Album Reviews

Glen Campbell


Artist:     Glen Campbell

Album:      Adios

Label:     UMe

Release Date:     06.09.2017


“I recall how granddaddy held me and taught me the melody to “In the Pines” on a five-dollar git-tar that led to a fortune I’d trade, just to go back in time” So begins the third verse of Carl Jackson’s biographical “Arkansas Farmboy.” Jackson, a long-time Glen Campbell band member and very dear friend, was the guiding light in producing Adios, Glen’s farewell album. This heartfelt project was recorded under probably the most extraordinary circumstances that any recording artist or producer has ever faced: dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer’s and still capturing the artist’s musical gifts.

Part of this artistic success must be attributed to the song selection, all tunes that Campbell had always wanted to record—but then there’s music and the music business, which has no business getting in the way of the music, but too often does. Adios is fully loaded with songs from Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Jerry Reed, Bob Dylan, Dickie Lee, and, perhaps most importantly, Jimmy Webb, whose musical legacy will forever be tied with Campbell’s.

There’s no filler on this collection of both life’s trials and triumphs. It kicks off with Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking,” that would certainly have the late Harry Nilsson talking, if only to say how smooth daughter Ashley Campbell’s banjo rolls on through it while her daddy’s vocals sail skyward. Besides the title track that perfectly and gently lowers the curtain, there are three other Webb diamonds sparkling throughout. They all fit in as if they were written just for this. Funny thing about C&W (Campbell & Webb)…they are timeless.

The sparkle here, also comes from the Nashville tracking musicians Carl Jackson called on to contribute: Aubrey Haynie, Catherine Marx, Kevin Grantt, Tony Creasman, Mike Johnson, and former Nashville cat, Willie Nelson. Campbell trades verses with Willie on a smooth grooving track of Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away;” Vince Gill sings the kind of harmony Campbell did on the hundreds of hits he worked on for other artists. “Am I All Alone (Or Is It Only Me)” is a never-recorded jewel introduced by a snippet of Roger’s original demo, so the listener gets to hear how a song goes from bare bones to a polished gem. We have Glen’s wife, Kim, to thank for this, because she kept Roger Miller’s demo tape for 30-some years. (Kim also writes very moving liner notes of what it took to see this project through.)

Catherine Marx not only provides classic country piano fills, she also captures the gorgeous keyboard suspensions that Jimmy Webb crafts. Jackson, who started with Campbell in 1972 as a banjo player wizard, sets things on fire, reprising Jerry Reed’s dizzying guitar rolls and runs on “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Besides Ashley Campbell’s banjo, she sings with her brothers Shannon and Cal on “Postcard From Paris,” whose lyrics take on new meaning here: the background response, “I wish you were here” comes into full focus as the song fades. The Campbell kids and Glen’s fans do get some of their wish, for Glen Campbell was certainly here for this recording. He gives it his all, with not only his incredible vocals but his deep understanding of lyrics.

Just like always, there is still that Campbell Seventh Son magic in this, the kind he always brought to the world of music he created—for other artists, himself, and lucky listeners for 60 years. The only thing I can think of that might have added even more magic would have been a tune from John Hartford, who wrote Campbell’s theme song, “Gentle On My Mind.” Still, I give Adios a perfect score, based on my “reach for it” principle: When I hear something that really grabs me right away, I find myself reaching for my guitar, if not to play along, sometimes just to hold onto while I listen. This one had me reaching for it before Campbell got to “Skipping over the ocean like a stone”

—Ken Spooner

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