Sunday, February 22, 2015

Still On The Line

And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time.

That infinity loop of yearning is the fulcrum on which Jimmy Webb's perfect pop song, Wichita Lineman, rests. The song's been covered by many, but Glen Campbell remains its master. Over the years he's performed it thousands of times. The way Campbell has been able to keep the tune fresh is as much a testament to his playing and arranging abilities as it is to the way Webb places the poles of the song just far enough apart to keep its lines open.

This was my introduction to "Wichita Lineman." Here it is, straight up, cutting through the artifice of the set, the lip syncing, and the polyester that makes up that turtleneck.

Decades later, on Jools Holland with a cracking band. Check the guitar solo that gets funked up and dirtied down. Also, a little after the 2 minute mark we get the reminder that this dude can shred. And the voice. The voice remains. The way he lifts the melody on the "And I need you more than want you." keeps the song fresh for everybody involved. I don't care what you do. You will never be this good at it.

Even with an orchestra and ham-fisted keyboards behind him, Glen cuts through it all with his diamond voice and a crystalline guitar line. In fact, his guitar solo is as subtle and fluid as Richard Thompson at his best.

Keith Urban & Glen Campbell in Las Vegas. Two amazing players hitting the frets. Campbell steals it though with his string-bending take on the classic solo. Again, think Richard Thompson. Sick!

Roots on the line. Reggae legend Dennis Brown brings an entirely new world of ways to voice this song. Phrasings eternal. And props to (probably) Mikey Chung for showing how much the Campbell's template guitar solo lends itself to interpretation and experimentation.

Jimmy Webb, singing his own masterpiece with the gentle accompaniment of a lap steel guitar and Paul Shaffer's accordian.

Freedy Johnston, man. It's part of his thing, and we are blessed by it.

There's a long history of REM bootlegs with Wichita Lineman on the set list. Here, Michael Stipe and Patti Smith give it a go. Somehow, through the messiness, the song makes it through all the while taking on a new poignancy because of the relationship between the two singers.

Cassandra Wilson. That is all. Cassandra Wilson.

OK. The song is not COMPLETELY invincible. Here, Glen teams up with Stone Temple Pilots. There is not a song on earth that Stone Temple Pilots can't make boring.