My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Gentle on My Mind’

51cP-6ZEttLBy 1967 Glen Campbell had been a Capitol Records artist for five years. He was well known to the public from his frequent television appearances as well as his stint touring with The Beach Boys in early 1965. He was also in demand as a session musician but he was still having difficulty establishing himself as an A-list solo recording artist.

Campbell’s fortunes began to change in late 1966 when he teamed up with Al De Lory, who produced Glen’s first solo Top 20 country hit “Burning Bridges”, which peaked at #18 in early 1967. Their next notable collaboration was “Gentle on My Mind”, released in June 1967, which became the centerpiece of the album of the same title, released a few months later. As the story goes, Campbell heard composer John Hartford’s original version and quickly recorded a demo version of the song to pitch to DeLory. Unbeknownst to Campbell, DeLory released the demo version as a single after doing a little minor clean-up work, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Gentle on My Mind”, a song about a free spirit who feels genuine affection for a female friend but not enough to settle down with her, is regarded as a classic today, but surprisingly it was not a huge hit at the time. It peaked at #30 on the country chart, far lower than “Burning Bridges”, and it topped out at #62 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart. Employing a strategy that Warner Bros would borrow with Randy Travis nearly two decades later, Capitol re-released “Gentle on My Mind” in mid-1968. This time it performed worse on the country chart (#44) but better on the Hot 100 (#39). It also became a #8 adult contemporary hit as well as a Top 20 country hit in Canada. In 1968 Campbell hosted a variety program on CBS, while The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was on summer hiatus. This led to his own program The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour beginning in January 1969. “Gentle on My Mind” served as the show’s theme song, which eventually pushed the album’s sales past the platinum mark. This is a textbook example of a song that has endured and stood the test of time, despite somewhat underperforming on the charts — and also a lesson in why chart performance should never be used as a measurement of quality.

Gentle on My Mind the album, follows the usual template of its era; the title track is the album’s only single. The rest of the track list is made up of cover versions of songs that had been hits for other artists, and other songs (including one co-written by Glen) that were regarded as filler but still provide for a pleasant listen. First and foremost, one must bear in mind that this is not a country album. At this stage of his career, Campbell was based in Los Angeles, not Nashville, and was working with a pop producer. It was, however, an era when country, pop and adult contemporary relied on orchestrated arrangements, which made it relatively easy for Glen and other artists of the day to score hits in multiple radio formats. There are no fiddles or steel to be found in this collection, although there is a little banjo here and there, and plenty of acoustic guitar picking, which was probably an influence from the then-popular folk music movement.

The album’s most country-sounding track is the Campbell-Joe Allison co-write “Just Another Man”, which is a very nice and understated acoustic ballad. The rest of the album is difficult to categorize, but if pressed, I’d call it melodious late 60s pop, which was the perfect showcase for Glen’s voice. There are country influences on “It’s Over” and “Crying”, both of which had been hits for Roy Orbison. The former was written by Jimmie Rodgers. The latter has always been one of my favorite pseudo-country songs, and I would probably have been blown away by Glen’s version had I never heard the Orbison original. Nobody will ever sing that song like Roy did, but that doesn’t mean that Glen’s interpretation isn’t enjoyable.

There are traces of country on “Bowling Green” which also relies heavily on strings and a double-tracked vocal. In the end it’s more pop than country but still quite good. Ditto for “Catch The Wind”, which has a Byrds-like feel to it. There’s nothing country at all about “You’re My World”, which sounded to me like something Dusty Springfield might have sung, but my research showed that it was Italian in origin, had had been a hit in the English speaking world for British singer Cilla Black.

Gentle on My Mind was meant to capitalize on the success of Glen’s television program, and as such it makes sense that Capitol was aiming for a wider audience than country music typically reached. It contains some country elements, but was clearly intended for mass consumption. The strategy worked; the album sold more than a million copies and Glen’s singles over the next few years for the most part charted significantly higher than anything he’d done up to that point. While this is not an album for hardcore traditionalists, there is plenty here to appeal to those who enjoy the popular music of the late 1960s.

Grade: B+

14 responses to “Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Gentle on My Mind’

  1. Ken November 4, 2015 at 11:08 am

    The first Glen Campbell album that I ever purchased was “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” in early 1968 because I loved the title track. I really enjoyed that album because most of the songs had a decidedly “country” sound despite the pop orchestration. By that time Glen had appeared as a guest on several TV shows and I was interested to hear more of his music. So when the record department at my local discount store had one of their “two for five dollar” album sales I decided to pick up Glen’s previous LP “Gentle On My Mind.” I mention this because I first listened to that album with the perspective of hearing his subsequent LP first.

