Glen Campbell's See You There Gives Old Songs New Relevance
There's always been a dark edge lurking behind the glittery pop and warm strings of Glen Campbell. Yet, it's taken an unexpected album, culled from a series of time-killing studio outtakes, to reveal this side of Campbell. See You There, coming August 6 on Surfdog Records, takes more than a handful of Campbell's best-loved hits and refashions them into soul-searching, gritty, raw, emotional, and evocative numbers.
"There's more resonance to the songs as he's aged," Kim Campbell, Glen's wife of more than 30 years said during a recent phone interview with Up on the Sun. "He wanted to re-sing them and do them a little more mellow and laid back."
The 77-year-old Campbell's voice has deepened over the years, but that only serves to give these stripped-down songs -- including "Galveston," "Gentle on My Mind," "True Grit," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Rhinestone Cowboy" -- more texture, heartfelt depth, and anguish. Brush away the pop trappings, and the longing and heartache that embodies these songs surfaces.
Campbell cut the new vocal tracks during the sessions for Ghost on the Canvas, his previous release. Between takes for that album, producer Julian Raymond asked Campbell to sing some of his hits, accompanying himself on guitar, and maybe with some other, limited instrumentation.
"Julian wanted to hear Glen sing some of his classic hits. It was more Julian's choice, what Julian was loving at that moment," she recalls. "But Glen loves all his stuff. He's never been one to record a song he didn't like. They were playing around."
But even playing around Campbell gave each song his full attention. The tracks proved powerful enough that Raymond eventually passed a disc of the recordings to Surfdog Records owner Dave Kaplan, who "melted" the instant he heard the opening vocals to "Hey Little One."
"I said, 'this needs to be heard,'" Kaplan tells Up on the Sun by phone from his Encinitas, California headquarters. "When I heard those three words, I thought, honestly, from my heart, this is an absolute no brainer."
"(Kaplan) was so excited that he asked if he could build around the tracks and try to make something special out of them," Campbell says. "We trust him, and we were excited to hear what he could do with them."
Kaplan enlisted longtime collaborator and co-producer Dave Darling and stripped the demos clean everything but Campbell and his guitar. The pair then supplied new instrumentation, including banjo, pedal steel, accordion, banjo and a little fuzz, in reconditioning the masterpieces to be "more artistic and minimalistic."
"When you first listen to them you're so used to the old versions that it takes a little bit to get used to," Campbell adds. "When we heard the finished pieces we were just really happy. Glen had a big smile on his face. He was very pleased."
Kaplan took a few minutes to discuss the process of making See You There (which also includes several holdover tracks from the Ghost on the Canvas sessions), beginning with his introduction to the demos, giving the songs proper respect, and the hair-raising moment he played the completed album for Glen and Kim Campbell.
Up on the Sun: So, Glen sang new vocals for a number of his songs during the Ghost on the Canvas sessions. How did you come to hear these recordings?
Dave Kaplan: Julian (Raymond) just gave me a CD of the recordings. From what I understand, I wasn't in the room, it was like, "Hey Glen, let's do 'Wichita Lineman' with just a few people in the room." So it was a very basic arrangement and it never seemed there was a strategy, it was just something to do. After a couple years there was this collection of songs and he handed me this CD one day.