The Morello imprint of Cherry Red Records has kept busy of late. Following its initial slate of country releases from George Jones, Marty Robbins and Lacy J. Dalton, the Morello team reintroduced gems to the catalogue from Crystal Gayle and Dan Seals, respectively Crystal Gayle / Somebody Loves You, and Rage On / Rebel Heart. Though Dan was England Dan in the pop duo England Dan and John Ford Coley, Rage On and Rebel Heart were both excursions into pure country. For its latest two releases, however, Morello is diversifying. A most exciting addition to the label’s slate is the two-fer pairing 1977 and 1978 albums from New York-born chanteuse Helen Schneider, while Morello reaffirms its country commitment by premiering on CD two very hard-to-find albums from the legendary Glen Campbell.
Though she’s found her greatest success in Germany, singer/actress Helen Schneider is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She’s found tremendous acclaim singing the cabaret songs of Kurt Weill as well as the big Broadway ballads of Andrew Lloyd Webber. But long before Schneider appeared as Norma Desmond in Lord Lloyd-Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, she recorded a pair of pop albums in the late seventies with two very well-known producers. These two rare LPs are back on one CD from Morello.
1977’s So Close teamed an expressive if tremulous-voiced Schneider with Ron Dante, then in the midst of a string of successes as co-producer of Barry Manilow’s hit albums. Dante and engineer Michael DeLugg (also a Manilow veteran) selected the crème of the pop crop for Schneider’s debut, pairing her with top arrangers including Charlie Calello (of Four Seasons fame) and a “Who’s Who” of songwriters. The title track was a Jake Holmes tune. Neil Sedaka contributed “Trying to Say Goodbye” with Phil Cody and “Sad Eyes” with Howard Greenfield. Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and Daryl Dragon, the Captain with Tennille, offered “Cuddle Up.” Ron Dante brought his own “How I Miss You” to the table, and two songs he had already recorded with Manilow: Barry and Marty Panzer’s heartfelt “All the Time” and the up-tempo rocker “Why Don’t We Live Together.” Laura Nyro was tapped for “I Never Meant to Hurt You,” already recorded by artists including Barbra Streisand. Dante even anticipates Schneider’s future work in musical theatre with the offbeat cabaret take on Mose Allison’s “Your Mind is on Vacation.” This classy collection of big pop ballads so distinctively sung by a youthful Schneider has long been ripe for rediscovery, and makes for one of the most enjoyably unexpected reissues of the year. But that’s not all.
So Close has been paired with Schneider’s 1978 follow-up Let It Be Now, in which Tony Camillo took the producer’s chair. The R&B-oriented Camillo had his biggest success co-producing Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia,” but also worked with artists including Dionne Warwick, The Ebonys, Freda Payne and Millie Jackson. Camillo, recording in New York, didn’t stray too far from the orchestral template of the first album, and strings enhanced a number of the songs including David Gates’ “Someday.” Gates is just one of the top-tier songwriters represented on this album, including David Pomeranz, Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, and Tom Snow. Musicians included Ascher, Funk Brother Bob Babbitt and future David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer. Schneider cut loose on the disco-flecked “Every Step of the Way,” and the wailing “Rock Me and Caress Me,” while she taps into the melancholy of Williams and Ascher’s “Loneliness.” Kudos to Morello for rescuing these two different, but ultimately complementary, albums.
After the jump: we revisit two duets albums from Glen Campbell! Plus: track listings for all titles plus order links!
Glen Campbell was one of the biggest stars in the country music firmament when Capitol Records paired him in 1968 with the rising star Bobbie Gentry for an album of duets. Gentry, of course, was the young singer/songwriter who had made such a splash the year before with the evocative, mysterious chart-topper “Ode to Billie Joe.” There was no mystery, however, about Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell. The two singers teamed with Campbell’s usual producer, Al DeLory, for a beguiling collection of songs that shot to the No. 1 position on the country album chart in the U.S., beginning a 39-week chart residency. Three years later, Campbell looked north for another singing partner, the Canadian songbird Anne Murray. DeLory and Brian Ahern were at the helm of Anne Murray and Glen Campbell (wasn’t Glen always so diplomatic in taking second billing on both LPs?) which also made the country Top 5. Yet both of these albums have remained largely unheard in the CD era, making their two-for-one release on Morello a must-have for fans of the Rhinestone Cowboy and his duet partners alike.
When Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell was recorded, the “Ode to Billie Joe” chanteuse was still in the midst of a prolific period that would end in 1971 with her final studio album to date, Patchwork. Unlike Campbell, who continues to work today even in the face of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Gentry called it quits from show business in 1978. She emerged for a television special in 1981 but has retained her privacy ever since. Yet these two very different performers made sweet music on this lone LP together. Campbell contributed his own “Less of Me” and “(It’s Only Your) Imagination” to the project, while Gentry brought her own “Mornin’ Glory.” Their voices blended in tight, close harmony on this low-key album, with instrumental support from Wrecking Crew members Hal Blaine, Joe Osborn and Al Casey. Campbell is relaxed on Gentry’s haunting “Mornin’ Glory” while her hushed vocals reinvent oft-covered songs like Campbell’s breakthrough “Gentle on My Mind” (written by John Hartford) and the deathless “Little Green Apples.” They’re playful on Billy Mize’s “Terrible Tangled Web” and tap into the sunshine pop zeitgeist on Margo Guryan’s “Sunday Morning,” also recorded by Spanky and Our Gang and Oliver. Morello has added one bonus track, Gentry and Campbell’s hit single of Boudleaux Bryant’s “All I Have to Do is Dream,” which was appended to later LP reissues of the album. (Another song associated with the Everly Brothers, Gilbert Becaud’s “Let It Be Me,” is also heard.)
Whereas the Bobbie and Glen cover shows the two artists posing straight ahead for the camera, the spirit was different for Anne Murray and Glen Campbell. The duo is photographed in casual attire, flirtatiously laughing in a pastoral scene. The material was a little different, too, with contributions from highly individualistic writers such as Randy Newman, Hoyt Axton and Dallas Frazier, and a centerpiece medley combining one past hit for Campbell with a song that had already scored for Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin.
Campbell and Murray’s medley of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” with “I Say a Little Prayer” had first been sung by “Big” Dee Irwin and Mamie Galore for Imperial in 1968, but Ahern and DeLory smoothed out the rough edges in that Monk Higgins-produced original. The result was a clever recasting of the two songs as one story, and surely Jimmy Webb and Burt Bacharach and Hal David approved of each other’s company. Even Dionne Warwick later recorded the arrangement with Isaac Hayes. The song typified the more adventurous feel of Anne Murray and Glen Campbell, as did the inclusion of Randy Newman’s deliciously acerbic “Love Story (You and Me).” Campbell does some respectable rock shouting on Bill Graham’s funky “We All Pull the Load,” and the duo shines on a most appropriate revival of “Canadian Sunset.” There’s a strong undercurrent of social justice on this LP, from “We All Pull the Load” to “Bring Back the Love” and the Brotherhood of Man hit “United We Stand.” Alas, “Let Me Be the One” isn’t the Paul Williams/Roger Nichols song, but the Ed Penney Jr./Don Domurad composition shows off the singers’ easy rapport. The productions are typically lush and very much in the vein of classic Campbell, while the sweet-voiced Murray provides as strong a partner as Gentry did.
Both the Helen Schneider and Glen Campbell albums are available for order now, at the links below!
Helen Schneider, So Close/Let It Be Now (Morello MRLL8, 2012)
- So Close
- Trying to Say Goodbye
- All the Time
- Sad Eyes
- Cuddle Up
- Why Don’t We Live Together
- Fallen Angel
- Your Mind is on Vacation
- How I Miss You
- I Never Meant to Hurt You
- Let It Be Now
- Every Step of the Way
- Until Now
- Love Me
- Am I Too Late
- The Valentino Tango
- Rock Me and Caress Me
Tracks 1-10 from So Close, Windsong BHL1-2037, 1977
Tracks 11-20 from Let It Be Now, Windsong BXL1-2710, 1978
Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell/Anne Murray and Glen Campbell (Morello MRLL7, 2012)
- Less of Me
- Little Green Apples
- Gentle on My Mind
- Heart to Heart Talk
- My Elusive Dreams
- (It’s Only Your) Imagination
- Mornin’ Glory
- Terrible Tangled Web
- Sunday Mornin’
- Let It Be Me
- Scarborough Fair/Canticle
- All I Have to Do is Dream (Bonus Track)
- You’re Easy to Love
- I Say a Little Prayer/By the Time I Get to Phoenix
- We All Pull the Load
- Canadian Sunset
- Bring Back the Love
- United We Stand
- Love Story (You and Me)
- Ease Your Pain
- Let Me Be the One
- My Ecstasy
Tracks 1-11 from Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell, Capitol LP ST-2928, 1968
Track 12 from Capitol single 2745, 1970
Tracks 13-22 from Anne Murray and Glen Campbell, Capitol LP SW-869, 1971
Bobbie Gentry is so freakin' cool!