(Capitol / Real Gone Music)
When reports surfaced that Apple and/or Sony had raised the price on Whitney Houston’s The Ultimate Collection in the UK
iTunes store within hours after the singer’s death, it was merely the crassest
confirmation of the entertainment biz’s inability to resist capitalizing on
performers’ deaths and misfortunes. These two Glen Campbell reissues don’t
quite fall into that category, but you still can’t help but wonder if Capitol
or Real Gone would have put these discs out had Campbell not been in the midst of his
“Goodbye Tour,” so named because it’s likely the last he’ll be able to complete
as his Alzheimer’s progresses.
Don’t get me wrong; Real Gone cranks out a shit-ton of
top-notch reissues, few of which would ever be construed as attempts to cash in (unless I’m seriously underestimating
the market for the back catalogs of the likes of Hank Thompson and ? and the
Mysterians). But the timing of the reissue of Live in Japan (6 out of 10 stars) – which was never before released
in the U.S.
– makes it hard to hear the album without a bit of distaste.
Or maybe it’s just not
that good. Bogged down by slick, Vegas-style orchestrations and a setlist
heavy on covers of popular (at the time) tunes like Mac Davis’ “I Believe in
Music” and Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You,” this 1975 concert is
certainly representative of Campbell’s
sets at the time. But that doesn’t mean it’s representative of Campbell’s
career up until that point; classics like “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I
Get to Phoenix,”
and “Wichita Lineman” get the medley treatment, while versions of “My Way” and
“The Way We Were” are presented in full. Campbell
had yet to begin the run of hits that included “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Country
Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.),”
and “Southern Nights,” but there was no shortage of 1960s hits to choose from.
Of course, Campbell’s tenor was never finer than in the
mid-’70s, and it shines throughout, making the showbiz arrangements more
listenable than they’ve a right to be, particularly on “Galveston” and Conway
Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.” Still, Live
in Japan is more valuable as a historical artifact than as a concert
recording one is likely to return to again and again.
Meet Glen Campbell
(Expanded) (8 out of 10) is a better set of music, but it’s also a more
to cash in on Campbell’s condition and the resurgence in attention it’s brought
about (not to mention the Lifetime Achievement Award he received at this year’s
Grammys). The 2008 album is presented again in full, and the power of Campbell’s country pop
take on songs like Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” and Travis’s “Sing” remains
undeniable (Stuart Munro captured it
perfectly in his Blurt review).
The original 10-track album is augmented by remixes of “Galveston” and “Gentle
on My Mind,” and three live AOL sessions recordings: “Wichita Lineman,”
“Rhinestone Cowboy,” and “All I Want is You.” Aside from that last one, which
has a looseness in the playing and a vulnerability in the singing that
surpasses the album version, these additions are utterly superfluous. The
remixes are punchier and louder than the originals, but don’t reveal anything
new, and while the live takes on “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” are
more than passable, they’re hardly cause for anyone who bought the original Meet Glen Campbell to buy it again.
The combined effect of hearing both of these discs is to
make me hope that there’s a live album in the works from the current Goodbye
“It’s Only Make Believe” (from Live in
Japan); “All I Want is You (AOL Sessions) (from Meet Glen Campbell [Expanded]) ERIC SCHUMACHER-RASMUSSEN