When Glen Campbell cut this ambitious album of poignant pop covers at 72 he had a big advantage over the late Johnny Cash when Rick Rubin rode to his rescue.

The voice of Campbell, unlike the unfortunate hombre in Reno, was not shot.

So the Rhinestone Cowboy, despite a well-publicised DUI bust in Phoenix, Arizona, 2003, is in much better nick for his 60th studio album featuring production by Julian Raymond and Howard Willing.

And, like his plethora of hits with Jim Webb songs, he has impeccable taste choosing ballads by rock and pop artists here.

It's no surprise Campbell eases comfortably into Tom Petty's Walls and Angel Dream after opening with Francis Healy's Travis tune Sing.

Now, that's not old Randy Travis - who toured here many moons ago - but the wee Scot lads named Travis of the indie alternate persuasion.


"I dreamed you, I saw your face/ caught my lifeline when drifting through space/ I saw an angel, I saw my fate/ I can only thank God it was not too late." - Angel Dream - Tom Petty.

Ironically, Walls features writer Petty's lyrical extension of the historic Dick Feller penned hit Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone) with "some days are diamonds/ some days are rocks."

Campbell may be more familiar with John Denver's 1981 hit but nails Healy's poetic imagery.

The strings may appear to replace twang in parts of Walls and Angel Dream but it's the artist's own 12-string guitar that triumphs.

Those gems are polished again when Campbell reprises U2 song All I Want Is You as the narrator chooses true love ahead of "diamonds on a ring of gold."

It seems diamond metaphors replace Wichita, Phoenix and Galveston locales in the Webb songbook once strip-mined by Campbell.

Close your eyes and you can hear why expatriate Australasian superstar Keith Urban was a huge fan of Campbell in his adolescence and Petty down the years.

It's not just the super smooth vocal delivery but the guitar slinging savvy that landed Glen all those Beach Boys sessions and live gigs.

And, of course, his membership of the Wrecking Crew with Leon Russell and Larry Knechtel who died last month at 69.


"I've stopped my rambling/ I don't do too much gambling these days." - These Days - Jackson Browne.

There is nothing to frighten the horses as Campbell rides the ruptured romance of Paul Westerberg's Sadly, Beautiful.

Campbell is not a replacement but accomplished interpreter, milking every nuance of the original.

He chances his arm following life choices blindly and turns the Billy Joe Armstrong Green Day hit Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) into a country shuffle, replete with banjo and mandolin by George Doering.

That's real re-invention for a song that once had political pretensions.

The singer is equally at ease with the Foo Fighters classic Times Like These.

Maybe the Beaconsfield mine disaster survivors Todd Russell and Brandon Webb were indeed channelling Campbell and Alan Jackson - not just the Foo Fighters - as they sang for rescuers.

Perhaps their misery morphed into prophesy on those long subterranean nights in the deep north of Van Diemen's Land.

Meanwhile above ground the mastery of Campbell's crooning in Times Like These is delivered like a sibling of Jackson Browne's These Days.

Campbell is an easy on the ear as Browne before he hardened his music with strident social and political comment.


"Grow old along with me/ the best is yet to be/ when our time has come/ we will be as one." - Grow Old With Me - John Lennon-Yoko Ono.

More of a surprise might be the soft gospel of Lou Reed's Jesus until you find a quote from Ephesians 5:19-20 on the inside sleeve with a message from Campbell.

Campbell chooses a fitting finale - the obscure John Lennon-Yoko Ono paean Grow Old With Me.

Ono personally approved it for Campbell who explained: "That's just a beauty. Yoko loved it, too. She sent us a note."

So why does Campbell sound so fresh and happy?

Well, producers Raymond and Willing provide lustrous string and horns orchestral backing to fertilise a musical bed dug by Campbell's famed guitar playing, Marty Rifkin's pedal steel guitar and George Doering's acoustic guitar, banjo and mandolin flourishes.

Cheap Trick chappies Rick Nielsen on guitar and Robin Zander and diverse Campbell clan also have guest vocal roles with extended Campbell clan - daughters Debby and Ashley and their step siblings Dillon, Cal and Shannon.

The album, replete with avid reviews in a critical rock press, ensures further longevity for a four times wed artist whose vocals have not been ravaged by years of living on the edge - even in his twilight years.

Campbell, now 73 and father of eight, proves a worthy survivor for his summer return tour of Australia.

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