Rich Kienzle

Rich Kienzle

As I said in my previous posting, I wondered why they decided suddenly to announce Glen Campbell's Alzheimer's now, though he'd been diagnosed months ago.  I think I have an answer.  This is Indianapolis Star critic David Lindquist's review of Campbell's June 4 concert there.

The review lambasted Campbell's seeming disorientation and alarmingly off-the-mark guitar playing, inability to remember keys of songs and lack of conversation between numbers, something Campbell did as a matter of routine at shows. Initial feedback was interesting.  Many Star readers apparently agreed, panning the show, a few taking shots at Campbell in general. A few speculated he'd resumed his once-rampant substance abuse. 

Comments posted after Wednesday's announcement showed understandable sympathy to Campbell but also increasing amounts of vitriol and abuse aimed at Lindquist.

I don't think Lindquist did anything but his job, given the fact no one in the media knew the actual situation until yesterday. Were I in his position, reviewing a disjointed Campbell concert and having no idea about the underlying reasons, I'd have said much the same thing. Critics are not supposed to be cheerleaders (though far too many are) and it's safe to say Lindquist's spin would have differed had he and everyone else known what was going on.

Wife Kim Campbell's comment that "if he flubs a lyric or gets confused onstage, I wouldn't want people to think, 'What's the matter with him? Is he drunk?'" was  understandable. That impression had already been left in Indy.

What I said in my previous post still holds. I'm glad Campbell's last work has been so strong.  In that regard it's a bit like the final years of Johnny Cash, though they were two different types of performers (Meet Glen Campbell's contemporary edge had a Rick Rubin quality about it).  To reiterate: few get that opportunity for a final creative surge.  The next album will include some first-rate guitarists as guests including Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, surf guitar legend Dick Dale, Brian Setzer and Billy Corgan.  Nice touch.

Likewise, I hope this tour works out, though if he's struggling this much, it's hard to tell what will happen. He has only one more US show scheduled, in Biloxi, Mississippi. The rest are in Canada (one), a UK tour ending in Ireland. Given the tragic burden Alzheimer's visits on victims and families alike, Campbell's organization was clearly trying to handle an extremely sensitive, difficult situation gingerly given the circumstances.  Should they have disclosed earlier?  Hard to tell.

But really, there's only one villain here--the disease itself.

Glen Campbell's Poignant Farewell

Thursday, 23 June 2011 04:40

Glen Campbell's official revelation of his Alzheimer's diagnosis is tragic for a number of reasons.  2008 saw him roar back with a powerful mainstream album titled Meet Glen Campbell that placed him in a solidly contemporary framework for the first time in decades, covering material by Green Day, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, U2, the Replacements, etc.   I thought—and still think—it was a remarkable comeback.

In this business, one discovers every day how much they still don't know, me included.  Scott Mervis's eloquent requiem for Clarence Clemons included just such a revelation: that early on, some questioned Clemons' sax skills. Scott suspected that criticism came "from the jazz universe, where the bar was set by the legends like John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins."  He noted Clemons came "not from the Blue Note school but from the R&B and rock 'n roll world."  I hadn't realized anyone slammed Clemons for that, but it's not surprising. Scott touched on a broader point, one some critics and fans miss in a big way.  Virtuosos come in different types: soloists and accompanists, regardless of their genre.

Reflections on Taylor Swift

Friday, 17 June 2011 07:58

In nearly four decades of writing about country music both past and present, I learned one thing early on. Nashville's Music Row, even when it was still known as 16th Avenue South, has never been proactive. It's always reactive. The idea of moving first to launch new sounds and ideas is simply alien to the culture there.  Aside from East Nashville's fertile Americana community, few there come up with anything new. They wait for something to hit big, and then call all hands on deck.  It's been that way for over half a century.

On this week's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast, we take a stroll down a memory lane of country music a lot less pious and wholesome as a lot of idealistic types (and a few misguided historians) like to fantasize about.  You'll hear songs of recent decades that stirred controversy for explicit content that one could play on prime-time TV today, and then head backwards to the 1930's and move ahead to hear tunes recorded in those conservative times, tunes not only released but by some legendary names.  And there'll be some fun stories along the way.  You can access it right here.   But you can also read on. There's more, including some cool stories (and songs) we didn't have the space for on the podcast.


Steve Popovich 2: Steve as Recording Artist

Wednesday, 15 June 2011 20:00

If you're wondering about Steve Popovich's own musical career, before he hit the loading dock at Columbia, here's an example of him on records with his rock band Savoys from the late 50s. My longtime friend Rob Santos, VP of A&R at Legacy Recordings, provided the link. Disclosure: Rob and I have worked on reissue projects for both BMG (RCA) and Legacy for years and still collaborate. Rob is both a first rate music historian and collector who knew Steve well, having spoken to him just a week before he died.

For over 30 years, accountants, lawyers and venture capitalists have controlled the record industry, and usually not for the better. Greene County native Steve Popovich, who died last Wednesday at his home in Murfeesboro, Tennessee, hailed from an earlier time when people learned the business from the ground up.


Frank Sinatra revived his film career with the role of Rizzo in the 1953 film From Here to Eternity and his musical career when he ditched Columbia Records for Capitol, recording much of the material that will forever define his career.  All the while he began thinking about having his own record company and the control that came with it, control that allowed him to bring aboard artists he wanted and to give them control.   When he was ready to re-sign with Capitol in 1960, Sinatra dropped the bombshell he'd be moving to his own shop: Reprise Records, named for the musical term "reprise" (or play again).

Ricky Skaggs on Video 1961-2010

Thursday, 09 June 2011 04:44

Ricky Skaggs, who's appearing at the Three Rivers Arts Festival Saturday at 8 PM with his band Kentucky Thunder, grew up in rural Kentucky with parents who loved bluegrass music.  When he was five, he harmonized with his mother and got his first mandolin (1959).  A year later, he played with Father of Bluegrass onstage hen Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys performed in nearby Martha, Kentucky.  Monroe even placed that famous 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin around the six year old's neck.

If you assume you've never heard Ray Bryant's piano, think a second. Did you ever see the movie Hairspray? If you recall that famous, highly memorable "Madison Time" dance scene from the fictionalized, American Bandstand-like "Corny Collins Show," then you heard Bryant. In the real world, that song reached the Top 30 in 1960, an era when dance crazes were a dime a dozen and the Twist dominated the world.