NASHVILLE, Tenn. &
After almost 50 years, it's hard to imagine Glen Campbell needing an introduction. But not only is "Meet Glen Campbell" his first major release in two decades, it shows a new side of the 72-year-old singer.
Campbell, perhaps best known for his '70s crossover hit "Rhinestone Cowboy," covers songs by Green Day, U2 and the Foo Fighters.
"I feel so blessed that they came out as good as they did," he said from his home in Malibu, Calif.
The concept isn't new. Willie Nelson has covered Fleetwood Mac and Grateful Dead songs. Johnny Cash had a late career peak with Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." Even Pat Boone recorded an album of hard rock classics.
With Campbell, the idea wasn't to shock or to be edgy but to find songs that could be revamped to echo his lush '60s recordings with producer Al DeLory.
That was a golden time for Campbell, scoring big on the pop and country charts with the Jimmy Webb compositions "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix."
"I loved the Johnny Cash records, the edginess, the rawness of them. But I don't think that's Glen," said producer Julian Raymond. "We went back to what Glen loved and what people loved about Glen. I really wanted to make a record that sounded like those '60s songs."
Raymond's parents used to listen to Campbell and watch his TV show, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour." He grew up a fan.
"When I heard those songs for the first time, they sounded hip to me. And then later I noticed the lyrics were completely different. I didn't realize 'Galveston' was about Vietnam. Those songs lyrically were way ahead of the pack, especially for the era when they were written," said Raymond, 44.
Not long ago, he got a call from a friend at Capitol Records, Campbell's old label, asking him if he had any ideas. "I said the only idea I have is Glen Campbell," Raymond recalled.
He took about 30 songs to Campbell, songs from his generation that he thought could fit the veteran, and they began paring them down until they had 10.
There's the Velvet Underground ("Jesus"), the Replacements ("Sadly Beautiful"), Travis ("Sing"), Tom Petty ("Walls," "Angel Dream"), Foo Fighters ("Times Like These"), Jackson Browne ("These Days"), U2 ("All I Want is You"), Green Day ("Good Riddance, Time of Your Life") and John Lennon ("Grow Old With Me").
"They were basically all new to me," remarked Campbell, who was familiar with some of the artists but not many of the songs. "I picked the ones that I wanted to sing ... and the rest of it was a piece of cake."
Even though the tracks were originally composed as rock songs, they're all rendered here as pop tunes. Raymond added the orchestral arrangements and found Campbell a Danelectro 6-string bass guitar like the one he played in the '60s.
The response has been good. Keith Urban called to say how much he liked it, and Yoko Ono sent a letter thanking him for recording her late husband's song. Petty was flattered.
Campbell, who's semiretired, will do a few shows to support the project but doesn't plan to tour.
He certainly has a lot to draw from. Before he became a star, he was a top session vocalist and guitarist for Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Jan Dean, Merle Haggard, Nat "King" Cole, the Monkees, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin and many others.
For 18 months in the mid-'60s, he replaced an ailing Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys.
As a solo artist, he had 48 country hits and 34 pop hits between 1967 and 1980, with "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Southern Nights" reaching No. — on both charts.
But for the last 20 years or so, his output has been mostly limited to gospel and Christmas collections.
"I don't know why I'm the first person to do this with Glen, but it's long overdue," Raymond said. "I wish someone had done it 10 years ago."
Glen Campbell returns
NASHVILLE, Tenn. &