Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sings Where It's At - Dick Campbell

Sings Where It's At
Dick Campbell
Mercury MG 21060

This record became a quasi-collectors item because of its shameless imitation of Bob Dylan from around the period of "Highway 61 Revisited."  It features some of the same musicians from the Dylan sessions including nearly the entire Paul Butterfield Blues Band and borrows a lot of Dylan's musical stylings.  The big difference is that Dylan is a genius and Campbell was a dimwit who could barely sing.  Nothing on this record comes close to the quality of even the worst Dylan songs from the period, heck nothing even comes close to the quality of "A Public Execution" by Mouse and the Traps which is the best Dylan copy I've ever heard.  Campbell's lyric writing is atrocious, it is so pretentious, sexist and self-righteous that I almost suspected it was a joke.  Could anyone be so clueless, such a cliche of a folk singer?  However judging from the earnestness of the liner notes I do believe that Campbell was the real thing, the worst folk-rocker ever.  Even Jan and Dean made better folk-rock than this.  The liner notes in which Campbell analyzes his "poems" on the record are amazing.  Most of them are addressed to his unfortunate girlfriend Sandi who is advised not to play hard to get or to try and tell him what to do.  Regarding the song "Sandi" Campbell writes: "Sandi tends to think in two dimensions instead of three.  If she was told something, then, that's what it was at face value.  No reading between the lines.  Nothing was symbolically phrased.  Example: Sandi (would say) 'the person loves me so things are o.k.'  Whereas, I might say, 'If affection filled the tranquil sea, then my ship of life would sail upon her love for me.'  Viva la defference (sic), N'cest (sic) pas?  However, through my songs and by the way I teach her to think clearly, she is 'escaping the treacherous bite' of a boring non knowledgeable existence."  Reading crap like that just makes me want to smash the record to pieces.  You can imagine the quality of the "symbolic" lyrics that flow from such a mind.  The sad thing is that if you could erase the singing, this would be a pretty decent record.  "Highway 61 Revisited" is one of my favorite albums of all time and I'm a big fan of the original Butterfield Band and Mike Bloomfield who contribute some fine playing for Campbell's "poems."  Musically this record has something to offer, it is derivative but still enjoyable.  But that singing, those words, ugh.  Even when I put it on in the background and try not to focus on the words, I'm irresistibly drawn to their awfulness.  This record isn't easy to find and it isn't worth whatever you'll have to pay for it, but I guess if you are into Dylan, you will probably be amused by it.  Recommended for people who think Dylan is a bad singer or who think his lyrics are too hard to understand - one spin of this and you'll never put down Bob again.

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