Glen Campbell | Meet Glen Campbell (Capitol)

cd_glen-campbell.jpgIt’s amazing what the years can do to broaden your tastes.







For better or worse, Glen Campbell is one of the pop icons of the late 1960s. For a few years he seemed to be everywhere: scooping up the Grammys, hosting his own television show, and starring in movies alongside John Wayne and Joe Namath. His classic recordings of that era, such as "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Gentle on My Mind" and "Galveston," are as firmly linked to that era as The Beatles’ "Lady Madonna" or The Byrds’ "Ballad of Easy Rider."

Of course, if you were (like me) a rebellious preteen in those years, you would rather have dropped dead in your tracks than be caught listening to Glen Campbell, with his reliably soothing voice and squeaky-clean image. No, if you were a proto-hipster in those days, Glen Campbell was strictly for the old folks (like your parents!).

It’s amazing what the years can do to broaden your tastes. I’m now a member of the older generation, and while I still like "Lady Madonna," I’ve come to appreciate "Galveston" as well. And my admiration for Campbell has only increased since learning that he was a sought-after studio musician for years before his first hit single, and that his guitar playing can be heard on tracks recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Phil Spector. In fact, it might be easier to make a list of top recording artists Campbell didn’t work with, rather than those he did.

It’s been a long time since 1977, when Campbell last had a hit single ("Southern Nights"). The intervening years were fodder for a VH1 Behind the Music special, and indeed have been featured on that show: alcoholism, drug abuse, multiple failed marriages and a highly publicized affair with Tanya Tucker overshadowed Campbell’s sporadic recordings, none of which came close to the Billboard Top 10.

So maybe it’s not surprising that at age 72 Glen Campbell would decide to make a comeback. His new album, Meet Glenn Campbell, was produced by Julian Raymond and Howard Willing. It features covers of 10 songs made famous by younger, hipper artists, including The Velvet Underground, Foo Fighters, The Replacements and U2.

The album title suggests a career makeover, but although the material is new, the sound is classic Glen Campbell. Wisely avoiding the debacle of Pat Boone’s venture into heavy metal, Campbell selected material to suit his persona and characteristic style. He still has that same smooth voice and clear diction, and the arrangements are only slightly updated from his 1960s recordings. The basic sound is classic Nashville, with a wall of strings, sweet vocal harmonies and finger-style guitar; the addition of younger rock and alt-country artists, including Robin Zander, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., Jason Faulkner and Chris Chaney, on selected tracks blends in nicely.

Most of Campbell’s selections work very well; among the standouts are "Jesus" (Lou Reed), "Sing" (Fran Healy of Travis) and "Angel Dream" (Tom Petty). Notably less successful are "Grow Old With Me" (John Lennon) and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" (Green Day). On both tracks, Campbell’s voice seems strained, and "Good Riddance" is not really suited to his style, while "Grow Old With Me" may have hit just a little too close to home. B+ | Sarah Boslaugh

RIYL: "Rhinestone Cowboy," "Home Before Dark," "All I Intended to Be"

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