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Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Ghost On The Canvas’

Glen_Campbell_-_Ghost_on_the_CanvasGlen Campbell was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009. He was in the process of recording his sixty-first, and now final, studio album at the time. The California based Serfdog Records released Ghost On The Canvas in late summer 2011. The record was produced by Julian Raymond and Howard Willing and was accompanied by a farewell tour the next year. Ghost On The Canvas was intended as a companion piece to his previous album Meet Glen Campbell.

Campbell and Raymond co-wrote seven of the album’s eighteen tracks. The eerie ballad “A Better Place” is an autobiographical conversation with the lord regarding his failing body. “A Thousand Lifetimes” is a mid-tempo rocker about the many iterations of life.

The pair’s remaining co-writes focus on different emotions regarding Campbell’s wife, Kim. “It’s Your Amazing Grace” is a love song while “Strong” is a declaration of his undying vow to always be there for her. “There’s No Me…With You” concerns the afterlife and his desire not to be alone. Campbell understands the pain he’s causing on “What I Wouldn’t Give,” a deeply reflective heartbreaker about not wanting to see his wife in so much emotional pain.

Roger Joseph Manning, Jr was the album’s other main writer, contributing six solely written haunting instrumentals. “The Billstown Crossroads,” “Second Street North,” “May 21, 1969,” and “Wild and Waste” are all similar in length and sonic structure. “Valley of the Son” is somewhat creepy, with the sounds of children playing in the background. “The Rest is Silence” isn’t any variation on the others, but does have some ‘ooohs’ tucked into the music bed.

Paul Westerberg, lead vocalist for The Replacements, contributed two tracks of his own. The esoteric title track, an ethereal ballad, was the only promotional single from the album. “Any Trouble” is a mid-tempo rocker about a husband’s consideration towards his wife in his final months.

Two famous rock star sons supplied tracks reminiscent of the material Campbell recorded in his 1960s heyday. Richard Thompson’s son Teddy wrote “In My Arms” while Bob Dylan’s son Jakob composed “Nothing But the Whole Wide World.” Both tracks are very, very good.

Robert Pollard wrote “Hold on Hope” and it’s the most lyrically sweeping of the album’s tracks. The lyric keeps the focus on Campbell’s struggles but broadens to say we all ‘hold on to hope’ at one point or another in our lives.

It wouldn’t be a farewell album from Glen Campbell without at least one song written by Jimmy Webb. “Wish You Were Here” is a messy ballad about a man writing letters home to his family while visiting Rome, Paris and London. The lyric is strong, and was originally titled “Postcard From Paris” but was changed for this album.

Ghost On The Canvas is a strange hodgepodge of an album that contains a little bit of everything. I quite enjoyed the actual songs and found Campbell to still be in very strong voice. I could’ve done without the instrumentals.

Grade: B+