Campbell’s Early Vocals Most Appealing
** 1/2 GLEN CAMPBELL
“The Glen Campbell
Razor & Tie
It’s not unreasonable to think of Glen Campbell as the country equivalent of the folk-minded Kingston Trio--someone who injected pop accessibility into a traditional, mostly rural form in ways that made the music appealing to millions of mainstream fans.
In Campbell’s case, the Grammy-winning singer not only opened a pop door to country music through such late-'60s hits as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” but also helped win legions of new fans for the music through a hit TV variety show.
His affection for country was genuine. He grew up listening to it in Pike County, Ark., in the ‘40s and early ‘50s. But his musical tastes also were shaped by rock ‘n’ roll, folk and pop. By the time he caught the pop world’s ear in 1967 with his warmly convincing version of Jimmy Webb’s “Phoenix,” Campbell already had spent much of the decade singing or playing guitar on the road or in the studio with rockers (the Beach Boys), pop artists (Frank Sinatra) and country artists (Merle Haggard).
For his own recordings, he brought all those influences into play. The result vocally was a smooth, pop-country approach closer to another country outsider, John Denver, than to the honky-tonk tradition of George Jones and Haggard.
Campbell’s vocals on most of the 20 songs in the first of this set’s two compact discs are nicely appealing in an easy, sing-along manner. But the real strength of these recordings, in retrospect, was the outstanding material. Along with the many Webb songs that Campbell recorded, he also turned to material by such top-line writers as John Hartford (“Gentle on My Mind”), John D. Loudermilk (“I Wanna Live”), Gordon Lightfoot (“The Last Time I Saw Her”) and Boudleaux Bryant (“All I Have to Do Is Dream”).
Unfortunately, the post-1971 recordings that fill disc two are undercut by generally weaker material and unconvincing arrangements. (The primary exception is a sassy version from 1977 of Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights.”)
For the most part, Razor & Tie, (213) 473-9173, would have given us a far more satisfying album if it had limited itself to a single disc, “The Glen Campbell Collection (1962-1970).”
** Various artists, “Eh, Paisano!,” Rhino. With almost everything of worth already on CD, reissue departments are facing the challenge of finding fresh concepts to justify additional compilations. The entire “lounge music” trend (or attempted trend) is an example of record companies trying to generate interest in music that has little place or purpose in contemporary pop.
This salute to Italian singers and Italian songs shows just how hard it is to come up with something truly worthwhile. There’s already enough music by Italian singers--from Frank Sinatra to Connie Francis--to fill several record store shelves.
This package might have worked had it stuck closer to the lighthearted tracks such as Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” and Louis Prima’s medley of “Angelina” and “Zooma Zooma.” Instead it is burdened with such marginal items as Al Martino’s “Spanish Eyes” and Jay & the Americans’ “Cara, Mia.”
* Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).