American country pop singer/guitarist Glen Campbell’s final album (his 64th) is a tear jerker.
Campbell has had a long goodbye that’s fitting for his distinguished career, and Adios was recorded in 2012 after his farewell tour ended. You’re hearing a voice from the past, or rather a voice from the fog, as he’s now in the final stages of Alzheimer’s in a Nashville care home.
Adios, produced by Campbell’s long time band mate and banjo player, Carl Jackson, features Campbell covering favourite songs by songwriters associated with his career. Some are by people he admired, such as his slick-paced version of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.
A shining moment on Adios is the first track Everybody’s Talkin’, a Fred Neil tune made famous in the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy. It’s a song perfectly suited for Campbell and it’s a wonder that he never recorded it before. He had the knack of making songs sound autobiographical. Wichita Lineman and By The Time I Get to Phoenix were past examples, both written by Jimmy Webb.
Here he bears down on Arkansas Farmboy, a blunt and semi-maudlin look back at his storied career from session man to TV star to solo artist. Even before his hits, Campbell tracked on studio recordings from Frank Sinatra to the Beach Boys as part of L.A.’s legendary wrecking crew.
The record can briefly shift into saccharine (She Thinks I Still Care). This is a reflection of the syrupy-backing track more than Campbell’s country classic vocal. Like Stevie Wonder, he can push a hint of maudlin the right way to give a song the bare-it-all honesty that connects (Postcard From Paris, written by Webb).
Adios is an album weighted with bittersweet reflection. It’s a record of Campbell, the singer, a difference from his self-penned 2011 guitar heavy jam rock album Ghost on the Canvas. On Adios, he switches his electric guitar for the microphone. His personable voice still cuts but he trades edge for the poignancy that his condition brings. It’s real.
–Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday.