Ten thousand people may have voted it the worst song ever, but quite equally another 10,000 probably think it is the best thing since sliced bread.

MacArthur Park is a brilliant example of Jimmy Webb at his greatest. No matter how many times I have listened to this song in all its forms and guises, I always hear something different in it. It has beauty, pace, calm and that wonderful staccato section which has been cloned by so many people. There is a Gershwinian feel to parts of the song, but beyond doubt it has all the signatures of Jimmy Webb at his best.

I decided to put together a compilation of this one song and soon found myself running out of recording space and having to go to a second CD. It has over the years been recorded by some of the greatest names in music - as well as some of the least known. Such is its timeless quality that new versions are always likely. For me the definitive version will always be that of Richard Harris. He took the single to number two in the charts - some going for a song which lasted over seven minutes and certainly broke the mould of the three minute single.

For me Harris, probably better known as an actor than singer, is the best interpreter of Webb's music. He brings a theatrical feel to the song that not even Glenn Campbell can match. It is interesting to see what bits are left out in the cutdown versions

Below is a list of artists who have recorded MacArthur Park. Many have recorded it numerous times (both live and in the studio) and I hope to be able to track down most of these as well.  The current total of artists who have recorded the song (with many more to be found) is 72 and counting

Artist Album(s) Length Mark  Comments
Richard Harris A Tramp Shining/Greatest Performances/The Webb Sessions/MacArthur Park/Someone Left the Cake out in the Rain 10 The definitive single, oozing emotion and one of the greatest interpretations of any Jimmy Webb song
Jimmy Webb 10 Easy Lessons 7 Jimmy's voice perhaps doesn't do justice, but his piano playing is excellent. But who's going to criticise the genius that wrote it?
Long John Baldry Up Up and Away- The Songs of Jimmy Webb 7 Baldry's clipped but sultry voice is similar to Harris but without quite the same feeling
Four Tops Four Tops Story 1964/72
Andy Williams Love Theme From the Godfather/Greatest Hits/Super Hits 5:06 6 Starts with the quiet bits which makes this rather strange. Williams' velvet voice handles the song pretty well but the emotion is lacking.
Floyd Cramer Floyd Cramer Plays MacArthur Park
Donna Summer On the Radio Greatest Hits/Someone Left the Cake out in the Rain 7.5 For some strange reason I like this up tempo disco version by Donna Summer which succeeded in bringing the song to a wider audience
Waylon Jennings MacArthur Park/Legends 5:10 8 One of my favourite versions with backing vocals from the Kimberleys, one of whom takes the lead on the beautiful slow section which is very emotional. Misses out much of the instrumental passages but nevertheless very effective
Waylon Jennings Are You Ready for the Country/What Goes Around Comes Around 6:34 6 Time has weathered Jennings' voice to give a more guttarel feel in this longer version. Without the Kimberleys it lacks depth and becomes rather tedious. Still a competent version although messing around with the lyrics is not a good move.
Glen Campbell The Glen Campbell Good Time Album/The Legacy 7.5 Another fine interpreter of Jimmy Webb songs (probably second only to Richard Harris). At times he makes MP sound more like a singalong but this version has considerable merit
Ed Ames
101 Strings
Tony Bennett
Ray Conniff
Percy Faith
Ferranti and Teicher
Liberace
Frank Sinatra Trilogy
Atlantic Bridge Up Up and Away -The songs of Jimmy Webb
Dionne Warwick
The Stone Canyon MacArthur Park 6:14 3.5 A plinky-plonky speeded up version with some highly embarrassing passages and a vocalist who quite obviously cannot cope with the vocal range needed
Studio Group
The Associated Soul Group
Kurt Edelhagan Orchestra Jazz Swings Pop 3:41 4 Starts with a fanfare and then plenty of brass. Instrumental that is ultimately too fast as if they are trying to get it over with
Carmen McRae
Justin Hayward Classic Blue 7:16 5.5 Beautiful classical baroque intro with plenty of strings. Hayward's lush lyrics don't quite capture the emotion of the early verses. Just proves what a phenomenally difficult song this is and the ending is very strained.
Liza Minnelli
Vic Damone Selected Hits Volume One 4:07 4.5 At one point Damone's vocals get so aggressive that it seems he wants to step outside the song and knife somebody. A very disjointed version where Damone tries far too hard to be emotional.
The Assembled Multitude
Manny Lagod Something 5:02 5 Doesn't cut the mustard with his phrasing and lacks the necessary emotion. Misses out too much and suddenly comes to the ending without any of the necessary drama.
Buddy Greco 4:33 7 Decent funky/jazzy piano led instrumental version that rips along and builds to a reasonable climax
Jeff Duff Band
Della Reese
The Lounge-O-Leers 4:33 6 A fun version - scampers along in lounge style with fun organ backing. All rambles along at the same pace. You have to admire the cheek of these New York satirists.
Maynard Ferguson The Essential Maynard Ferguson 10:01 7 Jazz trumpeter Ferguson provides a long, but crisp interpretation with some lush slower passages. Due to its length it does veer away from the original slightly.
101 Strings Orchestra Quiet Moods 7:05 6 Decent lush instrumental version with few frills or surprises, but pretty true to the original
Stan Kenton
Percy Faith and His Orch.
Goober and the Peas 4:55 5.5 Another tongue in the cheek version, which doesn't mean it's bad. Moves between country and thrash metal but somehow still manages to stay on course. Disintegrates at the end
Vocal Majority Chorus
Pro Sound Studio Band
Amen Corner
Newell Oler 4:44 6 More of a classical piano interpretation than say Buddy Greco. Again illustrates how MP lends itself to so many different styles either vocal or instrumental. This version concentrates more on the quieter passages of the song.
Crescent City Orchestra
Grimethorpe Colliery Band Classic Brass 6:26 7 MP is extremely effective when performed by a brass band. This is a beautifully moody version that evokes the north of England
Stanley Turrentine
Mike Vax
Denny G 4:51 6 Very competent version with sultry female vocals that erupt into a Donna Summer disco style feel. An amalgam of many other versions. No slow section though
Andre Francis
Magic Hands
Ukelele Orchestra of GB
Hybrid Kids
South Notts Brass Band
Chicago Metorpolitan Jazz Orchestra
Countdown
Larry Matthews
The Film Score Orchestra
Brazilian Topical Orch. Plays Boleros 2:53 4 One of the shorter versions with a loose samba beat but pretty mainstream and just seems to fade into the distance
Hugo Montenegro and orch.
Jack Fender
Maestro Jerard
Jim Anderson
Sammy Davis Junior
Fifth Dimension
Psychotica
Beggar's Opera
Diana Ross and Supremes
The Queers
The Negro Problem
Zumpino
Michael Feinstein
Three Degrees
Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps
Monica Naranjo
Band of the Yorkshire Imperial Metals Up Up and Away - The Songs of Jimmy Webb.