Glen Campbell’s road to stardom - “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,’’ “Wichita Lineman,’’ “Rhinestone Cowboy’’ - is paved with numerous overlooked gems. With more than 50 studio albums, his discography is daunting, and he’s been anthologized to the hilt. Here are a few good starting points for lesser-known material.
BIG BLUEGRASS SPECIAL(1962) - Recorded with the Green River Boys, Campbell’s first album found him in fine form as both a bluegrass picker and singer. For anyone who thinks Campbell is too slick, take heart: There’s nary an ounce of pop sheen on these songs.
THE ASTOUNDING 12-STRING GUITAR OF GLEN CAMPBELL(1964) - Transitioning from straight country to a more pop-friendly version of it, Campbell puts a twangy spin on “Puff the Magic Dragon’’ and “Blowin’ in the Wind.’’ This instrumental album was the first sign of Campbell’s guitar prowess that continues to this day.
BOBBIE GENTRY AND GLEN CAMPBELL(1968) - Someone was wise enough to pair Campbell with Gentry, the sultry Southern singer-songwriter. Even on cloying pop fare like “Little Green Apples,’’ their voices blend beautifully. Campbell made a similar album with Anne Murray a few years later.
HOUSTON (I’M COMIN’ TO SEE YOU)(1974) - Campbell in a nutshell: He’s arguably the only artist who can credibly go from yodeling like Hank Williams on “Lovesick Blues’’ straight into crooning Charles Aznavour’s “Yesterday, When I Was Young.’’ (k.d. lang is a close second.)
BASIC(1978) - As a follow-up to “Southern Nights,’’ whose Allen Toussaint-penned title track became one of Campbell’s most enduring hits, this underrated album rocked harder and had funky overtones. Well, funky by Glen Campbell standards.