Ghost on the Canvas is Glen Campbell's curtain call. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2009, Campbell has decided to leave the music business, bidding farewell to fans with this final album and a farewell tour.
With all the hoopla surrounding the album, it might be hard to judge the final work on its own. And, with much talk of mortality, fading away, and dying on the record, it's no easy task.
Glen Campbell's Last Stand
Glen Campbell rose to fame on such polished countrypolitan tunes as "Wichita Lineman" and "Rhinestone Cowboy." It's hardly shocking, then, that this new album features intricate arrangements. The bigger surprise is that they tend toward a muddy somnambulance rather than Campbell's trademark gloss.
The proactively posthumous vibe of the album starts with the opening song "A Better Place" in which Campbell sings, "The world’s been good for me/A better place awaits/You’ll see."
The title track, "Ghost on the Canvas," continues in this downbeat vein, painting a portrait of lives dissolving with time, and passing into new forms: "I know a place between life and death for you and me / Best take hold on the threshold of eternity."
That might read as woefully autobiographical. But the song was actually written and recorded years before -- by The Replacements' Paul Westerberg, 24 years Campbell's junior, who is one of the album many guest collaborators.
Other musicians who sit in for a track or two are Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Steve Hunter (Alice Cooper), Brian Setzer, and Chris Isaak.
Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers is responsible for writing one of the album's quietest (and best) songs, "Nothing But the Whole Wide World to Gain," about remaining steadfast in the midst of loss.
Not to be outdone, Campbell handles songwriter duties (along with producer Julian Raymond) on five songs, including the bavura closer "Theres No Me...Without You."
Ghost on the Canvas is one of Glen Campbell's finest collection of songs, without a bum track among them. But it's also kind of, well, repetitive.
Moments when the morose atmosphere lets up, such as the ebulliently devotional "In My Arms" -- with surf-guitar solos and hand-clapping reminding us of Campbell's years with the Beach Boys -- are like the parting of clouds.
But these quibbles mostly disappear when you consider a song like the Fred Neil-esque "Any Trouble," in which Campbell reminds us, "I won't be here long."
- "In My Arms"
- "Ghost on the Canvas."
- "Hold on Hope"
- "Nothing but the Whole Wide World"
- "Theres No Me...Without You."
Complete Tracklist for Ghost in the Canvas
- "A Better Place"
- "Ghost on the Canvas"
- "The Billstown Crossroads"
- "A Thousand Lifetimes"
- "It's Your Amazing Grace"
- "Second Street North"
- "In My Arms"
- "May 21st, 1969"
- "Nothing But the Whole Wide World"
- "Wild and Waste")
- "Hold On Hope"
- "Valley of the Sun"
- "Any Trouble"
- "The Rest Is Silence"
- "There's No Me... Without You"