When I was growing up, the public face of Alzheimer’s Disease was Ronald Reagan. Anyone familiar with rock’s relationship with Ronald Reagan knows that he is not the most sympathetic figure. It seems like recently with the diagnosis of Pat Summitt and Glen Campbell that Alzheimer’s public perception is getting a makeover. Pat Summitt plans to continue coaching while she fights the disease while Glen Campbell has said he will retire from performing. Ghost on the Canvas is his swan song.
Glen Campbell first rose to fame in the 1960s with singles like “I Wanna Live”, “Galveston” and most famous of all, “Wichita Linemen.” In the 1970s his success continued with the release of “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which reached number one in the US and Canada. Although his star began to fade in the 80s, Campbell stayed active throughout the 90s. His output became scarce recently with his sole album last decade being 2008’s Meet Glen Campbell.
From a marketing aspect, announcing his disease and retirement from the music industry is sure to drive up sales of Ghost on the Canvas but Campbell has never been one to care about moving units. The real question is: could his farewell album give solid closure to his career?
The short answer is yes. Ghost on the Canvas delivers a slew of heart breaking songs that can only be sung by a man whose career is coming to a close. But the album is not quite an epitaph quite like Johnny Cash‘s “Hurt.”
The album instead contains a magnitude of styles. There are emotional pop ballads like “Ghost On The Canvas.” There are straight rock numbers like “In My Arms” which features the talents of Chris Isaak, Dick Dale, and Brian Setzer. There are hauntingly sparse tracks like “Nothing But the Whole Wide World” which is sure to be played at Campbell’s funeral.
There is nary a track on the album that I dislike but I recognize that is mostly because of the songwriting talent that was pooled for this album. Writers like Paul Westerberg, Teddy Thompson, Jakob Dylan, and Robert Pollard all penned songs for Campbell’s farewell.
The criticism of Campbell still holds true that while he is a greater singer of others’ songs, he was never a great songwriter in his own respect. Ghost on the Canvas proves this with Campbell adding a lot of emotion to the work of some of the best songwriters in music right now. The result is a farewell that will surely be remembered.