Glen campbell “The Legacy” (Capitol)
Bobby Goldsboro “Absolutely The Best” (Fuel 2000)
It is a shame that it took a recent arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct to bring Glen Campbell’s name back to the collective public conscience. Practically every comedian made a joke about Campbell putting up more resistance at being apprehended than Saddam Hussein did. While Campbell has certainly had his share of self-imposed turmoil (drinking, drug addiction and several extramarital affairs, most notably with Tanya Tucker) there is no denying the man’s significant musical accomplishments. Capitol Records was where Glen recorded the vast majority of his hits over his 40-plus-year career, and the company has recently released a long overdue four-disc box set appropriately entitled “The Legacy.”
Campbell has long been a series of contradictions. In spite of his clean-cut, wholesome, “aw shucks” image in the 1960s and the fact that he was the darling of Richard Nixon-era Republicans (he was a fixture at every Republican convention as he performed for the G.O.P. from 1968 through 1984), he was very friendly with those siblings who were high on Nixon’s enemies list, the Smothers Brothers. It was the Smothers Brothers who produced his well- received “Glen Campbell Good-time Hour” CBS variety series. While Campbell was not the kind of artist who excited the Woodstock generation, one of his biggest hits, 1969’s “Galveston,” written by his buddy Jimmy Webb, was one of the best anti-Vietnam War songs ever recorded.
“Galveston,” along with another Webb hit, “Wichita Lineman,” also showed why Glen Campbell was one of the most in-demand session guitarists around as he played with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Elvis Presley to Jan & Dean to all of Phil Spector’s artists. Campbell gave Duane Eddy a run for the twangy guitar king title. When Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown in the winter of 1964, it was Campbell who filled in for him and spent a year as a striped shirt-wearing band member.
Veteran disc jockey Jonathan Schwartz once made the pointed remark that Glen Campbell often seemed disconnected from the lyrics of the songs he was crooning and appeared to be going through the motions. While those are harsh words, there is some validity to Schwartz’ criticisms. Campbell is clearly bored when he is asked to cover such old warhorses as “Let It Be Me,” “Crying” and “MacArthur Park.” On the other hand he is right on the money with his interpretations of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Last Time I Saw Her.”
All of the hits are here, from the magnificent “Gentle On My Mind,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “True Grit” to regrettable fare such as “Where’s The Playground Susie,” “Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife” and “Honey, Come Back.” My favorite tracks are the theme from the 1980 Clint Eastwood flick, “Any Which Way You Can,” and his tongue-in-cheek answer record to the Broadway smash “Jesus Christ Superstar” entitled “I Knew Jesus (Before He Was A Superstar).”
Like Campbell, Bobby Goldsboro had success with a television variety series and was popular with both country and adult contemporary pop music fans. Unlike Campbell however, Goldsboro was a prolific songwriter—despite the fact that his two biggest hits were written by other people, “Watching Scotty Grow” was written by his buddy Mac Davis, while the sickening melodramatic “Honey,” a tune about a guy who is mourning his wife, who the lyrics intimate committed suicide, replete with a background vocal group trying to sound like a choir of angels, was composed by Bobby Russell.
While Goldsboro has always had a squeaky-clean image, one of his best songs, “Summer (The First Time)” a tune obviously inspired by the film “The Summer Of ’42,” was banned by WABC when it came out in 1972 because of lyrics as “She was 31, I was 17, I knew nothing about love, she knew everything” and “The boy took her hand but I saw the sun rise as a man.” Times have certainly changed.
“Absolutely the Best” contains a lot of terrific tunes which you haven’t been able to hear anywhere for years such as “With Pen In Hand,” “The Autumn Of My Life,” “The Straight Life” and “Little Things.” This CD would have lived up to its hyperbolic title however if it had also contained “Brand New Kind Of Love” and “California Wine,” which are overlooked here.
“Songs From The Street” (Sony Wonder)
You can file this one under the category of how fast time flies. “Sesame Street” is now celebrating its 35th anniversary. While the show has helped millions of kids learn their ABCs and to count, the show has also produced some memorable music as is amply evidenced by this triple album. Naturally things kick off with the catchy “Sesame Street Theme” and then quickly segue into Kermit the Frog warbling “Being Green” (Frank Sinatra, believe it or not, also recorded a version of this song) and then the show’s biggest hit, “Rubber Duckie” sung by that famous Muppet, Ernie. What is also fun is that countless celebrities have appeared on this PBS staple and many of their performances are captured on this CD.
Other artists who have career retrospectives out this year are the Grateful Dead, Rod Stewart, the Doors, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, country star Trace Adkins, pianist/vocalist Tori Amos, ageless singer Tom Jones, Australian pop idol Kylie Minogue, No Doubt, the Fugees, and Fugees bassist Wyclef Jean even has his own solo greatest hits CD out this year.