By James Calemine
Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s during the recording sessions for his last album, Ghost On The Canvas. Campbell crafted this collection as a farewell, followed by one final tour. Campbell died on August 8, 2017.
Born in Arkansas, Campbell learned to play guitar at 4. By the time he was 14, he toured with his uncle’s band through Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico. Years later, Campbell moved to California. He played on sessions with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, Roger Miller, Ricky Nelson, James Burton, Leon Russell, Jimmy Webb, Roy Clark, The Beach Boys, The Monkees and many others.
In the 60s and 70s, Campbell earned hits from tunes such as “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, “Try A Little Kindness”, “Everything A Man Could Ever Need”, “Manhattan Kansas”, “Rhinestone Cowboys” and “Southern Nights” Campbell has sold over 45 million records in his career. For three years, he also hosted a television show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. From the dirt roads of Arkansas, to the hills of Hollywood, Ghost On The Canvas takes things to the end of the line…
Ghost On The Canvas was recorded in the summer of 2010, and produced by Julian Raymond. Musical guests on this album include Jakob Dylan, Paul Westerberg, Brian Setzer, Chris Isaak, Billy Corgan, Teddy Thompson and Robert Pollard. “A Better Place” opens the album with a peaceful reflection followed by the variegated title track. Old traces of Glen’s voice, and musical progressions seem to capture career highlights in these grooves.
“The Bill’s Town Crossroads”, an instrumental, emits a sad resonance. “Thousand Lifetimes” finds Campbell leaning towards the rock & roll side of things, which he never feared. “Amazing Grace” retains a wide sonic landscape. A distant pedal steel begins “Second North Street” like the sunrise burning off a morning fog on this short emotive instrumental.
“In My Arms” counts as one of the strongest songs on this album. It conjures the wide-open freedom Campbell’s voice brought on his early recordings. “I’ve got a lot of room to get lost in my heart,” he sings on this upbeat number. “May 21, 1969”, a short psychedelic instrumental, serves as the date which Campbell began his television show. “Nothing But The World” ranks as another great Campbell song. A sadness creeps on the listener as it’s evident this is the end of Campbell’s career, but he sure does sound great.
“Wild And Waste” serves as another spacey instrumental. “Hold On Hope” verifies Campbell always possessed the ability to employ various styles in his music. On “Valley of the Son”, a piano instrumental, children can be heard in the background, and one ponders the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s while the music seems to erode time. The lush “Any Trouble” transmits a pure message that we all feel sooner or later. “Strong” retains a progressive sound that only strengthens Campbell’s legacy. In this revealing song he exposes fear regarding his dire condition.
The last track on Glen Campbell’s final album is “There’s No Me”. It’s difficult not to say this one pulls at the heartstrings. Ghost On The Canvas sets free the spirit of a great American cowboy. This farewell should be heard by all…