My Kind of Country

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

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Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Galveston’

galvestonReleased in March 1969, Galveston was the thirteenth album Capitol released on Glen Campbell, an astounding number of albums considering that Glen had been in the public consciousness for only two years.

Released hot on the heels of the song of the same name, and following the very successful Wichita Lineman album and single, Galveston soared up the charts, spending eleven weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and reaching #2 on Billboard’s Hot 200 (all genres) chart, the album reached platinum, sales status, the last Glen Campbell album to do so on original release, although he would continue to be a highly successful singles artist, with his biggest singles hits yet to come.

Caveat: my vinyl copy of this album was issued on the English Ember label and has fourteen tracks. In describing this album, I know I have the correct tracks as released on the US Capitol label, I’m just not sure that I have them in the correct sequence.

The album opens with “Galveston”, a Jimmy Webb composition that soared to the top of the Country and Easy Listening charts and reached #4 on the pop charts. Released during the Vietnam War years, apparently Webb conceived of the song as an anti-war song but Campbell’s reading of the song need not be interpreted in that way. I was living in London when this song was released and was surprised that it failed to do better than #14 in the UK (“Wichita Lineman” reached #7 in the UK). Perhaps the interpretation of the song as an anti-war song detracted from its universal appear. I think it is a great song:

Galveston, oh, Galveston
I still hear your seawaves crashin
While I watch the cannons flashin’
I clean my gun, and dream of Galveston

I still see her standing by the water
Standing there looking out to sea
And is she waiting there for me
On the beach where we used to run
Galveston, oh, Galveston
I am so afraid of dying
Before I dry the tears she’s crying
Before I watch your sea birds flying
In the sun, at Galveston, at Galveston

Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Native Canadian singer-songwriter who achieve prominence in the 1960s, wrote “Take My Hand For A While”, a gentle song of heartbreak that was covered by many artists, although none better than Glen Campbell (George Hamilton IV’s version was also outstanding)

Take my hand for a while
Explain it to me once again
Just for the sake of my broken heart

Look into my eyes and maybe I will understand
How love I counted on was never there
You see, I thought that you might love me

So you caught me it seems off balance with a heart
So full of love and pretty dreams that two should share
And so I know but please before you go

The nest two songs are “If This Is Love”, written by Glen with Bill Ezell which I regard as simply album filler. The following track is “Today”, a Randy Sparks composition that was performed by Randy’s group the New Christry Minstrels, and was in the repertoire of many folk groups of the era . If the song wasn’t so overly familiar, it would have made a good single.

Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine

A million tomorrows shall all pass away
Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today

I’ll be a dandy and I’ll be a rover
You’ll know who I am by the song that I sing
I’ll feast at your table, I’ll sleep in your clover
Who cares what the morrow shall bring?

Side One of the album closes with.”Gotta Have Tenderness”, a Mitchell Torok composition that makes a classy album track, but wasn’t what radio was looking for at the time.

The sun comes up in the morning
Over the neighboring hill
Breeze sings the song in the tree top
In tune with Mr. Whippoorwill

Got to have tenderness
Got to have tenderness
We’ve got to have love

Side Two opens with another Jimmy Webb composition, “Where’s The Playground, Susie”, a relatively unsuccessful song that reached #28 Country, #26 Pop and #10 Adult Contemporary . I must confess that I regard this as the weakest song on the album, a rare Jimmy Webb misfire.

The carousel has stopped us here
It twirled a time or two and then it dropped us here
And still you’re not content with something about me
But what merry-go-round can you ride without me
To take your hand ? How would you stand?

Where’s the playground, Susie,
If I decide to let you go and play around?
Where’s the playground, Susie,
If I don’t stay around? If I don’t stay around?

This is followed by .”Time”, written by Michel Merchant. Glen performs it competantly, but it’s just another song.

Another Buffy Saint-Marie song, “Until It’s Time for You to Go”, follows. I always liked Buffy’s compositions, although I am not wild about her as a singer, and this song is no exception. Essentially the song is about a man and woman who are in love with each other, but cannot stay together because they come from differing cultures.

You’re not a dream
You’re not an angel
You’re a woman
I’m not a king,
I’m a man,

Take my hand
We’ll make a space
In the lives that we planned
And here we’ll stay
Until it’s time for you to go

Yes, we’re diff’rent worlds apart
We’re not the same
We laughed and played
At the start like in a game

You could have stayed
Outside my heart
But in you came
And here you’ll stay
Until it’s time for you to go

Glen does a masterful job with Buffy’s compositions, but I would urge you to check out some of Buffy’s albums for yourself.

“Oh What a Woman” is a Jerry Reed romp that Glen handles well. Jerry Reed was one of the world’s greatest guitar players (Chet Atkins considered him to be the greatest) and Glen acquits himself well on this number, both vocally and on the guitar.

The US version of the album closes with .”Every Time I Itch I Wind Up Scratchin’ You”, a Glen Campbell co-write with Jeremy Slate. It’s an amusing song but hardly essential.

