GLEN CAMPBELL: SEE YOU THERE
Star rating: * * * *
At recent gigs, he has been visibly confused – though, crucially, not when he sings and plays guitar, tapping into something that obviously runs deep – and the decision was made to retire from touring last year.
His recording career, however, remains up in the air. His wife has intimated that Campbell would like to carry on recording if possible. Even so, Ghost on the Canvas, released in 2011, felt like a valediction, albeit one which radiated a bright-colours-only positivism.
During sessions for that album, Campbell revisited some of his best-loved material, laying down new vocals, around which producers Dave Kaplan and Dave Darling have arranged fresh, stripped-down backing tracks, divested of the lavish pop production of the originals, in a bid to echo the intimacy of Campbell’s performances on his television show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.
The results are poignant. Campbell’s voice has aged with dignity but he exhibits great soaring soul on Hey Little One and retains that plaintive quality which makes his Jimmy Webb interpretations ache so sweetly.
Wichita Lineman keeps the plangent guitar solo but adds eloquently sighing pedal steel in place of the sumptuous strings and mournful horns of the original. The air-punching Rhinestone Cowboy is stripped right back, emphasising the mundane lot of the daydreaming protagonist, and Galveston is slowed down and embellished with western swing guitar. The moving soldier’s line, “I am so afraid of dying,” is no less of a killer 40-plus years on. Only Gentle On My Mind becomes a slightly creaky little jaunt.
Of the new or less familiar material, the pathos of Webb’s Postcard From Paris (aka I Wish You Were Here) and the lonesome country rock ballad There’s No Me… Without You sit comfortably beside the greats, while the affecting Waiting on the Comin’ of My Lord, a previously unreleased meet-my-maker song, is dispatched with a lightness of touch and reprised later with strings and mariachi horns to even breezier effect.
Campbell doesn’t make a meal of his memories as he flicks through his glorious back pages and neither should we. For those who don’t feel too precious about the original versions of these songs, See You There is a rendezvous well worth making.