If 1977's Southern Nights was scattered, containing too many incompatible songwriters, Glen Campbell solved that problem with 1978's Basic, relying only on Michael Smotherman for material. The only other writer given that kind of showcase by Campbell was Jimmy Webb While Smotherman is hardly on the same par with Webb -- to begin with, he's not nearly as idiosyncratic or have as personal a viewpoint -- he is, nevertheless, a good, sturdy writer, working within the '70s singer/songwriter tradition with a fondness for mellow, catchy soft rock. He may be a little generic in some senses, but in the best sense. The songs on Basic work well according to the conventions of MOR soft rock and they're very ingratiating without a down moment on the record. Campbell responds to this strong set of songs with a committed, convincing vocal performance and, along with producer Thom Thacker (the team behind all but one cut on this record -- "Can You Fool" was recorded with Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter), has constructed an appealingly high-glossy professional pop record that glides along easily from beginning to end (although it does stumble slightly on its closer, "Grafhaidh Me Thu," a bagpipe-driven instrumental that is out of place with the rest of the record). If there are no classic moments -- as there were even on Southern Nights -- Basic makes up for it through its sheer consistency, since Campbell always had trouble delivering records that held their own from start to finish (even his classic '60s records could be uneven). Given its lack of big hits, this is not one for the casual listener. But most serious fans will likely concede that Basic is his last great album.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine