Too often when veteran artists revisit career-defining hits late in life it’s more of a marketing move than an artistic exploration.
Not in this case.
Since Glen Campbell revealed two years ago that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the singer-guitarist and former TV show host released his well-received Ghost on the Canvas album and went on the road one last time for a farewell tour.
Recently his family revealed that his disease has progressed to the point where he can no longer perform.
These tracks, in which he takes another look at hits such as Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix and Gentle on My Mind, were recorded while he was working on the Ghost album, and the vocals have been given raw, rootsy musical accompaniment by producers Dave Darling and Dave Kaplan.
Knowing what Campbell is going through only heightens the emotional impact of the songs. “It’s knowing I’m not shackled by forgotten words and bonds,” resonates powerfully as he sings that line in John Hartford’s Gentle on My Mind.
And Jimmy Webb’s lyric in Phoenix about a departing lover — “She’ll laugh when she reads the part that says I’m leaving” — takes on a whole new meaning.
There’s little studio sweetening applied to Campbell’s boy-next-door voice, a smart move that gives his age and condition the honest respect that he’s earned in what’s been a difficult but brave fight.