It’s only been a little more than a year since Glen Campbell passed away and a few more since his family revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Anyone who watched the documentary I’ll Be Me felt the tears swelling as Campbell watched old home movies and was mystified by the people he was watching on the screen. “Who’s that?” he asked his wife. “Honey,” she replied gently, “that’s you.”
Not sure of his age or what year it was but blessed by perfect pitch, Campbell, with the aid of a TelePrompter, could still lay down a smoking guitar solo and persevere through the many hits that made him the 1968 Entertainer of The Year and career album sales over 45 million. “Someday’s I’m so confused,” he sang in “A Better Place.” “The past gets in my way.”
This week we go back to Campbell’s prime when he was an in-demand session player and part of the legendary Wrecking Crew whose backing is heard on the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Campbell, who once toured with The Beach Boys, also has studio credits on Frank Sinatra’s “Stranger In The Night”
In an interesting if not quirky footnote of history, one of Campbell’s side projects was recording demos of songs for Elvis Presley during the years 1964-1968. Campbell met Elvis Presley in Albuquerque the year he emerged and a few years later in Los Angeles where Campbell played at the Crossbow on the verge of notoriety. Recently thirty songs were found on reel to reel tapes in storage by Stephen Auerbach whose uncle Ben Weisman was part of the duo with Sid Wayne who combined to write over fifty songs for Presley, the most of any songwriter. And now eighteen tracks have been released as Glen Campbell Sings For The King (Capitol/Uni).
On the record, there’s a lot of Elvis’ stylings innate in Campbell’s renditions. It’s as if Campbell doesn’t just assimilate Presley’s personality, he is suggestive and anticipates how the king will deliver them. In that sense it’s easy to see why Presley would favor Campbell and find the arrangement to be useful if not instructive.
The demos reveal a plethora of Presley’s sides. There’s the playful banter a la “All Shook Up” inherent on “Anyone Can Play.” In “Easy Come, Easy Go,” Campbell conjures the rhythmic groove of “CC Rider” while on “I Got Love” he plays off the r & b of “I Got a Woman.” Campbell dials up the sleek and sultry side of Elvis in “Cross My Heart,” a period piece that hints of the popular Bobbie Gentry song “Ode to Billie Joe.”
There’s lots of novelty that would reveal itself in the songs Elvis would record. He chose ten in all. “Stay Away Joe” is campy as is “Clambake” that marks the Hollywood years. But it’s the blues shuffle of “Any Old Time” and the sleek and sultry blues of “Cross My Heart” where Campbell nails Presley’s innate soulfulness. Perhaps the best moment of all is where the two duet in the gospel song that begins the album, “We Call On Him.”
Sings For The King is a quirky historical artifact that both delights and informs. It’s as if we can dial back time at a whim.