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Music Review: Glen Campbell – Ghost on the Canvas

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In light of his recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, Glen Campbell’s latest and professed final studio album, Ghost on the Canvas (Surfdog Records), unavoidably achieves a poignant distinction. Yet in meditations on mortality, faith, and earthly love, this is not a work steeped in wallowing, mournful resignation.

In fact, Campbell, 75, sounds resilient and assured throughout – even when the words he’s singing suggest otherwise. “This is not the road I wanted for us, but darling it’s here,” he concedes to his wife in “Strong,” one of several songs co-written by Campbell and producer Julian Raymond, its lyrics offering an unshakable, against-all-odds vow of enduring devotion. Perhaps to illustrate the increasing adversity that lay ahead, he sings against a near-symphonic surge of turbulence, resounding as majestic and menacing at the same time.

A handful of other songwriters contributed tracks as well, including Jakob Dylan, who penned “Nothing But the Whole Wide World” especially for Campbell before cutting his own version on his 2010 solo album, Women & Country. Here Campbell invests the song with a sense of reflective wisdom that the much younger Dylan didn’t (or couldn’t) altogether convey. He enriches the stunningly beautiful title track – one of two standout selections composed by Paul Westerberg – with similar perception, his nimble voice complemented by the sort of hazy, swirling orchestration reminiscent of his definitive, classic recordings.

While Campbell’s illness provides its subtext, Ghost on the Canvas is ultimately about compassion and redemption, qualities which are best expressed in “A Better Place,” when in under two minutes he comes to terms with his fate. “The world’s been good to me,” Campbell acknowledges to God. “A better place awaits, you’ll see.”

 

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About Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson is the publisher of www.writeonmusic.com and a freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in such publications as No Depression, Spinner, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cinema Sentries, Blinded by Sound, and Blogcritics, where he was the Senior Music Editor (2011-2012) and Assistant Music Editor (2008-2011). He has interviewed and profiled such artists as Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs, Charli XCX, Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Susanna Hoffs, Bruce Hornsby, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Alan Parsons, Bill Frisell, Joan Armatrading, Christina Perri, Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Katie Melua, and Buddy Guy, among many others.
  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    This makes me want to buy this album. Great job Donald.

    -Glen

  • charlyn

    Wow. What a beautiful and compassionate review of one of the most gifted artists.
    Wonderful job.

  • Dan McPhail, Radio and mobile dj

    I’m a 63 year young radio and mobile dj from near Flint Michigan. My favorite tracks on Ghost on the Canvas are A better place (#1); In my arms (track 7) and 9 (Nothing in the whole wide world). Each are radio hits if promoted right. A superb CD and fitting poingant end to 50 great years as session man, Beach Boy, network tv star, and country boy made good. Few in radio ever had a bad word for Glen, even during the cocaine years of the 80’s. Glen’s voice on this CD is rich, strong and no self pity. I thought he deserved his standing ovation on last night’s Tonight Show. Class act, class person. Dan McPhail, Air Personality for KVEG Las Vegas (1968-72),
    WKMF Flint, WITL Lansing, WCXI Detroit