Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Glen Campbell, "All I Want Is You" (#8)

"All I Want Is You"
(Adam Clayton/David Evans/Larry Mullen Jr./Paul Hewson)
Glen Campbell
Meet Glen Campbell

Best I can tell, the success of the stripped-down covers comeback record depends largely upon the amount of credibility the artist had in his salad days. Thus, Johnny Cash's American Recordings series will probably go down as his best albums ever, and Kris Kristofferson's This Old Road ended up as a worthy addition to his catalogue--whereas Neil Diamond's 12 Songs was overwrought and top-heavy. (The less said about Pat Boone's mid-'90s comeback, No More Mister Nice Guy, the better.)

And so take a moment and think about how bad Meet Glen Campbell could have been. My generation, after all, chiefly knows Glen Campbell from his ridiculous 1975 smash "Rhinestone Cowboy," the title of which is both setup and punchline. And after Campbell's arrest for drunk driving a few years ago, I was pretty sure we'd heard the last of him.

And "All I Want Is You" should have been the worst of the bunch. It's a nice enough song, but (a) the U2 original encourages Bono-ian caterwauling and posing; and (b) its inclusion on Campbell's record is bound to draw comparison to Cash's amazing cover of "One," from American Recordings III. Campbell was going to wear a suit made of mirrors, wink, and sing, and we were all going to want our four minutes back.

What a surprise then that Campbell turns in one of the best vocal performances of his career. Campbell, it's true, always has his chest puffed out a bit--he's a good singer, but he comes from an era where "good" to some extent meant bombastic and coke-fueled. But it totally works for him here. His vocals are actually more subdued and nuanced than Bono's, and the country-pop arrangement suits the song better than I expected it to. And thank the Lord, it's more "Wichita Lineman" (still a great song, no matter how much people make fun of it) than "Rhinestone Cowboy."

The important thing is that for whatever reason, Campbell's past, both personal and professional, gives him the credence to sing these lines and make them sound genuine: "All the promises we make / From the cradle to the grave / When all I want is you." Maybe we want you, too.

1 comment:

Joel said...

FWIW, this is one of the few albums I've actually gone out and bought since moving to Indiana. Back in the day, he combined the old-school mentality of "song interpreter with dynamic personality" with rock and roll, country, and a little smidgen of spaciness to really portray the breadth of, say, those Webb songs. "Guess I'm Dumb" is another good example. Some of Campbell's interpretations on the record are a little ill-fitting and over the top, I suppose, but just taking the songs sans context, as songs themselves, and then listening to them coming out of his mouth as if they were new...he does some good things.