Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy and Bloodline, originally released by Capitol in 1975 and ’76, respectively, represent both a highpoint for countrypolitan and the beginning of the genre’s sad, slow, painful decline. You could say something similar about the roles they played within Campbell’s career, too. In the recent past for Campbell were masterpieces of Jimmy Webb-penned country-pop such as “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston”; a starring role with the Duke in True Grit; and his own television variety series, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour”. Ahead were addiction, tabloid coverage of his stormy relationship with Tanya Tucker, and a theater in Branson, Missouri.
Charting lower and less often than just a few years before, Campbell turned in 1975 to the production team of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, two former Motown producers who found success with insanely catchy middle-of-the-road fare — Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds’ “Don’t Pull Your Love”, for instance. On Rhinestone Cowboy, the pair’s Elton-John-visits-Vegas arrangements make the lush and soulful soundscapes of Al DeLory (who produced Campbell’s early hits) sound downright naked by comparison.
Still, with Campbell’s agreeable tenor sounding as supple as ever, and with savvy song selection that included covers of Smokey Robinson’s “My Girl” and Randy Newman’s “Marie”, the album pushes at the boundaries between country and pop with real aplomb. It doesn’t hurt that its best songs are about this precise country-pop dilemma: “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet In L.A.)”, “Comeback”, and of course the unforgettable “Rhinestone Cowboy”. Also included here is that crossover smash’s marvelous non-album B-side, the Rockpile-lite “Record Collector’s Dream”.
Campbell, now sporting a beard, teamed with Lambert & Potter again the following year for Bloodline, an album that traverses similar sonic territory — but with far less memorable results. With just a few exceptions (notably a version of Jimmy Webb’s “Christiaan No”), the album includes, unlike its predecessor, everything adult contemporary would encompass in the era of Kenny Rogers and Christopher Cross: lush but static arrangements, insipid lyrics, rinky-dink grooves, smarmy keyboards, and an emotional punch about as enlivening as Novocain.