A revelatory new collection uncovers the special connection between Elvis Presley and Glen Campbell
This fascinating 18-song collection is touted as a “lost” recording. Indeed, the songs were lost—if not forgotten–for half a century, until the tapes were found by a relative Ben Weisman’s, who, with songwriting partner Sid Wayne, had close to 60 songs recorded by Elvis Presley.
In short, Sings for the King is a collection of demos containing Weisman/Wayne compositions to be pitched to Elvis–demos sung and played by Glen Campbell for Presley’s ears, never intended for release with Campbell’s own vocals.
But here they are.
Aficionados know that Campbell, the multi-faceted musical and show-biz talent who died last year at the age of 81, started out as in-demand session guitarist, a member of the lauded Wrecking Crew, who worked in Hollywood with producer Phil Spector and with artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Monkees.
Would Campbell have sung differently had he known these songs—which run the gamut from gospel to movie-theme-esque to ballads to fun boogie-woogie/rock tunes emblematic of the mid-’60—would be released on an album bearing his name? Almost certainly. Acting as a hired gun, Campbell was more than likely going by the dictates of the session. Which is why on many of the tunes, including “How Can You Lose What You Never Had,” the “Rhinestone Cowboy” purposely invokes a near-pitch-perfect Elvis. Campbell did it so well, in fact, that 12 of these songs were cut and released by Elvis himself, including “Stay Away Joe,” “Clambake,” “Spinout” and “Easy Come, Easy Go.”
On Sings For the King there are numerous highlights, and no less than two tunes about bivalve mollusks: “Do the Clam” and (the so fun!) “Clambake.” The rousing and lyrically clever “I Got Love” is likewise fun; ditto “Spinout,” the title track to Elvis’ 1966 film. Also cool: the studio chatter on several cuts, including “All I Needed Was the Rain,” which would have been great for (and maybe was inspired by) Bobbie Gentry, who collaborated with Campbell in 1968. “I’ll Be Back” (also from Spinout) is clearly pure Elvis, and Campbell, for the most part, sings it as such. “Love on the Rocks” (not the song made famous by Neil Diamond; this one rhymes “Goldilocks” with “rocks”), is an excellent tune, as is the loose rave-up of “Stay Away Joe,” which, yes, ended up Elvis film of the same name.
Even though Campbell and Presley were only a year apart in age, Presley’s career caught fire first, hence genesis of this unusual release. “Suspicious minds” might wonder about the morality behind Sings For the King, especially the first song, which marries the two icon’s voices on the gospel “We Call On Him,” the posthumous pairing showing the similarities–and differences–in vocal style. That said, almost any unreleased music from a beloved artist is a blessing, and this varied, often stellar collection is a must for both Elvis and Campbell fans, as well as a welcome aural snapshot from a more innocent time.