One of the brightest and enduring stars from the fertile 1960s music scene is legendary guitarist, session player, singer, songwriter, performer and TV star, Glen Campbell. The man has enjoyed a remarkable and well desereved trajectory, first establishing himself as a much in demand member of The Wrecking Crew, playing on countless recordings by major stars. Heck, he even filled in for Brian Wilson touring the world with The Beach Boys at one point playing bass guitar!
By now you probably know the sad news that Mr. Campbell has been suffering from Alzheimers. Still, he has soldiered on and put out some of the best albums of his career in recent years. His cover of Guided By Voices’ “Hold On Hope” remains a stunning favorite for me. And he has a new album coming out soon too (review to come!).
But here we’re going to take a quick look at a fine series of classic reissues the good folks at Universal Music have been creating featuring several of Glen Campbell’s legendary records from the late 1960s. It is great to know that these massively popular recordings have returned to store shelves (virtual or otherwise) , so everyone should be celebrating.
I mean, these albums are near-iconic, selling in droves, so much so that today they are staples at flea markets and thrift shops and record store bargain bins around the country. However…. finding a mint condition copy on vinyl… an LP by Glen Campbell that hasn’t been played on a poorly aligned, probably automatic, stacked-disc record changers … well…. that prospect is far more difficult than you might imagine, Dear Readers. Thus these reissues on Capitol Records are extremely welcome.
The nice thing is that Universal seems to have used the original mixes and kept true to the look and feel of the period — so you get original, very accurate reproductions right down to period-accurate Capitol Records (rainbow era) labels — pressed on nice dark, standard weight vinyl.
The LPs play very quiet – arguably quieter than any original pressings you might find these days. The overall sound emanating from these discs is pretty darn great, delivering a bit more sonic detail than my original pressings I’ve compared them to (I have two of the three discussed here). Perhaps the reissue producers applied a bit less compression in making the discs, as they are relatively short albums and playback equipment is far better these days than what the average consumer owned back in 1968. Mastered more quietly than the originals, you’ll have to turn up your amp a bit more but in doing so, you’ll find a nice level of detailing apparent.
The interesting thing about these albums as that beyond the hits there are other “deep cuts” which are worthy of your attention. In his hit making heyday, Glen was no doubt a singles oriented artist, but he made sure that his albums were an enjoyable listen end to end, with impeccable musicianship provided by his friends in The Wrecking Crew and lush production by Al De Lory (and also Leon Russell!).
Accordingly, below are some other highlights you might enjoy:
While Glen had many hits, it was his 1967 cover of John Hartford’s “Gentle on my Mind” that first brought him to massive national attention. He won four Grammy Awards in 1968 (Best Folk Performance, Best Country & Western Song, Best Country & Western Solo Vocal Performance and Best Country & Western Recording). Beyond this smash hit, I really like his version of Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” and Harry Nilsson’s “Without Her.” And Glen shows he has the vocal goods too by paying tribute to Roy Orbison with a lovely cover of his now-classic, “Crying,” bringing some lovely twists in this version. I’ll bet this was a powerhouse in concert (assuming he did it live, that is).
This was Glenn’s second collaboration with the great Jimmy Webb — the first was “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” — on the remarkable title track. It reached #3 on the US pop charts and stayed in the Top 100 for 15 weeks in 1968. But he also pays lovely tribute to the then-recently deceased Otis Redding, covering his “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” I really love Chris Gantry’s song “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” which apparently was the first single released from the album. I also like his take on The Bee Gees’ “Words.”
This Jimmy Webb-penned title song delivered another Top 10 hit for Glen (reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100) in 1969. Wow. What perfect run of hits Glen had! This is also the point where Glen’s music — like many others of the period — got even more sophisticated, tackling Webb’s anti-war song at the height of the madness in Vietnam. While “Galveston” went to number one, don’t over look Jimmy Webb’s other track on this album which reached number 28 on the charts, “Where’s The Playground Susie.” He also interprets two Buffy Sainte-Marie songs here “Take My Hand For A While” and “Until Its Time For You To Go.”
So, you see, while its great hearing Glen’s hits back to back on greatest hits type collection — and I have two of those, one on LP and one on CD (featuring quite enjoyable remixes, by the way!) to play in the car and such — there are many riches to enjoy within his regular albums.
This is timeless pop music that still sounds great today.