Glen Campbell releases swan song, ‘Ghost on the Canvas’

“I’ve tried and I have failed lord,” 75-year-old Glen Campbell sings on A Better Place from the country legend’s final album (out Tuesday). The opening track on Ghost on the Canvas sets the tone for Campbell’s swan song. “Some days I’m so confused lord/ my past gets in my way,” Campbell sings, a reference to his recently diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease.

On that short, opening song, the voice is so mournful — so pained — that it echoes Johnny Cash performing Trent Reznor’s Hurt. There are obvious comparisons between Cash’s albums for Rick Rubin’s American Records and Campbell’s final release. In their waning days, both men try to exorcise demons or simply reflect on incredible lives. Cash performed songs by a number of contemporary artists like Reznor, Beck and U2. Tom Petty’s band backed Cash on one album.

In 2008, Campbell went a similar route on his release, Meet Glen Campbell, in which he also covered U2, Tom Petty, Green Day, etc. On Ghost, Campbell is backed by Billy Corgan, Dick Dale, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and others. Paul Westerberg wrote Ghost’s title track and Robert Pollard and Jakob Dylan also contributed songs.

The result is a slickly produced record, rollicking and somber. It works in most but not all places on the album and it’s deeply personal and moving. Campbell plans a final tour as well.

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