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.


LAP said...

Not available yet on itunes, apparently. I had to be contented listening to "Gentle on My Mind" instead, which no sacrifice at all. I then, found this on youtube, which was a glossed up delight...

Jon Hunt said...

(I forgot to mention its not available until August 15th. I scored, ahem ahem, a "promo" copy.)

Jeffrey M. Rosado said...

Awesome review, Jon! Thought the album's release date had been moved up until I saw your comment update on the right. Can't wait.

I too, love Glen. I grew up with his variety show (Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour) and have fond memories of hearing many of his early hits on the radio at the time of their release...Highly recommend his duet album with Bobbie "Ode To Billie Joe" Gentry containing great covers of Scarborough Fair and My Elusive Dreams.

When I was a disc jockey at a couple of country stations in the 1980's, I loved playing his hit cover of Faithless Love (which I think is a JD Souther tune), and his duet with Steve Wariner (Glen was a huge influence on him and he's a great artist in his own right) on The Hand That Rocks The Cradle....

Other fave Campbell tunes: Can You Fool?, Sunflower, a nice medley of Don't Pull Your Love/Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye, Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife (great vocal!), and of course, Southern Nights (with that great 12 string guitar riff).

Can't wait to hear Glenn's cover of Grow Old With Me (I love the version that George Martin added strings to, but it still gets me choked up); I don't know if it's on You Tube or not, but one of my Beatle bootleg DVD's has a clip of Glen playfully introducing Apple's promotional video of Get Back on his TV show (with then rough-cut footage of the infamous Apple rooftop gig synced up to the studio recording of the song).

Finally, speaking of the King (thankyouverymuch), Elvis did a killer version of Gentle On My Mind on his From Elvis In Memphis album...Slowed down the tempo, gave it a soul flavored interpretation and I think it's just as good...if not better than the original. I wonder if E's recording of the song was not just because of the song's lyrical qualities, but also as a tip of the hat to Glen who played guitar on a few of Elvis' soundtrack albums ("I'll be you roving roustabouuuuuuuuut...roving, roving, roving roustabouuuuuuuut......")

Yes, I know TOO much about this stuff! Lord have mercy!

Chris Hill said...

Uh, I'm going to need my promo copy to. It sounds utterly amazing. I too love Glenn. Even Southern Nights.

Jon Hunt said...

EVEN "Southern Nights?" Hell, man, ESPECIALLY "Southern Nights!"

There aren't a lot of Glen songs I *don't* like. I especially dig "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was A Superstar)".

Nick said...

I play "Country Boy" just about every time I DJ. Love that song. Although maybe that's why i'm not invited back...

Our boy Gilyard hipped me to some good Glen stuff on a mixtape years ago, now I gotta go dig that out. And, I guess, a tape player too.

See, now I gotta go dig around in the garage. Reading blogs is hard work.

patrick said...

dude, this is awesome. now i have something more recent than 1969's Galveston as evidence that he's one of the best. it's strange how the destruction of the record industry... the fact that middle of the road means "nothing, nothing, nothing" like what he sings on... "sing", brings about the revival of the last golden age, just when the music biz was getting HUGE because of the corporate vultures that now have so little to feed on. that one man, campbell, is illustrative of it ALL is pretty cosmic. and it validates people like you and me who love him even though we didn't grow up with Goodtime Hour on the tele.

Anonymous said...

There are some great Branson shows to see there though!

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