Byline: Craig S. Semon
"Ghost on the Canvas"
Glen Campbell (Surfdog)
* * *-}1/2
Thanks to a grim medical diagnosis of having the early stages of Alzheimer's, Glen Campbell has proven to the world that he has something in common with iconic, larger-than-life film icon John Wayne after all. They both have "True Grit."
Campbell - the man who originated the role of Texas Ranger La Boeuf opposite Wayne's scenery chewing U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in 1969's "True Grit" - has always been known for his talent but never his tenacity. That is, until now.
Campbell's swan song "Ghost on the Canvas" is an introspective journeyman's record that very few artists have the opportunity or would have the courage to make. With his mind still lucid, his guitar playing still fluid and his supple voice still nuanced, Campbell takes the listener on the tail-end of his life's voyage. For what had to be a difficult record to make, "Ghost on the Canvas" is an easy one to listen to and, more importantly, to love. It's robust, lush and full of life and, except for a few deeply touching and poignant moments, far from being a downer. If anything, "Ghost on the Canvas" is a hopeful record, and it makes you hope for the best for Campbell.
While he acknowledges that life has been good to him, the 75-year-old, five-time Grammy winning Country Music Hall of Famer concludes that something even better awaits him on the other side on the acoustic-tinged, soul-searching opener, "A Better Place." On his spiritual answer to Sinatra's "My Way" (which is the first of five songs written by Campbell and producer Julian Raymond), the rhinestone cowboy confesses, "I've tried and I have failed, Lord/I won and I have lost/I've lived and I have loved, Lord/Sometimes at such a cost." The thing that takes the listener off guard is not Campbell's relaxed candor about his mortality or losing his identity, but the healthiness, enthusiasm and vigor in his voice.
Unlike Johnny Cash on his celebrated "American Recordings" session, "Ghost on the Canvas" is not the sound of a weary, age-ravaged man who has one foot in the grave. It is the sound of a man who's at the top of his game and is full of life.
Campbell sings about a life everlasting and the love of the eternal soul on the metaphysical, Paul Westerberg-original "Ghost on the Canvas." Interspersing references and allusions to childhood nursery rhymes, church hymns and first-hand life-lessons, Campbell sings about the existence...