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Glen Campbell
Ghost On The Canvas
Surfdog Records
www.glencampbellmusic.com


The very first record I ever owned was a four LP set titled Glen Campbell Live. I wore those four discs out, listening to everything from classic Glen Campbell songs to the set of Beach Boys songs he did. I've read his biographies. I've seen the movies he's been in. I watched his TV show as a child. One might say that I was a Glen Campbell fan long before I even knew what it meant to be a fan… and certainly long before I had an inkling of the effect that Campbell's music would have on my life.

I enjoyed Campbell's last record, Meet Glen Campbell, wherein he covered a nice batch of modern alternative rock songs in his own way. Hearing Campbell's beautiful smooth voice sing songs by the likes of Green Day and Travis was great, and Ghost On The Canvas continues a bit of that, but with some Campbell-penned contributions thrown into the mix. To add to the weight of this latest record, the world is being told that this will be Glen's final studio album following his recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease. While the future is uncertain for Glen, the music on this record is anything but.

Opening the new record is a Campbell co-penned song called "A Better Place" which sounds for all the world like a swan song if there ever was one. This song has the same bit of hopeful finality in it that Johnny Cash's "Spiritual" contains; a calm reflection on life and what it all might mean in the end. "A Better Place" is a softly fingerpicked acoustic guitar and vocal meditation and it sets the stage beautifully for the songs to come. "Ghost On The Canvas", one of two Paul Westerberg-written songs on the record, begins to sound more like what the world has come to think of as a Glen Campbell sound. Lush string arrangements carry the song along on its way until the trademark Campbell baritone guitar launches for the chorus. This could just as easily be a track off of one of Campbell's older records for all the sound of it and the cadence. The real highlight of the record for me comes in the form of the Jakob Dylan-penned "Nothing But The Whole Wide World". Campbell's voice is at its finest; soft and gentle, but with a power and steadiness that speaks of hope and the future and faith. Campbell fills the record with a few short instrumental tracks between other, longer songs… and while those tracks aren't necessarily memorable and seem to pass by unnoticed, the album would be a much different landscape without them. The Robert Pollard song "Hold On Hope" stands on its own as a beautiful piece of downtempo rock in the voice of Campbell, but when bookended by two lovely, soft instrumental numbers, the song has a stronger, different life.

There are some great guests that appear on Ghost On The Canvas. Chris Isaak, Dick Dale, and Brian Setzer all lend their guitar chops and/or vocals to the rocking "In My Arms", a song that is full of reverb and attitude, bombastic drums, rockabilly piano, and - obviously - some wicked guitar playing. Campbell enlists The Dandy Warhols' help on "Strong", and the band's stamp is evident in the giant drums and washed out, echoey guitars that struggle in vain to cover up the strings, battling to take the song for themselves, but to no avail as Campbell's influence wins out. Billy Corgan, Marty Rifkin, and Rick Nielsen join Setzer and Campbell on the Lennon-esque ballad "There's No Me… Without You." It may seem a bit strange to have this cast of characters playing along on one of the mellowest songs on the record, but it certainly works well and is a beautiful way to end the album.

Ghost On The Canvas is a fitting swansong for Glen Campbell, whatever the future may hold. This record is as strong as any the man has ever released, possibly stronger than most. Those familiar with his work will find this new recording comfortable to listen to, and new fans will be delighted discovering one of American music's most important treasures.

-Embo Blake

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