Wednesday, 16 March 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #5: "Meet Glen Campbell" - Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell

When I first heard that Glen Campbell was releasing a new LP in 2008, with covers of Foo Fighters and Green Day songs on it, I was horrified. I was totally prepared for this album to completely suck.

The pairing of an old contemporary country singer, with music originally by a punk rock band seemed incongruous. Was this going to end up as tragically bad as John Farnham's attempt to reclaim commercial success (a la Rod Stewart of late) with his atrocious LP "I Remember When I Was Young: Songs from the Great Australian Songbook"? Possibly...

...but then, it could be as cool as Johnny Cash became in the last few years of his life, with the release of his "American Recordings" series, when he took on the works of Tom Petty and Soundgarden with stunning results.

The old adage that "you can't judge a record by reading about it in Rolling Stone" certainly applies here. The proof is in the grooves (or the arrangement of the 1s and 0s in your mp3 files). Upon listening to it, it is apparent that this album is a triumph.

Granted, some tracks are not that far removed from their original arrangements. It's certainly the case on his versions of "Sing" by Scottish band Travis, and Green Day's "Time Of Your Life". However, that is not a criticism: Glen's warm and tender tenor suits these arrangements. These tracks, especially "Time Of Your Life", contain a certain type of emotional urgency in their performance that makes them exciting and appealing.

Not being a huge U2 fan, there are only a small handful of songs in their catalogue that I consider to be essential listening. I was nervous when approaching the version of "All I Want Is You" here, as this is one of my very favourites. The arrangement is very close to the original, with enough subtle changes in it to make it uniquely "Glen". He succeeds with his version, I'm glad to say.

His take on "Times Like These", a highlight of the Foo Fighters otherwise mediocre LP "One by One", is quite curious, as it seems to ape the sound and style of some of his classic works, most notably "Galveston". On paper, that sounds awful, but some reason the song is strangely endearing in this form. It forms a perfect soundtrack for driving in the desert on a hot summer day.

The version of the Jackson Browne-penned "These Days" (originally performed by Nico on "Chelsea Girl" in 1967) is not as cold as Nico's version, but actually suits the pleasant acoustic guitar treatment offered here.

Within a couple of listens, this album inspired fervent loyalty from me and I consider it to be a highlight in my music collection. I managed to score a limited edition vinyl copy of the album which features pristine sound and a bonus track - a remix of "Galveston", which is very out of place here. It somehow manages to detract from the greatness of the rest of the record. Not because it isn't a good song, because it is, but it's placement on this record is out of context and unnecessary.

Featured below is the album on Spotify, minus the Galveston remix.


Here are the original artists of the tracks on this album:

1. Sing - Travis
2. Walls - Tom Petty
3. Angel Dream - Tom Petty
4. Times Like These - Foo Fighters
5. These Days - Nico (written by Jackson Browne)
6. Sadly Beautiful - The Replacements
7. All I Want Is You - U2
8. Jesus - Velvet Underground (written by Lou Reed)
9. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) - Green Day
10. Grow Old With Me - John Lennon

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