Classic Album Review: Glen Campbell “Wichita Lineman”

Sometimes, it’s hard to beat a good Glen Campbell album. And through the years, Glen’s had plenty of good ones, inlcluding this 1968 classic, Wichita Lineman.

Glen Campbell Wichita Lineman

Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” LP

You know the title track. It’s one of the many iconic songs to come from the pen of Jimmy Webb. Jimmy also gave us golden melodies such as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “The Highwayman”, and “McArthur Park”. But unlike many albums, the drop-off from the hit material to the rest of the album is minimal.

Wichita Lineman was released by Capitol Records in November, 1968. It became Glen’s biggest selling album, with over 2 million units having been sold. The album spent 20 consecutive weeks atop Billboard’s country album charts. It also spent 5 non-consecutive weeks on their all-encompassing Top 200 between November, 1968 and April, 1969. Incidentally, after its 20 week stay on the country side, Glen’s next album, Galveston, removed it from the top spot.

The album contains two hit singles; the title cut, as well as “Dreams of The Everyday Housewife”. Of course, “Wichita Lineman” is the highlight of this album. It’s truly one of the greatest songs ever written, and not just in country music, but music in general. British journalist Dylan Jones, in a 2008 article for the UK site Independent, suggested that it, “…just might be the best song ever written”. Glen’s version, with the incredible production of Al De Lory, is simply unbeatable. How many songs can you name that you can remember the instrumental segment as well as the lyrics? Not many besides this one. “Wichita Lineman” topped Billboard’s Country and Easy Listening (Adult Contemporary) charts, while reaching the top 5 on their pop chart.

“Dreams of The Everyday Housewife” gets overshadowed, here, but it ranks as one of the album’s best tracks. The lyrics spoke to thousands, if not millions of housewives. They spoke in a way, nearly anyone who’s ever reflected on their past, comparing life as it is, compared to how they dreamed it would be, can relate to.

The album contains some covers, including the Otis Redding classic “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay”, the French pop standard “If You Go Away” (a 1966 Damita Jo hit), Bobby Goldsboro’s “The Straight Life”, Cher’s “You Better Sit Down Kids”, and the Bee Gees’ “Words”. For the most part, Glen performs flawless work with these tracks. The highlight, though, has to be his rather hot take on “Dock of The Bay”. The beat and horn section are a perfect complement to the vocals. “The Straight Life” differs little than the Goldsboro single, but is a nice work. Both “Words” and “If You Go Away” highlight the ability Glen had to handle pop ballads. And the arrangement on “You Better Sit Down, Kids”, manages to combine straight-ahead country, bluegrass, and go-go; and relatively successfully.

Glen Campbell was a rare artist who could handle so many vocal styles with little or no effort. This album is strong in the pop-influence, but Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Ann”, as well as “That’s Not Home”, and “Fate of Man” are excellent country music work. “Ann” is fun, while “Fate of Man”, with its somewhat somber look at the circle of life reminds you of Hank Williams’ Luke The Drifter work.

You will also find folk music on this album, with folk artist Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe”. Glen performs a near flawless take on this song that would later become the flip-side to Rod Stewart’s single, “Maggie May”.

This is still an excellent album to listen to, even almost fifty years after its release. Glen Campbell had an outstanding ability to adapt, vocally, to nearly any genre; one who could flow seamlessly from a Gene Autry song, into a Beatles song, then to something straight country, and sound equally at ease with any of them. I think you could arguably say Glen was at his peak, right here.

An album that I rate a 4 out of 5. This is one that I have no trouble recommending to anyone who likes classic country or oldies of the late 1960’s.

 

Mike The Country MusicologistMike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. After convincing Vincennes University in Indiana to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting, he has spent most of his adult life on the radio, having worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina, including his current gig, hosting the weekly World Famous Ultimate Twang Radio Show. Listen Thursdays, 4-7p ET on WSFM-LP/AshevilleFM, which is at 103.3 FM in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as online at ashevillefm.org.

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