Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Glen Campbell – Ghost On The Canvas

The first appearance of the words “Glen Campbell” on nu-Jukebox to date…


Jonathan Bogart: Once upon a time, there was a young Californian who played guitar and sang. Some of the songs he sang were some of the greatest songs ever written or sung; others of them were nice to listen to, but nothing special. Like all people, even Californians, he eventually grew old, and people who had loved his old songs when they too were young tried to make new ones for him to sing before he died. They were not as good as the old songs, but they couldn’t be. Playing guitar and singing isn’t what it used to be. Hell, California isn’t either.

Alfred Soto: This man’s out-of-nowhere comeback sports the desperation of the doomed: gargantuan string section and catchy acoustic hook mixed so high you can practically see Campbell’s long thumbnail plucking the strings. I do wish it were better, for which I blame Paul Westerberg, unable to resist sentimentalizing (this thing boasts “spirits makin’ love in a wheat field with crows,” gosh) as Campbell himself. With Rick Rubin officiating, this marriage is only too perfect.

Brad Shoup: Paul Westerberg composing the title track of Glen Campbell’s farewell album – that sound you hear is Paste‘s editorial staff changing their drawers. The lyric is well-intentioned mythologizing nonsense given poignance by Campbell’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and an exemplary AM Gold approximation. He airs it out on the bridge, under the slashing, ascending strings, eradicating the lukewarm specter of the pop-country intro. As a valedictory, as a throwback, it’s great; as a song I suspect it’ll hold up about as well as Johnny Cash’s Rubin period.

Hazel Robinson: I’m not totally sure what I expected from this swansong from an artist I’m not sure I’ve consciously heard before, but this is gorgeous — gentle, romantic and full of the major-key swirls Elbow are so keen on. The swell of the eponymous line in the chorus is particularly sweet, and the flourish of a brief sixties guitar interlude is surprisingly funky. 

Sally O’Rourke: Glen Campbell is a national treasure, even if his once-effortless croon has lost its strength and sheen. Paul Westerberg is an American treasure, even if “Ghost on the Canvas” is only memorable for its strained wordplay. Together, the two have crafted the ideal farewell single: tasteful, melancholy, and unlikely to distract from Campbell’s actual legacy.

Katherine St Asaph: Soaringly, immaculately competent and little more. Which still leaves soaring and immaculate.

2 Responses to “Glen Campbell – Ghost On The Canvas”

  1. I should have blurbed this, but didn’t quite know how I was feeling. I think what I think at this point was that i found it interesting that a number of male country artists who did albums as statements about their dying in the last couple of years made it harsher, harder, rougher–starting with the American Recordings by Cash and moving onwards–including but limited to Louvin, Wagoner and Kirstofferson. That this is so smooth, and so much like the golden age of AM radio really as a response to the harshness of other voices, is historically interesting–b/c Campbell wasn’t an outlaw, and was almost if not a mirroring than a kind of correcting in terms of 70s country. In this sense, he is considering the trajectory that was set down for him by Webb (or to be more generous–the choice that he and Webb decided to embark on together)

    Which is one of the things I really love about country music, is that the career arcs, and narratives are decades long, instead of weeks or months or even years. We are talking 40 years here.

  2. (which is part of the problem with the rating thing, I still find the song too placid to be interesting as a text, but fascinating as a meta-text–so how do i give the context a score out of 10)