[29 August 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Glen Campbell’s new album is titled Meet Glen Campbell, clearly a marketing move considering his four-decade career and this album’s emphasis on songs of a younger generation. But if young people are discovering Campbell through this recording, what they’re getting is at least not far in spirit or sound from the songs and albums which made him famous way back when. His singing voice is in fine form still. And the producers achieved a similar style to his hits of the past: elegant sentimentality driven by strings and smooth, straight-ahead singing. What’s most interesting about Meet Glen Campbell is seeing which of the chosen songs fit that style and which don’t. His take on the Replacements’ “Sadly Beautiful”, for example, demonstrates how much of the original song’s emotional power came from Paul Westerberg’s weathered singing. U2’s “All I Want Is You” also sounded more forceful with Bono’s epic persona than here. And Campbell can’t come close to saving Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”, trite in anyone’s possession. On the other hand, Campbell and Tom Petty’s “Walls” fit together quite naturally. The same is true for Jackson Browne’s “These Days”, not the most interesting song but very pleasant here. And one of the more daring song choices, the Velvet Underground’s “Jesus”, doesn’t sound daring at all, but a natural fit. Marketing endeavor or not, Meet Glen Campbell is part of a long tradition of older vocalists tackling a younger set of songs. Campbell doesn’t reinvent any of them, but he was never really an inventor. What he does is make a fine, if not spectacular, album that mostly plays to his strengths.