Saturday, July 26, 2008
I Am So In Love With This Album.
You folks know how much I love Glen Campbell, right? I'll go a step further and call him the greatest American singing voice besides Elvis Presley -- there's just something about his rich, honeyed baritone that stirs something deep inside me. Most people will cop to liking his Jim Webb tunes ("Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," "By The TIme I Get To Phoenix") but I dig his entire catalog of amazing songs -- yes, INCLUDING "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Country Boy (You Got Your Feet In LA)" which I understand even more since moving out here.
Recently, though, Glen's sort of fallen off the "cool" radar, massively. He's had a couple drunk driving episodes, and he's become a cheesy Branson, MO staple, which is never a good sign. You all saw his recent mugshot -- he don't look pretty, I'll tell ya that. That's why his new album, Meet Glen Campbell, is such a godsend in a way -- like Johnny Cash's American recordings, it seems to have reminded Glen, and hopefully the American public, why he was so god-damn cool in the first place.
The concept is pretty much the same as the American stuff, though also the same as all of Glen's 60s records -- find a batch of songs that you wouldn't normally think Glen would sing, and let him loose on interpreting the stuff. There's some really interesting song choices, which helps -- "These Days" by Nico and "Jesus" by the Velvet Underground are the coolest, and really piqued my interest -- and the producer seems to understand what people wanna hear out of a Glen Campbell song, because the sweeping strings and low-tuned guitar solos are well in effect.
But it's Glen's singing voice that makes the stuff absolutely sparkle. His version of "Sing" by Britpop group Travis actually makes me like the song, so gorgeously does he croon it. I wouldn't call his version of "These Days" *definitive* (it's hard to beat Nico, ferchrissake) but his version is definitely tear-inducing and magnificent. He sings "Jesus" like he means it, and strips back the layer of Lou Reed irony (one of my all-time favorite VU songs, btw). He tackles Paul Westerberg's heartbreaking HEARTBREAKING "Sadly Beautiful," his lament about his daughter growing up, which, as a guy with a daughter, literally made me bawl. And his pair of Tom Petty songs actually renders Petty's versions irrelevant.
You'll wonder about two songs -- his cover of "Times Like These," a song I actually loathe by the Foo Fighters, is so lovingly rendered it almost makes me forget I hate the song, but it's still such a thin melody and lyric that even wrapping it up in delightful string arrangements doesn't help its anemia. On the other hand, the overplayed "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" by Green Day is turned into a "Gentle On My Mind" country song, which it almost was anyway, and that version actually strikes pretty damn hard.
The album closes with a sumptuous version of "Grow Old With Me," a John Lennon song so damn heartrending I can't even listen to it in its original incarnation. Glen, I will grow old with you, even though I know you're not singing to me. If this is a predictor of how your late-period career is gonna go, I'm right there with ya. I hope everybody else is too. I really do.