My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Goodtime Album’

61vgBK4KblL._SS280Glen Campbell’s fourth album release of 1970 was titled to capitalize on the popularity of his CBS variety show, and as such it makes sense that he and his label were aiming for a broader share of the market than country music typically reached in those days. The title is somewhat of a misnomer, however, since “goodtime” implies that there will be a substantial number of uptempo and party songs. That is decidedly not the case, however; Goodtime Album is heavy on ballads and mid-tempos and was clearly designed for the middle of the road/adult contemporary listener.

By this stage of his career, Campbell had enjoyed substantial success singing tastefully orchestrated ballads — many of them written by Jimmy Webb — but this time around the material was not quite as strong as it had been on previous efforts. The album gets off to a good start with its first and only single — and excellent cover of Conway Twitty’s 1958 pop smash “It’s Only Make Believe”. Campbell’s version is faithful to the original and was a huge international success; it reached #3 country, #10 pop and #2 easy listening in the US, as well as reaching the Top 5 in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Despite its success, Glen’s version is not widely remembered today, due to the song’s strong association with Twitty. It is one of four country-ish songs on the album — another being “Pave Your Way Until Tomorrow”, which features some banjo playing and is more upbeat than the most of the collection. “Turn It Around In Your Mind” was written by Jerry Reed and has some country elements, but it is a bit overwhelmed by horns and strings, as is “Funny Kind of Monday”.

The rest of the album is comprised of covers of songs that had been pop hits for other artists. Campbell was blessed with the type of voice that can sing almost anything. I’ve never been much of a Sinatra fan but I liked many of his songs. Call me a heretic but I find Glen’s version of “My Way” to be greatly superior to the original. The Simon & Garfunkel tune “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park” were both widely recorded by artists of the day. I thoroughly enjoyed Glen’s take on the former, but the latter is a rare case where Al DeLory’s production is a bit heavy-handed, reaching almost bombastic levels, with the strings nearly drowning out Glen’s voice at time. The strings are also a bit overwhelming on “Dream Sweet Dreams About Me”.

The only track I actively disliked was “Just Another Piece of Paper”, another Jimmy Webb number and a rare example of a song that doesn’t really suit Glen’s voice. The dated 70s arrangement, spoken word intro and cluttered production just don’t do it for me. The other songs all range from OK to good but the album overall isn’t as interesting as Gentle On My Mind or By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

Grade: B-

4 responses to “Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Goodtime Album’

  1. Paul W Dennis November 13, 2015 at 8:26 am

    I think a little more highly of this album than you do but I agree that it is not up to the standards of some of Glen’s earlier albums, I do not mind the horns and strings – I’d rather hear them than the excessively loud lead rock guitar you hear on many of today’s country recordings

    I wasn’t fond of Glen’s take on “It’s Only Make Believe” which I think would have been much better had he dropped it one key lower.

    As for “My Way” , I don’t think Glen had lived enough to properly inhabit the song the way Sinatra did. Paul Anka, himself an excellent singer, wrote the song and knew that he had to get it to Sinatra. Glen’s version is good but Frank’s recording is transcendent

  2. Erik North November 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    I would say re. Glen’s take on “It’s Only Make Believe” (and on “MacArthur Park”) that, yes, Al DeLory’s production decisions do sometimes come perilously close to Phil Spector’s in terms of bombast (as too does some of Felton Jarvis’ work with Elvis at around this same time). But then again, they were working with the usual suspects of The Wrecking Crew, which Spector himself also employed. And anyway, the song was extensively played to be a monstrous hit in the fall of 1970.

    And just for arcane matters, take a look at the Hot 100 at that time and see what was also on the charts alongside “It’s Only Make Believe”: “I (Who Have Nothing)” (Tom Jones); “Long Long Time” (Linda Ronstadt); “25 Or 6 To 4” (Chicago); “Joanne” (Mike Nesmith and the First National Band); and “I’ll Be There” (Jackson Five)…to name just a few.

  3. Ken November 17, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Given Glen’s hectic schedule when this album was recorded it’s surprising that it turned out as well as it did. In between these recording sessions he was taping his weekly TV series, promoting his new movie “Norwood” and continuing to perform concerts. Ninth-tenths of this album was recorded during sessions in February, May, June & July 1970.

    Matrix numbers for the only single release “It’s Only Make Believe” indicate that it was likely recorded in late December 1967 during sessions for the “Hey Little One” album. Two different mixes of that song were released. The single version is dominated by the string section to the extent that it competes at times with the vocal. The LP release added reverb to Glen’s vocal and increased his volume level above the backing track. The album version has a greater emphasis on the brass section with louder backing vocals. They are more prominent especially during the final chorus of the song. By contrast the single version concludes with Glen’s vocal embellished with a powerful crescendo of strings. To date the single version has not been issued on CD. My conjecture is that perhaps the single release was the original 1967 recording while the album version is a remix of that track with added reverb on the vocal and possibly additional instrumental overdubs. The LP recording runs three seconds longer than the 45 due to a longer sustain of the final note [single 2:21/LP:2:24]

    I share Razor X’s opinion of the album’s best songs:

    Regular viewers of the “Goodtime Hour” were already familiar with “Pave Your Way Into Tomorrow” by the time this album was released. Glen closed his show with a bit of that tune every week. It was written by his bass player Bill Graham. That song was also released on the flip side of the “It’s Only Make Believe” single.

    “Turn It Around In Your Mind” was also used on the show. A portion of that Jerry Reed song was used as a musical bridge between a series of brief comedy skits.

    “Funny Kind Of Monday” was a favored track because of the great acoustic guitar runs. It was written by Mitchell Torok and his wife Ramona Redd. The duo penned several other songs that Glen recorded including “Arkansas,” “Got To Have Tenderness” and the title theme for his Norwood movie “Ol’ Norwood’s Comin’ Home.” Torok earned fame in the early 1950’s with his hit “Caribbean” and for writing Jim Reeves’ first hit “Mexican Joe.”

    My least favorite tracks also were the pop covers of “Mac Arthur Park”‘, “My Way,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” They were all recorded during the final session for this album in July 1970 so perhaps they were at a loss for fresh material with a deadline looming. Though Glen offered strong performances of all three I found them to be another opportunity missed when he could have uncovered some great new songs or perhaps some lesser known older ones to take their place.

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