Meet Glen Campbell (Capitol) is a funny album title coming from a performer who released the first of his 10 gold or platinum albums in 1967. Then again, with the exception of a drunk-driving arrest in 2003, Glen Campbell's blip on the pop-cultural radar screen has been faint of late, so perhaps the title is serious after all.
There's certainly nothing funny about the music, which follows the pattern established by Johnny Cash with his Rick Rubin-produced albums on American Recordings: Take a country performer considered past his prime, match him with an unlikely batch of alternative-rock songs, and let the instincts that were natural to him in his youth take over.
In Campbell's case, as fans of "Galveston" will recall, those instincts include singing atop a nimbly picked guitar and an emotively swirling string section, a formula that Meet Glen Campbell reinvigorates as if Campbell had never abandoned it. Most of the guitars are electric, but the picking is so gentle that the songs sound practically "unplugged." That they also sound, to quote Campbell, "like a Glen Campbell album" is practically miraculous.
One might've predicted the Tom Petty songs ("Walls," "Angel Dream"). One might have even predicted Jackson Browne's "These Days" and John Lennon's "Grow Old with Me." But it's extremely unlikely one would've ever guessed that Campbell, who rose to fame covering Jimmy Webb compositions, would one day assay-and do justice by-Green Day ("Good Riddance [Time of Your Life]"), U2 ("All I Want Is You"), and Foo Fighters ("Times like These").
Most surprising of all is "Jesus," a 40-year-old Lou Reed song that begins, "Jesus, help me find my proper place." Somehow, Meet Glen Campbell seems like a much more proper place for the song than the Velvet Underground's transgressive oeuvre ever did.