REVIEW: GLEN CAMPBELL – Ghost in The Canvas Sessions

By David Beard

FROM ENDLESS SUMMER QUARTERLY – THE BEACH BOYS PUBLICATION OF RECORD

INTRODUCTION:

For me personally, there’s no getting around age. Having just turned 59 in March, I can tell you that I look at life very differently than when Glen Campbell released his original Ghost on The Canvas album in 2011. So much has changed, not the least of which was Glen’s passing on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at the age of 81 after a six-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

I grew up watching The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, so I was (more or less) a second-generation fan. Upon my discovery of Glen on the television in 1969 I had no idea he had played with The Beach Boys. Imagine my delight and surprise that he recorded on Beach Boys records and toured as a member of group in late 1964, and through April of 1965.

Another very cool/key moment in The Beach Boys canon was when Glen released his solo single “Guess I’m Dumb” on June 7, 1965. The song was written, arranged, and produced by pop kingpin Brian Wilson. The song was under consideration as a Beach Boys song, but Brian had complete trust in his instincts and knew that Glen was the right ‘fit.’ If you haven’t heard 1965’s “Guess I’m Dumb” seek it out. It’s Brian at his best launching the rocket that would become Glen’s amazing career.

THE ALBUM:

This release has been promoted as the first ‘posthumously-created duets album that re-imagines Glen Campbell’s critically acclaimed, history-making farewell album,’ so I began my listening journey with caution. With AI technology being what it is today, and where it seems to be heading, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr had every right to work in tandem with George Harrison and John Lennon’s estates to work on 2023’s “Now and Then,” and I really enjoyed the recording and accompanying video. So, I see the benefit of the exercise, and in the case of the Ghost on The Canvas Sessions, this project was approached similarly as The Beatles in that they worked with and utilized existing vocals and music. For that reason, I found this collection to be a loving gesture with great merit.

I’ve been enjoying the original Ghost on The Canvas album since 2011 and am a major fan of “In My Arms” with its “That Thing You Do” vibe. As a fan of The Beach Boys, you can always get my attention with a great souped-up recording. I went back and listened to the 2011 release before diving into Glen Campbell Duets: Ghost on The Canvas Sessions because it was important for me to feel the intention behind the first iteration’s song cycle. You can tell Glen was saying goodbye. It’s especially poignant now when I listen knowing that he knew he was losing his cognitive abilities.

REVIEW:

There are moments on this collection that hold true to the emotional weight of the original, but since Glen is no longer here, the sentiment lingers with an unexpected beauty.

  1. There’s No Me… Without You (with Carole King): As emotionally present as the original, and here Carole’s voice is perfectly paired with Glen’s … both sounding like old friends sitting down together to remember. That’s why this song and collection works.
  2. Ghost on The Canvas (with Sting): Sting has always been a significant source of entertainment in my life, I grew up listening to The Police, saw them in concert on their Ghost in The Machine Tour in 1982, and I’ve followed Sting’s solo career for many years. His appearance on this song is palpable because of the 1982 album, and because Sting’s voice now has a deeper, sand-papery quality: it’s perfect.
  3. Hold on Hope (with Eric Church): This is the first time where the album allows itself to go deep country. It’s a nice touch. Here we’re reminded of Glen’s country music roots and the everlasting influence he holds over the genre to this day. Eric’s echoing vocal brings a nice gritty cowboy essence to the entire collection.
  4. The Long Walk Home (with Hope Sandoval): One of the few recordings on this collection to begin with the guest vocalist singing first; it’s another homerun for me because I ‘feel’ Hope’s love of singing and her love of Glen in her voice.
  5. Nothing But The Whole Wide World (with Eric Clapton): This song fits well in the sequence and sounds like two friends sitting together. Priceless.
  6. In My Arms (with Brian Setzer): I have always been a Stray Cats fan, so I was pleased to see Brian Setzer’s name included in this collection. This version, while full of Brian’s great Stray Cats-style guitarwork, doesn’t quite reach the zenith of energy I experience when listening to the original from 2011.
  7. A Better Place (with Dolly Parton): Well, it’s Dolly Parton. My heart just melts. I get emotional because I realize Dolly won’t always be here to make the world a better place anymore. And if there’s anyone that’s made the world a better place, it’s Dolly. This is a real tearjerker.
  8. Strong (with Brian Wilson): Wow! Just wow!! Brian vocally sounds really good here. This song is great because – and I’ve been saying this for years about different Brian-related projects – of Darian Sahanaja. Not only are there all the little percussion, horn, and vocal parts that are direct nods to “Guess I’m Dumb” by Darian, Paul Von Mertens, Probyn Gregory, Jim Laspesa, Derrick Anderson, and Kaitlin Wolfberg, but the production and musical ‘build’ are perfect. As you might imagine, for reasons outlined in the introduction, this is my favorite track in the collection. Glen and songwriter Julian Raymond originally wrote the 2011 recording, but you might think Brian wrote this because of the ingenious way Brian’s bandmates recorded this new track.
  9. A Thousand Lifetimes (with Linda Perry): Here, Linda Perry’s voice rubs up next to Glen’s with life-evaluating lyrics adding an emotional weight to the recording.
  10. It’s Your Amazing Grace (with Daryl Hall & Dave Stewart): A beautiful recording, fitting well in the sequence. The musical bridge is a highlight.
  11. Any Trouble (with X): This is an unusual and welcomed surprise … fitting snugly into X’s garage band punk rock sound more than anything else and it is a great reminder of Glen’s lasting and musically influential reach.
  12. I’m Not Gonna Miss You (with Elton John): Who could possibly better end an album of this nature with this title? There are vocalists and there are vocalists, and Elton John is perfect to sing the acerbic “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” Notably, this song was not on the original 2011 release; it was recorded by Glen in January 2013, marking his last recording sessions. The song was featured in the touching 2014 Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me documentary. Campbell and Julian Raymond were nominated for Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards.

David Beard’s interview with Glen Campbell Duets: Ghost on The Canvas Sessions co-producer Julian Raymond will appear in the Summer 2024 edition of ESQ.


©2024 David M. Beard/All Rights Reserved

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Mary K Pulido

1 month ago

Thank you 😊

Jack Noyalis

1 month ago

Wonderful

Harold Johnson

2 weeks ago

I too am always wary of these ‘after the fact’ duets packages. I enjoyed these sessions and agree as an album it has earned its own place with the original But for the reasons you stated so beautifully in your review of A Better Place with Dolly Parton, I’m sure I won’t be listening to this record too often. It may be too emotional a reminder of who we have lost and we will soon lose. A lovely review. Aloha

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