Between Al DeLory’s orchestrations and the efforts of some of the finest session musicians in Los Angeles, the sound of this album has a very polished feel to it, maybe too much so. The album features Glen Campbell on vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, Hal Blaine and Bob Felts on drums, Al Casey on acoustic guitar, Dennis McCarthy on piano and Joe Osborn on bass guitar.

As I noted above, this would be Glen’s final album to achieve platinum sales. Razor X had asked me how the Gentle On My Mind album had reached such staggering sales with NO hit singles. Below was part of my reply:

“You know the old saying, a rising tide lifts all boats ? I think that is what occurred here. Campbell made five or six appearances on the Smothers Brothers Show during the second and third seasons, hosted a summer replacement show for the Smothers Brothers and then was given his own show. He appeared as a guest on many shows including The Tonight Show (Johnny Carson) and if I recall correctly, the Ed Sullivan Show. He was ubiquitous and he was better than good. He was an ideal guest for any variety or talk show – a good conversationalist who sang really well and could absolutely dazzle with his instrumental prowess…

The next several singles [after “Gentle On My Mind”] were huge and the single was reissued and made another chart run. Moreover, Cash Box had the single reach #21 and Record World #26 … The song won four Grammy Awards, two of them for writer John Hartford, who appeared on the Smothers Brothers and Glen Campbell shows (plus others) and had the song in his active repertoire.

I think the increased prominence and success of follow up singles and albums caused people to go back and pick up his past albums. The single “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” reached #1 about the same time that the GENTLE ON MY MIND album hit #1 on the album charts. I know in my case, I went back and purchased his older albums after buying A NEW PLACE IN THE SUN, a nice album that reached #1 despite the fact that NO singles were released from the album. Billboard did not chart album tracks at the time but radio stations around the country apparently played tracks from the album.

During this period a country album could go #1 without being an enormous seller, but in Campbell’s case his albums stayed on the charts forever, selling steadily ([Gentle On My Mind spent] 88 weeks on the country album charts / 75 weeks on the pop album charts). Much the same thing happened with other Campbell albums – HEY LITTLE ONE’s singles “Hay Little One” and I Want to Live” are barely remembered today but that album hung onto the charts for about a year”

I think the market had become saturated with Glen Campbell albums by the time Galveston was released. Capitol had released a lot of albums, many of which became huge sellers, some of them on a delayed basis.

Anyway I would give this album a solid B+.

1.”Galveston” (Jimmy Webb) – 2:39
2.”Take My Hand for a While” (Buffy Sainte-Marie) – 2:41
3.”If This Is Love” (Glen Campbell, Bill Ezell) – 2:08
4.”Today” (Randy Sparks) – 2:29
5.”Gotta Have Tenderness” (Ramona Redd, Mitch Torok) – 2:09
6.”Friends” (Dick Bowman, Campbell) – 2:31
Side 21.”Where’s The Playground Susie” (Webb) – 2:55
2.”Time” (Michel Merchant) – 2:42
3.”Until It’s Time for You to Go” (Sainte-Marie) – 3:02
4.”Oh What a Woman” (Jerry Hubbard) – 2:39
5.”Every Time I Itch I Wind Up Scratchin’ You” (Campbell, Jeremy Slate) – 1:51

Country Heritage: Pop Stoneman and the Stoneman Family

stoneman familyMost people trace the dawn of recorded country music back to the famous Bristol sessions of 1927, from which Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family rose to prominence. While I am not sure that even Ernest V. Stoneman (May 25, 1893 – June 14, 1968) represents the dawn of recorded country music, he has a far better claim to it than do Jimmie Rodgers and the Carters.

Born in 1893 in Carroll Country, Virginia, near the mining community of Iron Ridge, Ernest Van Stoneman was raised by his father and three cousins who taught him traditional Blue Ridge Mountain songs. Ernest married Hattie Frost in 1919. He and his wife set about having a family, eventually having 23 kids, of which 13 lived to be adults. Stoneman worked at various jobs and played music for his own entertainment. He was a talented musician who could play (and make) a variety of instruments, including banjo, guitar, fiddle and autoharp, although the autoharp would become his trademark during his recording career.

Legend has it that Stoneman heard a recording by Henry Whittier, a popular artist of the time and a friend of her father’s (according to daughter Roni), and swore he could sing better. In 1924 he traveled to New York and received a recording contract. The first single, “The Sinking of the Titanic”, was issued on the Okeh label and became the biggest hit he ever had. Sales figures for the 1920s are not terribly reliable, but several sources have sales pegged at four million copies sold – a remarkable total for the time and certainly one of the biggest hits of the 1920s. Read more of this post

Spotlight Artist: Dolly Parton

“Dolly Parton came from the mountains of Tennessee.  And she brought them with her.”  

That’s one of my favorite (and Dolly’s too) in the countless digs taken by the singer and scores of others over the years on the breadth of Dolly Parton’s famous figure.  Dolly wears the Smoky Mountains not just on her chest, but in her heart as well.  Even as she became one of the biggest stars in the world in the 1980s , and a pop culture icon, she has always remained a grounded, approachable country girl.  Recent years have seen her go back to her musical roots with a stunning trilogy of bluegrass albums, but not before she broke more chart and sales records than I can list here as one of the most consistent and best-selling mainstream country and pop stars of her generation.

Born Dolly Rebecca Parton, the fourth of twelve children to Avie and Robert Parton, on January 19, 1946, the young Dolly picked up her musical ambitions at an early age.  She began singing to a yard full of chickens and siblings by age 4, when she also began writing her first melodies and rhymes.  By age 9, she was appearing on a local Knoxville variety radio show, and by 13, had recorded her first single for the small Goldband Records, titled “Puppy Love”.  That record led to her first Opry appearance in 1959.  It would be another 5 years, following her high school graduation, before Dolly went to Nashville full-time to pursue her dreams.  There, she was signed to Fred Foster’s Monument label, primarily as a pop singer.  After having success as a songwriter on the country charts with “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” and “Fuel to the Flame” – both top 10 hits – Foster decided to pitch her to the country market.  Her first country singles didn’t blaze up the charts, but did get Music Row to talking about the curvaceous blonde with the bubbly personality and distinctive voice.

Through those first singles, Dolly caught the attention of country star Porter Wagoner, who at the time had his own syndicated network television show.  She joined the cast of The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967, where she earned her first taste of national recognition.  It was also through Porter that Dolly signed to RCA Records, her label home for the next 17 years.  By 1970, Dolly had scored 6 consecutive top 10 hits as Porter’s new duet partner, but was just beginning to blossom on her own.  A cover of Jimmie Rodger’s “Mule Skinner Blues” became her first solo top 10 that year, before she hit pay dirt with her own composition, “Joshua” going all the way to the top.  From there, Dolly began a run of hit singles that would continue for the next two decades.  But in 1974, she made the decision to exit Wagoner’s show, leaving the host more than disgruntled at her departure.  Wagoner later sued Parton for a sum of approximately $1 million.  In the midst of her leaving, Dolly penned one of the most hauntingly beautiful – and most successful – love songs of our time to tell Porter how she felt.  “I Will Always Love You” has since hit the top spot on the country charts twice for Parton, and was the most-played pop song of 1993, thanks to Whitney Houston’s recording.

Throughout the rest of the 1970s, Dolly continued to churn out hits.  In 1977, she changed management teams and set her sights on the bright lights of Hollywood and the recognition that comes with crossover hits.  True to her word, her first attempt at crossing over, the timeless “Here You Come Again” went to #3 on the pop charts and held a lock on the country top spot for a month.  The album it came from also became Dolly’s first platinum album, but she was far from finished with million-sellers or the pop charts.  She racked up 2 more top 40 pop hits as the 1970s became the ’80s, before releasing the biggest hit of her career so far with the title track to her first motion picture.  “9 to 5”  hit #1 all across the board, and also earned Dolly her first Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (she would repeat this nomination in 2006, though she lost both times).

As the 1980s dawned, Dolly Parton was a household name, thanks in no small part to countless mentions on late night talk shows like Johnny Carson, where during one appearance the late night king opined “I’d give a year’s pay to peek under that sweater” to an absolutely giddy Parton in the guest chair.  Following her co-starring role in 9 to 5, alongside the incomparable Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, she would star with Burt Reynolds in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982, with Sylvester Stallone in the universally panned Rhinestone in 1984, and then with a host of strong female leads like Julia Roberts, Sally Field, and Shirley MacLaine in 1989’s now-classic Steel Magnolias.  During this period, Dolly’s chart success became more spotty, but she was still racking up hits throughout the decade, and ended the ’80s one a strong note with her best album in ages, and a pair of #1 hits.

Relegated to the status of elder statesman by the ’90s boom, Dolly would continue releasing new music, and charted another chart-topper in 1992, in a duet with Ricky Van Shelton.  She continued to regularly release new music, though radio was becoming less and less interested in her singles.  A 1998 album of contemporary country sounds failed to chart any singles, and Dolly took a sabbatical from contemporary country for nearly a decade afterwards, turning her attention to bluegrass and remakes of patriotic songs as well as standards.  She returned to mainstream country in 2008 with the much-heralded Backwoods Barbie, though still didn’t garner much love from country radio.  A 2006 “duet” with Brad Paisley, where Parton’s vocals are limited to high-in-the-mix harmonies, earned her the final #1 of her career so far.  “When I Get Where I’m Goin'” became the 25th chart-topper of her career, a record at the time, and she is now tied with Reba McEntire as the female artist with the most career #1’s.

Building more than just a multimedia empire with her music and movies, Dolly has branched out in more venues than just about anyone else in show business.  In 1985, she opened her Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN.  Now in its 26th season, the park continues to grow and sees more than 2 million visitors annually.  She has also created the Imagination Library, which provides books to children from birth to age 5, in an effort to kickstart in them a love of reading the printed word.

Still busier than ever, Dolly recently wrote the music for a Broadway adaption of 9 to 5, which earned her first Tony nominations, and has just released her first new album in 3 years.  We’ll be looking over the many aspects of her storied career throughout July.  So keep reading as we explore the life and times of country music’s most beloved and most colorful character.