Glen Campbell, Meet Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell
Meet Glen Campbell

It’s interesting how Glen Campbell covering contemporary rock songs also brings him back to his musical roots. When Johnny Cash took a similar route on his collaborations with Rick Rubin, it brought him back to the raw sound of his early days on Sun and Columbia. Here, Glen Campbell returns to the bright, shiny country-pop that wallpapered AM radio stations in the sixties and seventies, using compelling songs from a younger generation as his vehicle.

Surprisingly, it works. Campbell doesn’t transform the songs drastically from their original incarnations. Rather, he brings the pop flavors that lingered below the surface to the forefront, sweetening things up with layers of strings and his smooth vocals. His covers of the Travis hit “Sing” and Tom Petty’s “Walls” sound effortless, with Campbell’s voice and taste in production being a perfect match for the material.

The album is most effective when Campbell covers songs that take on added dimension when sung by an older man. Jackson Browne’s lament “These Days” is the highlight of the set, with the added gravitas of Campbell’s weathered voice bringing out deeper shades of regret and loneliness. On  Velvet Underground’s “Jesus,” Campbell sounds like a man asking for a path to salvation before it’s too late, rather than as a young man simply seeking direction in life.

A similar approach would have been more effective for Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” as Campbell’s strangely bouncy take lacks the subtle shades of bitterness and lingering affection underlying Billie Joe Armstrong’s masterful performance.    Campbell misses the mark in the other direction on “Sadly Beautiful,” which would have benefited from a more spirited production to draw out the emotional contrasts and contradictions present in the lyric.

Even on the album closer, where Campbell tackles the John Lennon chestnut “Grow Old With Me,” he overdoes it, leaning too heavily on the strings and sounding somewhat disconnected from the lyric. But overall, Meet Glen Campbell is a reminder of what a stylist he is, and how effective he can be when wrapping his voice around a good pop melody. If listeners do truly meet Glen Campbell for the first time here, they’ll get a good introduction to the man’s talents, though they’ll have to go back a good distance to discover his best work.

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6 Comments

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6 Responses to Glen Campbell, Meet Glen Campbell

  1. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    I enjoyed this album quite a bit more than I thought I would. His voice has held up well for a 72-year-old man. I could have lived without some of the strings though, but that’s what’s always somewhat tempered my enjoyment of Campbell. I agree with Kevin’s assessment of “Grow Old With Me” as well. He sounded a bit disconnected, which is kind of how I actually felt about “Walls” as well.

    Over all, I’m glad I took a chance and bought the album though.

  2. If listeners do truly meet Glen Campbell for the first time here, they’ll get a good introduction to the man’s talents, though they’ll have to go back a good distance to discover his best work.

    On a song-by-song basis? Of course: there’s no “Wichita Lineman” here. But on the album level? I don’t know, I’d be willing to put this album up against anything Campbell released in his heyday. I think that you’ve significantly underrated it.

    You have, however, correctly identified the weakest song (“Time of Your Life”) and the best songs.

  3. We have very different tastes.

  4. I’m in awe of Glen Campbell. His not only a distinctive singer, but also a great guitarist.

    Together with Tommy Tedesco, Billy Strange and others he belonged to a group of top studio guitarist in Los Angeles from the early nineteen-sixties on. He also released a few instrumental albums.

    He played guitar among others for the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, The Mamas & Papas, Elvis Presley, Jan & Dean and the Righteous Brothers. He also played on many Phil Spector production and on many surf records.

    Let’s hope that “Meet Glen Campbell” brings his music to new audiences.

  5. I have been a fan of Mr. Campbell’s since “Phoenix”. Amazingly talented musician /singer /entertainer. However I have always felt his ability to choose not only GREAT material but material that is GREAT for him has been under appreciated since his hey days in the 60’s and 70’s. This newest offering illustrates yet again that Glenn Campbell is first and foremost all about the song . From his earliest collaborations with the great Jimmy Webb through his most recent release of music by Travis and the Foo Fighters he shows us how in the right hands a great song transcends time and genre.

    Rick Leather

  6. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    I have to agree with Rick, that Glen Campbell has been consistently sold short by a lot of music critics because he has never fitted into any one single generic box, not even country. Even if his cover of “Good Riddance” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I do find his version of “These Days” to be spot-on.

    And I would rank his material from 1967 to 1980 up against anything that today’s country acts could come up with in terms of quality.