Glen Campbell’s career-spanning box set is modestly titled The Legacy, fitting for the unlikely superstar from Delight, Arkansas. While The Legend might have been equally appropriate, Campbell’s legacy is, truly, unlike any other. Throughout an extraordinary seven-decade career encompassing 21 Top 40 Pop hits, 27 Top 10 Country singles, six Top 20 Pop albums, and nine No. 1 Country albums in the United States alone, the artist regularly transcended genre with his honeyed vocals and virtuosic musicianship. Hit songs took Campbell to locales such as Phoenix, Wichita, Galveston, Houston and Manhattan, Kansas, but his universal music resonated everywhere.
In 2003, Capitol Nashville issued the first edition of The Legacy with its subject’s eager participation. Eight years later, Glen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, courageously sharing his battle with the public. An acclaimed Goodbye Tour followed, along with a brace of studio recordings that touchingly reflected on his past and present alike. Campbell passed away on August 8, 2017, having raised awareness of the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Now, Capitol Nashville and UMe have revisited The Legacy in a revised edition retaining the original version’s first three discs chronicling 1961-1993 and jettisoning the fourth, live disc in favor of a new coda that collects the best of his final recordings, spanning 2003-2017. The resulting box set is a moving tribute to his enduring artistry as an interpretive singer, virtuosic guitarist, and talented songwriter.
All four discs of The Legacy firmly remind listeners that Campbell was among the most significant artists to abolish the boundaries between country-and-western and pop, lines that are more blurred today than ever with talents like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, or Florida Georgia Line. What’s also clearer than ever is how Campbell infused all of his performances with deep soul and genuine emotion. His sound encompassed pop, folk, bluegrass, country, and gospel, and he had, arguably, the best education in music as a member of the Los Angeles “Wrecking Crew” of musicians. With that stellar group, Campbell played on hundreds of classics by diverse artists ranging from Frank Sinatra (Strangers in the Night) to The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds). While those songs on which he served as a sideman aren’t featured here, his exquisite picking most certainly is. The Wrecking Crew returned the favor by playing on many of his biggest hits. Campbell even had the chops to briefly sub for Brian Wilson in The Beach Boys; Wilson gifted him with the striking and sublime “Guess I’m Dumb.” The 1965 single, co-written with Russ Titelman, is a highlight of the first disc of The Legacy which takes the artist from 1961-1968 beginning with “Turn Around, Look at Me.” Campbell reportedly wrote the song although his manager Jerry Capehart put his own name on it; it became Glen’s first charting single (No. 62 Pop/No. 15 AC) though The Vogues’ 1968 cover was far more successful (No. 7 Pop/No. 3 AC). Glen cut a re-recording that same year, also included here.
1968 was quite a year for Campbell. At the 10th Annual Grammy Awards held on February 29, he picked up four trophies. Illustrating just how wide-ranging and universal his appeal was, Campbell’s rendition of John Hartford’s breezy “Gentle on My Mind” won in the fields of Best Country and Western Solo Performance – Male and Best Country and Western Recording (shared with producer Al De Lory) while his recording of Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” earned him Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance. (By the Time I Get to Phoenix, the LP, would win Album of the Year at the very next Grammy ceremony. It was the first album by a so-called Country and Western artist to do so.) John D. Loudermilk’s “I Wanna Live,” released in March 1968, inaugurated Glen’s run of five Country chart-toppers including that year’s “Wichita Lineman,” another Webb composition which became the singer’s first top 5 Pop entry. His popularity went beyond records; between June and August, he hosted The Summer Brothers Smothers Show, the summer replacement on CBS for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Its success would lead to the 1969 launch of Glen’s own variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.
The Legacy has those seminal hits from that purple patch, of course, but also key lesser-known tracks like a passionate cover of Roy Orbison’s “Cryin'” in which Glen gives The Big O a run for his vocal money, a trio of sympathetic duets with Capitol labelmate Bobbie Gentry, and a fine reading of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe.” Campbell followed “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” with another instant classic from Jimmy Webb, “Wichita Lineman,” cementing one of the most storied partnerships in pop music. Fourteen of their collaborations are included on this set, from the hits “Galveston” and “Where’s the Playground, Susie” (which kick off Disc Two) to more unheralded works like the original version of “Highwayman” (1978) and the achingly beautiful elegy “Only One Life” (1992).
In addition to Webb, many of the greats of the American songbook are here including Allen Toussaint (the 1977 smash “Southern Nights”), Mac Davis (“Everything a Man Could Ever Need”), Gordon Lightfoot (“The Last Time I Saw Her”), Bacharach and David (“I Say a Little Prayer” in a medley with “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” performed with Anne Murray), Hank Williams (“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”), Neil Diamond (“Sunflower”), Brian Wilson and Tony Asher (“God Only Knows”), and J.D. Souther (“Faithless Love”). But it was Larry Weiss and his song “Rhinestone Cowboy” that catapulted Campbell to his second wave of superstardom in 1975; it’s as sparklingly ebullient as ever today. During this period chronicled on the box set’s third disc, Campbell also championed the songs of Michael Smotherman, represented with “Can You Fool” and “I’m Gonna Love You.”
The 2003 iteration of The Legacy closed its third disc with the mainstream country of “Somebody Like That” from the 1993 Liberty album of the same name, but the 2019 box adds a fourth disc of studio recordings, or closing chapter. A handful of albums (primarily contemporary Christian and holiday sets) released in the 1990s are overlooked, but it picks up with a quartet of eclectic songs from his 2003 double album Love Is the Answer: 24 Songs of Faith, Hope and Love: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway standard “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Curtis Mayfield’s anthem “People Get Ready,” Bill Withers’ timeless invitation to “Lean on Me,” and the traditional hymn “Amazing Grace.” Indeed, faith, hope, and love had always been a part of Campbell’s musical DNA. Three tracks have been culled from his cheekily-titled 2008 “comeback” Meet Glen Campbell on which producer Julian Raymond channeled the majestic grandeur of Campbell’s ’60s hits on soaring reinventions of Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” (recalling “Galveston”), Jackson Browne’s wistful “These Days,” and Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.” A reinvigorated spirit was evident on these songs, one which carried over to his next studio recording with Raymond and first released after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Ghost on the Canvas. Paul Westerberg’s poignant title track has been reprised from that equally powerful LP.
The deeply personal Campbell/Raymond composition “Waiting on the Comin’ of My Lord” from 2013’s See You There offered both sadness and reassurance as the artist stared down his own mortality and turned it into remarkable art. That sensibility led to Campbell’s final masterpiece, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – a mordant commentary on the ravages of Alzheimer’s. The recording wasn’t easy for Campbell, but over four takes, producer/co-writer Raymond captured the essence of the courageous performer. The Legacy closes with three tracks from his last album Adios, released in 2017 but drawn from Campbell’s final recording sessions years earlier. Producer Carl Jackson brought a crisp, classic sound to the material including four Jimmy Webb songs. Two of them have been selected for inclusion here: the wry “It Won’t Bring Her Back” and the natural closer, “Adios.”
While those tracks end The Legacy on notes of aching melancholy, the set retains a celebratory air. The new box is housed in an oversized 10-panel digipak, slimmed down from the 2003 edition, but still boasts a thick, squarebound 60-page book with copious photos, memorabilia, credits, and liner notes. Joel Selvin has updated his original essay in compelling style. Bob Norberg’s remastering from the original box has been retained, and the mastering on the fourth disc is comparable in quality. Though the artist’s legacy is an immense one, this box set does it full justice. Much as the Wichita Lineman is still on the line, Glen Campbell’s music lives on.