Review: Glen Campbell – Live in Japan (Capitol/Real Gone, 1975/2011)
Originally released only in Japan, this 54-minute DVD “Live in Japan” found Glen Campbell entertaining with a tightly-paced set at Tokyo’s Kosei Nenkin Hall in May 1975. The chart-topping run Campbell had started with 1967’s “Gentle on My Mind” was slipping ever so slightly lower by the early ‘70s, as his television program ended in 1972. Campbell’s albums started to edge out of the Top 10 and his singles out of the Top 20, but three days before this show, he released “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and rode it to the top of the country, pop and adult contemporary charts. Oddly, the single had yet to ingratiate itself into a starring spot in Campbell’s live set, and is not included here.
Given the depth of Campbell’s catalog of hits, his live set only highlighted a few in full, and added five more in medley form. The set opens with a horn-and-tympani intro to a slick, stirring cover of Mac Davis’ “I Believe in Music.” Campbell is in terrific voice, opening “Galveston” with a few riveting a cappella notes and investing himself fully in the drama of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.” The set holds several surprises, including the southern soul of bassist Bill C. Graham’s album track, “Lovelight,” touching covers of Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You” and John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” and the Japanese single “Coming Home (to Meet My Brother),” which had originally been popularized as a Coca-Cola jingle.
The arrangements stick mostly to orchestrated, middle-of-the-road ballads (including “My Way” and a medley of “Try to Remember” and “The Way We Were”), but the pickers heat things up on Carl Jackson’s banjo-led “Song for Y’All” and Campbell sings heartfelt gospel on the closing “Amazing Grace.” The between-song banter is short and good-humored (even when Campbell’s jokes are lost in translation) and the hits, even when reduced to medley form, are sung with deep feeling. Real Gone delivers the disc and eight-page booklet (featuring new liner notes by Mike Ragogna and a reproduction of the original Japanese insert) in a folding cardboard sleeve that includes the front and rear album covers.