Glen Campbell, Mr. Twelve String Guitar, 1966

Glen Campbell is a name I remember from my parents’ record collection. Therefore the idea of a Glen Campbell collection of Dylan covers is automatically fighting an uphill battle to gain any kind of credibility in my mind. Furthermore, this is Campbell’s second album of Dylan covers, having only just participated in ‘Dylan Jazz’ the same year. If you check my ‘Dylan Jazz’ review by the Gene Norman Group, you’ll see that Campbell was responsible for quite a bit of that innocuous blather too. This isn’t entirely Dylan covers—there’s a couple of Donovan tunes in here and good old ‘Eve of Destruction’ again (see Duane Does Dylan). Like the Dylan Jazz and the Duane Eddy, you can only really imagine music like this still being played in the Eternal Shopping Mall of the Mid-West.

The versions here are a little bit rock’n’roll and a little bit country. Yes, they’re virtuosic but I would say not in an ostentatious way. They’re complex enough to sound interesting, and richly recorded in that sixties way. The longest track is 2:55. Here’s some guff from the back sleeve:

Even without words, the music and instruments speak. In the combination of guitar and harmonica one answers the other and comments on its statement. It’s almost as if after a particular guitar passage the harmonica would say, “yes, that’s true! And furthermore…” For the harmonica, it is a lonesome sound; it is sitting, listening and saying that it understands what the guitar is saying for it has been there before. This is folk-rock. The excitement is there, it wants to be heard and is being heard. It’s a fever and pitch which refuses to be, and shouldn’t be ignored.

There you go folks: the immortal words of one Richard Oliver. I certainly couldn’t have come up with that. I do admire his personification of the harmonica. He should’ve drawn a little cartoon sketch to go with it.  Anyway, I’m bleating on because I doubt I’m going to have much to say about these. Here goes the Bumstead.

All I Really Want To Do…surely must be the most popular Dylan song to cover. Has anyone in this collection of reviews not covered it? I can’t understand why—great tune, but it needs its lyrics to be even remotely interesting. The tune is incredibly simple and the lyrics are so good, it seems pointless to cover this without them. There is some pretty fiddly fretwork going on here, though, that makes this one of the slightly better “All I Really Want To Do’s” out there.

It Ain’t Me Babe…close listening reveals the 12-string guitar being played to its strengths. The harmonica joins in for a good old homespun warble through the main melody. The rhythm and pace are kept up throughout, and again there’s some pretty neat off-chorus improvisation going on here, and lots of twangy bent notes. The thing that lets it down is the insistent timing—too perfect, making this sound like a textbook exercise in how to impress your girlfriend with sixteenth notes.

You’ve Got Your Troubles…credited to ‘Greenaway and Cooke’–British songwriters who wrote this track for The Fortunes in 1965. A #2 hit in the UK so Wikipedia tells me. I’ve never heard it before. Sounds like competent beat music. A neat little staccato opening and a pretty tune.

Catch The Wind…is the first Donovan tune, another hit from 1965 featuring Donovan’s rhythmic style. Fact fans: When Donovan met Dylan during the 65 tour of England, Dylan told him personally that he liked this song. Apparently it had been a hit in the U.S. It’s a good tune.

Mr. Tambourine Man…played competently enough without too much exciting 12 string pizazz. Very short at just over two minutes. Pointless.

Subterranean Homesick Blues…I don’t know why this gets covered on so many of the instrumental Dylan albums…unless it’s because instrumentalists just want a 12 bar blues with a neat skiffle beat to waffle their own improv all over. It never ever sounds like the original. The only thing that could possibly make anyone’s cover of this sound like the original would be to sing on it. And there is at least one awesome vocal cover of this song that I know of on the CD-only album Dylan Country by Tim O’Brien. As a tidy little blues run-through, this isn’t so bad though.

Like A Rolling Stone…includes a little bit of organ, as it should. Like ‘Tambourine Man’ this is played very straight with an electric guitar playing the main melody and a harmonica adding texture. Quite a good electric sound on this. He lets rip a little towards the end on the ‘how does it feel’ part.

I Don’t Believe You…is softer, and played with some plangent arpeggios with a chiming guitar part to carry the melody and I can hear some notes being bent in quite elegant ways. That ends, and the harmonica blows away all the cobwebs and you think of hot summer nights, clear starry skies, and, oh, have I mentioned the campfire yet? Yup, a campfire, some cartoon wild west characters bunkin’ down for the night. Whatever the sentiment of the original was, it’s completely lost here.

Eve Of Destruction…written by P.F. Sloan and made famous by Barry McGuire as a hit in 1965. Also covered by Duane Eddy on Duane Does Dylan as a guitar instrumental. Yawn.

Blowin’ In The Wind…is an honest folky version that pays respect to the original. They play it completely straight. One strummed guitar and one guitar picking out the melody. And as a consequence, it’s utterly inconsequential.

Colours…is a Donovan tune, played here with the Donovan chug-a-lug strum, while a harmonica carries part of the melody. This is not bad at all. More campfire music to my ears.

The “In” Sound…yeah, rock’n’roll dudes, shock rocker Campbell goes electric! Pull the plugs! Cut the wires! This is a heavily syncopated thumpin’ rock boogie showcasing Campbell’s way with an electric plectrum. It’s kind of catchy, but perhaps a little too repetitive—pretty much the same 8 bars played over and over.  Man, this is why songs like these need lyrics. I’m not sure how “in” this sound was but I’d say it wasn’t in for long.

Notes

Click once to expand, again to magnify.

Glen Campbell, who hails from Arkansas, is considered to be one of the outstanding and most prolific interpreters of the 12-string guitar, according to the liner notes. Also here we have Jerry Cole on guitar and fender bass, Lawrence Knechtel on harmonica and organ, Lyle Ritz on bass, oh and some other schmuck on drums and a couple of others too. Campbell was born in 1936, which means at 75 (in 2011) he’s probably due to expire sooner or later. He’s been a busy man in his lifetime. He has more than 70 albums out, has been an actor and a TV host. He won four Grammies in ’67 the year after this came out. He did record the great ‘Wichita Lineman’ so I’m willing to forgive him these bland Dylan noodlings.

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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