    As Razor X pointed out the album was a bit uneven. You can tell that Glen was in search of a sound and a style as the material is rather diverse. I too give high marks to “Just Another Man” which was the flip side of the “Gentle On My Mind” single. “Bowling Green” had been an early 1967 Everly Brothers single and turned out to be a good choice for Glen. Both were recorded at the same session as “Gentle On My Mind” which explains their sonic similarity. “Mary In The Morning” was familiar to me courtesy of a pair of 1967 singles from Canadian Tommy Hunter and Al Martino. Glen’s rendition was just as good. And I agree that Glen truly holds his own when he hits the big notes on Roy Orbison’s “Crying.”

    Perhaps the copy of the album that was reviewed substituted the wrong version of “It’s Over.” The recording issued on the original LP (first line: If time were not a moving thing) is the Jimmie Rodgers song that Jimmie released as a 1966 Dot single. It was also a #4 country hit for Eddy Arnold on RCA Victor in 1968. Glen did record Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” (first line: Your baby doesn’t love you anymore) for his 1968 “Hey, Little One” album.

    The “Gentle On My Mind” album did benefit from the popularity of Glen’s 1968 summer TV series “The Summer Brothers Smothers Show.” However it was released about ten months before that series first aired. Capitol did re-release the “Gentle On My Mind” single during the summer of 1968 primarily due to demand from retailers and jukebox operators. Had it not already been released a year earlier it may have performed much better on the charts.

    • Razor X November 4, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      I downloaded the album from iTunes. “It’s Over” is the Roy Orbision song. When I looked at Wikipedia for songwriter credits it said it was written by Jimmie Rodgers, which struck me as extremely odd but I was rushing to get the review done on time and didn’t have time to research it further. My dad had this album on vinyl when I was growing up. He probably still does. Will have to dig it out and if I can find something to play it on I can see if the other version of “It’s Over” is on it.

      • Ken November 4, 2015 at 7:56 pm

        Not surprising. Itunes has had issues in the past regarding songs with similar titles – not to mention songs in their catalog of dubious origin with poor audio quality. Unfortunately the similar title issue does not seem to be a priority with them.

        • Razor X November 5, 2015 at 12:55 pm

          Does the fault lie with Apple or with the labels that supply the albums and songs? I don’t know.

        • Ken November 5, 2015 at 1:19 pm

          It’s either the “lack of attention to detail” syndrome or the more common “staff that doesn’t know the difference” disease.

      • luckyoldsun November 4, 2015 at 8:20 pm

        RX–
        I’m not exactly sure why you say that Jimmie Rodgers writing that song struck you as extremely odd.
        But I have a feeling it may be that you’re not aware that there were two singers of that name–and that you’re thinking of the 1920s-30’s “Blue Yodeler”–rather than the 50’s-60’s pop artist Jimmie Rodgers, who evidently wrote this song.

        • Razor X November 5, 2015 at 12:54 pm

          No, I was not aware that there was another Jimmie Rodgers.

        • Ken November 5, 2015 at 1:22 pm

          The Jimmie Rodgers that wrote “It’s Over” is the guy most famous for his 1950’s hits “Honeycomb” & “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.”

        • luckyoldsun November 5, 2015 at 9:17 pm

          For people who don’t know about the ’50s-’60s Jimmie Rodgers, here’s some stuff by him: (I’m not sure if it will take.)

          Here he seems to be lip synching his biggest hit to a crowd of extremely enthusiastic females:

          Here’s a performance on Midnight Special

          And here’s his original record of “It’s Over.”

          Definitely not the Singing Brakeman, but a legitimate star.

    • Erik North November 5, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      It may be of interest to note that the banjo you hear on “Gentle On My Mind” is the playing of the late, great Doug Dillard, who, after Earl Scruggs, defined bluegrass banjo for a number of generations of pickers, both through his and his brother Rodney’s band the Dillards, and collaborating with Gene Clark (of the Byrds) on the Dillard and Clark Expedition in the late 1960s.

  2. Paul W Dennis November 5, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Eddy Arnold’s cover of Jimmie’s “It’s Over” went to #4 on the country charts in 1968. I have a recording of the Rodgers and Orbison songs done as a medley on a Gene Pitney album. The medley works because both songs are really good songs

    • luckyoldsun November 6, 2015 at 1:17 am

      PD
      I don’t know if you ever covered him, but this Jimmie could have been in your Fellow Travelers series.
      It’s amazing how sharp Dick Clark and Jimmie both look in that Honeycomb clip. They could be heading to work as executives at the headquarters of First National City Bank or Mutual of Omaha.

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