Glen Campbell – Rhinestone Cowboy

Rhinestone Cowboy

Glen CampbellRhinestone Cowboy Capitol SW-11430 (1975)

In the same territory as The Carpenters, or maybe even Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy has that inimitable 1960s/70s pop country easy listening thing going in full effect, complete with songs that tend to portray a sort of weary, dejected dark side of the “good life”.  Things like “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)” and “Marie” go to places that Harry Nilsson went (ever notice that Nilsson’s hit 1968 version of Fred Neil‘s “Everybody’s Talkin'” is basically a superior re-make of Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind” from 1967?), but with a little more straightforward professional reticence.  What differs from some of Campbell’s earlier hits is that this is a little more bombastic and self-consciously grandiose in the backing arrangements.  And that suits him perfectly.  His voice, of course, is a dream.  He may not be Karen Carpenter, but damn!  It is kind of interesting, too, that he performs “My Girl,” almost like the flip side of Al Green recording Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and Roy Orbison songs.  It is emblematic of how most of this album focuses on themes of coping with being thrust into new geographies, being faced with new burdens, and the like, and on trying to humbly overcome those challenges with hard work and effort, but maybe not being able to comprehend if that will work or how else to go about facing those challenges.  Some people dismiss this as pure camp or kitsch, but really, a closer listen suggests that those might be coping mechanisms.  And even more interesting, perhaps, is how this music sits right on the line between “material” concerns like having a job, providing for a family, etc. and “personal” concerns like heartbreak, anxiety, and other more existential topics.