Glen Campbell, "Ghost on the Canvas" (Surfdog)
Given the circumstances of its release, it would be wonderful to say how Glen Campbell's presumably final album is an unmitigated triumph. Not quite, though it came closer than anyone had aright to expect.
An in-demand studio pro in the 1960s and country-rock superstar in the 1970s, Campbell's career faded with the years. But his family recently announced that Campbell, now 75, is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. "Ghost on the Canvas" and a lengthy tour to support it are designed to be his public farewell.
Campbell, with producer and co-writer Julian Raymond, address the subject beautifully in the opening "A Better Place," a musical prayer. "Some days I'm so confused, Lord," Campbell sings. "The past gets in my way. I need the ones I love, Lord, more and more each day."
The title track, written by Paul Westerberg, is the disc's strongest. Campbell's voice is barely weathered by age and he and Raymond smartly pick strong songs by younger writers Teddy Thompson and Jakob Dylan.
Campbell's impressive supporting cast here includes Billy Corgan, Dick Dale, Chris Isaak and Brian Setzer, and the music is lovely. Unfortunately, the disc is weighed down by a series of superfluous instrumental interludes that mostly cast a pall. Mid-tempo arrangements predominate and with the ending songs "Strong" and "There's No Me ... Without You," there's a feeling of repetition both musically and lyrically.
Campbell's farewell statement, however, is brave and deserves to be heard.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The title cut evokes "Wichita Lineman" as it opens so much that it will give you chills, then stands powerfully as a composition on its own.
- Glen Campbell