It’s a rare treat to discover a set of songs from a distant pop era and listen to them as a complete, “lost” album. So it is with Sings For The King, the Capitol/UMe collection of 18 unearthed tracks compiled from the recordings that Glen Campbell made between 1964-68 for Elvis Presley.
The album is fascinating enough as a history lesson about the relationship between two of the defining voices of popular music, period. Campbell first saw the soon-to-be-King perform live in 1956 and much later, after his own breakthrough, would become his friend (and, if it hadn’t been for Glen’s own success, potentially the guitarist in Presley’s late 1960s TCFB band).
But Sings For The King is also an absorbing eavesdrop into the pop milieu of the 1960s, the very particular expectations of the movie-bound Elvis, and most of all, into Campbell’s generosity as, essentially, Presley’s demo man. The 18 fully-fledged recordings featured here, written by Ben Weisman and Sid Wayne, were cut to be presented to Elvis for his recording consideration by a vocalist of considerable note; Campbell threw in his in-demand virtuosity as a guitarist at no extra cost.
The “digital duet” that leads off the record may seem a contrivance, but it’s especially relevant since Glen was chosen for the work since his light tenor was so much in tune with Elvis’ own delivery. They dovetail elegantly on ‘We Call On Him,’ flagging up the rare, pristine expression they shared.
Thereafter, one might argue that it’s a shame the “demo years” didn’t go as late as Presley’s own creative rebirth of his Memphis sides of the late 1960s: here, we are very much in Hollywood soundtrack mode, and no Elvis fan would pretend they represented the apex of his musical achievements. But there’s still much to enjoy in hearing the blueprints for such subsequent film themes as ‘Easy Come, Easy Go,’ ‘Spinout,’ ‘Stay Away Joe’ and ‘Clambake,’ all of which are among the 12 songs from this selection that he gave his seal of approval.
It’s also enlightening to hear Campbell — who, for much of this time span, was either busy as a member of the Wrecking Crew or on his own career — having fun in the studio with the versatility of his own voice. On the bluesy ‘Any Old Time,’ he starts by authentically mimicking Elvis’ style, before adopting one closer to his own; on ‘I Got Love,’ he starts as himself but then “does” Presley to great effect.
Perhaps the greatest take-home is saved until last, and one of the songs that Elvis, sadly, didn’t say yes to. ‘Restless’ is a charming vocal adaptation of Debussy’s Clair de Lune that provides a fitting end to a unique record that really is fit for a king.
Glen Campbell Sings For The King is out now, and can be bought here.
Follow the official Glen Campbell Best Of playlist.