Glen Campbell has alzheimer’s and is slowly fading away. But he’s fading away gracefully. A case in point is his last album Ghost on the Canvas, released in September of 2011. It’s a masterwork of modern studio-conceived pop songs with enough twangy bits to keep the country fans interested. Some of the tracks are intertwined with hints and vague references to his past hits which makes you feel like you’re listening to music you know. This album is probably his last as his memory is fading quickly, so much so that he can’t remember visiting the doctors that are treating him or even recording the album. A sad ending to a troubled artist who’s had his issues with alcohol, drugs, marriage and the law.
To be clear, I don’t like country music. At all. Ever. But Campbell transcends his country label with songs like Galveston, Witchita Lineman and By the time I get to Phoenix. Great tunes that seemed to always be playing in the background as I was growing up. His voice is distinctive, one of those voices that can always be identified, even by non-fans.
Campbell was a hired gun in the 60’s, a smokin’ session guitar player that performed on 586 recorded songs in 1963 alone. He temporarily replaced Brian Wilson on a Beach Boys tour in late 1964 (due to Wilson’s nervous breakdown) and played on hits from The Byrds Mr. Tamborine Man and Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas to The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. This guy was a large part of the hottest music of his day and his own career went through the roof in 1967 with the release of Jimmy Webb’s By the time I get to Phoenix. He was on top of the world. That is until he discovered booze and drugs. Then it all went to shit.
But that’s in his past and this is 2012. His legacy is secure in music history and this album is a great final curtain to a career spanning over fifty years. I’ll be sad when Campbell leaves us but we’ll have his great songs from the past and now, this album. Watch the video and you may be pleasantly surprised. I was.