While in the studio to record his 2011 project Ghost On The Canvas, American music legend Glen Campbell cut a series of new vocal tracks for many of his career-defining hits. He didn’t initially intend for these to be released, but Glen’s aged voice and intimate delivery captivated producers Dave Kaplan and Dave Darling.
Compelled to create something bigger from these sessions, the producers pulled together a small ensemble of musicians to develop raw and mood-driven new arrangements to complement works like 1967’s Grammy-winning “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and 1968’s “Wichita Lineman.” The result is See You There, a 12-song collection of Americana-leaning tracks that is available now and transforms some of Glen’s greatest songs into an emotional retrospective.
Supported by simple arrangements that most often feature acoustic rhythm guitars brushed with distorted electric leads, deep bass and slightly retro-sounding percussion, Glen’s fresh takes on these iconic songs is gripping. Those waiting to hear if the 77-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer’s voice can stand up to the technical challenge need look no further than the project’s opening note. Stretching for two-and-a-half measures (seven full seconds), Glen holds the first note of “Hey Little One” with command and precision to effectively answer any of those questions. In fact, Glen’s voice is strong and deeply expressive throughout the entire collection. A rugged new take on “Gentle On My Mind” features an optimistic, skipping vocal melody with a wise, knowing delivery, while the classic melodies of 1969’s “Galveston” carry a poignant and heartfelt longing.
The natural production and lack of studio tricks gives the set a live feel. Taking these works in a more rootsy, Americana-leaning direction recalls Johnny Cash’s late, American Recordings series where songs are presented in their fundamental state. Even tracks like “Postcards from Paris,” which features layers of harmony, piano and fiddle, keeps the focus on Glen’s performance and words. I just can’t find the romance and I wonder why I came, he sings with a tender, vulnerable loneliness. Glen’s voice is emotional and rich, like when he takes on the weight of “What I Wouldn’t Give” as drums beat like a heavy heart. Though his performance is sorrowful, his ability to maneuver the melodic combinations and classic country notes is graceful. “Rhinestone Cowboy” offers the album’s biggest change in terms of arrangement, but it also may be the project’s best song. With only a heavily distorted guitar as the featured accompaniment, Glen’s voice reaches high while conveying the sobering realities and personal compromises it takes to reach the top. And here the guttural guitar tone brings out a new grittiness in Glen’s voice and delivery.
Glen is sharp from top to bottom. A light vibrato gives new life to the retro melodies in the Nashville Sound classic, “True Grit,” while shuffling percussion adds a hint of outlaw country. Glen’s inspirational “Waitin’ On The Comin’ Of My Lord” appears twice on the project, the second time featuring Jose Hernandez and Mariachi Del Sol De Mexico for a Latin flair. However, the album’s best moments are often the simpler ones like on “There’s No Me…Without You,” where his voice carries an easy sway and gentle understanding. I’m never gonna fade away, he sings here, and though he may not have intended it, these words reinforce See You There’s strong statement regarding the timeless nature of Glen’s work.
Key Tracks – “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “There’s No Me…Without You,” “What I Wouldn’t Give,” “Gentle On My Mind”