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Album review: Glen Campbell's 'Ghost on the Canvas'

Album review: Glen Campbell's 'Ghost on the Canvas'

“Meet Glen Campbell,” from 2008, didn’t really replicate the effect of Johnny Cash’s so-called “American Recordings” series — although that was clearly the intention. On Cash’s albums, which the late country-music legend made with producer Rick Rubin, mortality is an organizing principle, a force that guides performance and song selection; on Campbell’s, it’s a distraction from lunch.

“Ghost on the Canvas,” for better or for worse, comes much closer to its target: Working again with producer Julian Raymond, Campbell reflects on his recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis in songs written by himself and a handful of admirers, including Paul Westerberg, Teddy Thompson and Jakob Dylan. The sound is polished and full-bodied, with frequent echoes of Campbell’s old country-politan hits; “A Thousand Lifetimes,” for instance, cribs half of the ascending melodic line from “Wichita Lineman.”

But the handsome arrangements only emphasize the vulnerability of Campbell’s vocals, which flirt with a sense of exploitation that’s difficult to shake while listening to this undeniably moving album. The question is one of string-pulling — and who’s doing it — in a song like “A Better Place,” in which Campbell admits, “Some days I’m so confused, Lord / My past gets in my way.” “A Ghost on the Canvas” offers no answers, and maybe it doesn’t need to.

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Glen Campbell looks forward with gratitude

-- Mikael Wood

Glen Campbell

'Ghost on the Canvas'

(Surfdog)

Two and a half stars (Out of four)

 
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