Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The Astounding 12-String Guitar of Glen Campbell - Glen Campbell
Capitol ST 2023
I recently saw the excellent documentary "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me" which is a behind the scenes look at his farewell tour emphasizing the devastating effect of Alzheimer's Disease on him. I saw one of the shows on that tour and I was astonished to see in the film how far gone he already was. Sitting in the audience at his show I thought he seemed in control and confident. In reality not only could he not remember the words to songs he has sung thousands of times (he used a teleprompter for the lyrics), he could barely remember his kids' names. Amazingly he could still play like the virtuoso guitarist he has always been. I guess that part of his brain is different from the part ravaged by his disease. This album showcases his instrumental skill. It was his third album. It seems likely that the weasels at Capitol Records did not know what to do with him. Here's this good-looking kid with a wonderful voice and they tried to turn him into Chet Atkins. It is a testament to his immense talent that he made this record work with his engaging and energetic fret work. My favorite cut is a performance of Bob Dylan's "Walkin' Down the Line" which starts out as a sprightly instrumental and then almost as if he can't help himself, Campbell bursts into song to sing a couple of verses. The record really jumps to life at that moment and you can see why the guy who wrote the liner notes felt that Campbell was going to "gain equal fame" as a vocalist. My favorite cuts among the instrumentals are a pair of duets with Roy Clark on the banjo, "Lonesome Twelve" and "The Ballad of Jed Clampett." The dynamic interplay between Clark and Campbell is very stimulating and frenetic. The album is worth picking up just for those two cuts alone. Campbell's own compositions "12-String Special" and the rocking "Bull Durham" are almost as good with lots of fine country-style picking. Campbell also tackles a bunch of folk hits. He is joined by Clark again for "Wimoweh" which isn't as exciting as the other two Clark cuts but still enjoyable. On "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" and "This Land Is Your Land" he plays the first verse straight then starts to embellish the songs with some terrific jazzy flights before coming back to earth to finish. Great stuff. He uses the same formula for "Blowin' In the Wind," "500 Miles (Away From Home)" and "Green, Green" but the improvised sections are more sedate. He's joined by Earl Palmer on bongo for "La Bamba" which gives the cut plenty of propulsion upon which Campbell lays down some of his finest guitar work on the record. I'm fond of this record, Campbell was a natural entertainer and that goes for his guitar solos as well. There is not a boring moment on this record. The man was certainly among the best guitar players of his generation. It makes me sad to think that not only has the great man's voice been silenced, but that I'll never get to hear another one of his lightning fast guitar runs again either. At least I have this record to remind me of his tremendous ability. Recommended to fans of the "pickin' and grinnin'" segments on "Hee-Haw."