Friday, September 2, 2011

Glen Campbell ~ Ghost on the Canvas

If one remembers back to the late nineteen sixties, the emergence of Glen Campbell as a superstar was not the most welcome news to hard-core country fans.

Most people were listening to Merle and Waylon, and maybe Charley Pride; when along came this syrupy heavily-string-laden stuff, that bore really no resemblance to country music at all. Sort of like today (without the strings).

One can look back now, with rose-colored glasses, and bemoan the loss of this so-called golden age of country music; this year of 1967. Poppycock. There were some great releases, no doubt. But the tide was beginning turn. Ray Price popped up with "Danny Boy". Eddy Arnold was in string heaven, with releases such as, "Misty Blue". Sonny James, who I admit, I never quite got, was still hitting the charts. That creepy song, "Ode to Billy Joe" was huge. I like a song with an obscure meaning as much as the next guy, but was there actually a point to this song? He could have been throwing anything off that bridge. For all I know, it was an Eddy Arnold album. Which would explain a lot (no offense, Eddy, rest your soul).

So, amidst Branded Man, I Don't Wanna Play House, and Pop a Top, along came By The Time I Get To Phoenix. That song sounded dated even when it was current. I know that Jimmy Webb wrote the bible for songwriters, but I absolutely hated that song. And I still do. Maybe the song was okay, but the production.....Maybe if the producer had stuck a beat on the thing, it wouldn't have induced me into a coma.

Glen has always been a consummate musician. He was part of the Wrecking Crew, for God's sake. I don't think it was his fault. I just think that whoever was producing him (and I'm not looking it up) carried too much clout, and Glen carried little to none. I'm guessing the producer cut his teeth on Mantovani albums.

Glen did better with Gentle on My Mind, the song with two thousand verses and no chorus. But I liked it. A John Hartford song. And a John Hartford banjo.

And he had perhaps the best track of his career with Wichita Lineman (yes, Jimmy Webb did better this time around).

And then Glen had some lost years, which is neither here nor there. In 1975 (what is it about years that have "7" in them?), he had a huge hit with Rhinestone Cowboy. You like that one? Really? I realize Larry Weiss (and yea, I did have to look that up) has had a bunch of cuts, and I have had zero, but life isn't really fair, now, is it?

So, I've had a like/hate relationship with Glen Campbell's music for about what......44 years?? What?? No way am I that old!

But when I read that he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it made me very sad. My dad had Alzheimer's. It's a cruel, heartless disease.

Then, later, I read that he was embarking on one last tour. Good idea? I don't know ~ time will tell, I guess.

Finally, I found that he had recorded an album. His last. "Ghost on the Canvas". I was naturally curious. I clicked on some samples on Amazon, and I really liked what I heard. Really liked.

So, I downloaded the CD today. I actually went out to purchase the CD, but alas. I wasn't about to drive all over town today, so I went to my neighborhood Target store, in the futile hope that they would be carrying it. Ha! I did see some offerings by people named Dierks and Billy (oh, probably a bunch of Billys), and Trace and Chance and Community Chest. However, I didn't pass "GO", since there were no Glen Campbell CD's in the "C" section. (And I'm sure that Trace and Billy(s) have all made stellar CD's, ones that will stand the test of time, if the test of time is approximately three minutes long).

Call me old (fashioned), but when there is a CD I really want, I like to own it in physical form. I'm thinking, believe it or not, that if I can find the CD anywhere, I still might buy it!

Because this is: THE BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR.

It might be just me, but I always viewed Glen Campbell as sort of flip. When he was strutting onstage, doing Rhinestone Cowboy, I thought, he doesn't really believe in this song. It's a joke to him. (And to us.)

When he was weighted down with heavy strings on those early songs, I thought, well, he's finally got a career going, so he's going to pretend like the songs actually mean something to him.

This album, I will just say it now, made me cry.

There are no pauses between tracks. It's as if Glen had important things to say, and he had to say them in a hurry.

And he wrote or co-wrote the majority of the tracks.

Be forewarned. This is not a CD to play when you're looking for some light, fluffy entertainment.

Glen is not flip.

Glen is serious, philosophical, loving, warm, and reflective.

My favorite track was written by Robert Pollard, called, "Hold On Hope" (and I do know ~ now ~ that this was previously recorded by another artist, but it is so appropriate here):

Every street is dark
And folding out mysteriously
Where lies the chance we take to be
Always working
Reaching out for a hand that we
can't see
Everybody's got a hold on hope
It's the last thing that's holding me

Invitation to the last dance
Then it's time to leave
But that's the price we pay
when we deceive
One another/animal mother
She opens up for free
Everybody's got a hold on hope
It's the last thing that's
holding me

Look at the talk box in mute
At the station
There hides the cowboy
His campfire flickering
on the landscape

That nothing grows on
But time still goes on
And through each life of misery
Everybody's got a hold on hope
It's the last thing that's holding me

And I've gotta hand it to him: Jimmy Webb wrote a great one. It's called, "Wish You Were Here". And "I Wish You Were Here" is so heartbreaking, in light of the circumstances.

Dear friend of mine, the weather's fine
Today I saw some ruins of the Roman world's decline
And I climbed all those Spanish steps, you've heard of them no doubt
But Rome has lost its glory, I don't know what it's about

I wish you were here
(when the shadows fall and all the rushing traffic stills)
I wish you were here
(and the bells are ringing on the seven hills)
I make my way to a small cafe
I wonder what you did today
Wish you were here

Dear one at home, i just flew in from Rome
And Paris is a postcard all decked in color chrome
And so I climbed the Eiffel Tower and prayed at Notre Dame
But I just can't find the romance and I wonder why I came

I wish you were here
(on the Champs Elysees, lovers walking hand in hand)
I wish you were here
(they take one look at me and seem to understand)
This city of light is a lovely sight
The first bright star I see tonight
Wish you were here

Now I write this from the plane
Drinking cheap champagne
Wonderin' why two people got so far apart

I wish you were here
(here in London where the rain is pouring down)
I wish you were here
(on this airplane headed back to New York town)
I'll never leave you alone again
I'm coming home, but until then
Wish you were here
Wish you were here
Wish you were here

I don't know what to say, other than, buy this CD.

I don't know if I will want to cheer....or cry......when this is named album of the year. A little of both, I guess. Deliriously happy, but sad.

Here are some clips of Glen singing, and then talking about Ghost on the Canvas

My. Oh my.


troubadourtr said...

Hi Red River, Very much enjoyed your comments on Glen Campbell's album. I share your lack of enthusiasm for Glen's brand of country-pop back in the day.

I'm interested in listening to some of your songs when I get the chance..I did that singer-songwriter recording back about a decade ago....Looks like you're doing well with it....take care, tr

troubadourtr said...

Thanks for reading my review...I enjoyed your comments on your blog...lots of fun to read! Jimmy Webb deserves a bit of revisionist critique here and there....that song about the cake and the rain!uhhggg!

take care, tr