Glen Campbell borrows hit songs from contemporary artists to reintroduce himself on Meet Glen Campbell, his first studio album in more than a decade.
Most 72-year-olds would be daunted by the prospect of having to cover songs by contemporary bands like the Foo Fighters and Green Day. But country-pop legend Glen Campbell is a hard man to faze. “After I was on the road with the Beach Boys [in the mid ’60s], I never gave singing another thought,” Campbell says, laughing. “I figured, if I can get through those songs, I can sing anything.”
Certainly, few musicians can boast the experience and résumé that Campbell can. In addition to filling in briefly for Beach Boy Brian Wilson, the Arkansas-born guitarist and singer was a legendary session hand, recording with everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Monkees before launching a two-decade run as a solo superstar. Although Campbell’s catalog experienced a revival with the release of a career-spanning 2003 box set, it’s been some 15 years since his last studio album. The wait is finally over with the arrival of Meet Glen Campbell (Capitol, $19).
The brain child of producer Julian Raymond (Fastball, the Wallflowers), the10-song collection finds Campbell putting his distinctive stamp on amostly modern set of songs by the likes of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, U2, Travis, and the Replacements. And although he was initially unfamiliar with the tunes Raymond had picked out, his instincts drew him to the material. “When he played me the songs, I said, ‘Oh yeah. My word, these are some great songs,’ ” Campbell says.“A good song is a good song no matter what; you just know right away.”
Campbell is certainly no stranger to finding and reinterpreting material. In fact, he’s made something of a career out of it, generating massive hits with the work of writers like John Hartford (“Gentle on My Mind”), Allen Toussaint (“Southern Nights”), and, most famously, Jimmy Webb (“Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”).
“For me, a great song starts with a good chord progression and a strong melodic line, although I always tinkered with every song I did,” Campbell says.“I always tried adding a little something here and there to make the song mine.”
While the new album and a high-profile appearance at the Stagecoach country-music festival last spring have raised Campbell’s profile once again, the septuagenarian says he plans on scaling back his workload. “I’m slowing down; I’ll put it that way,” he says. “I’d like to retire. But when you’ve been playing music your whole life, it’s really hard to stop.” -- B.M.
UNDER COVER Glen Campbell’s new record features some unexpected yet masterful reworks of contemporary tunes. We wish other veteran artists would put down their pens and take to recycling songs too. Here are six dream covers we’d love to hear.
Rod Stewart setting aside the great American songbook and getting back into someloose, gritty country-rock with Wilco’s “Dreamer in My Dreams.”
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band doing a version of the epic Vietnam flashback narrative “Round Eye Blues” by Philly roots outfit Marah.
Brian Wilson putting some sun-kissed harmonies to singer-songwriter Kelley Stoltz’s Beach Boys homage “Ever Thought of Coming Back.”
Paul McCartney reaching back for some Beatles-esque magic with a redux of Raconteurs member Brendan Benson’s solo chestnut “Eventually.”
The Rolling Stones painting it black again with the dark Southern soul blues of the Reigning Sound’s “Drowning.”
Bob Dylan recapturing some of his adolescent energy with a ramble through RyanAdams’s plucky “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high).” -- B.M.