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Glen Campbell's moving finale


Glen Campbell, "Adios" (Universal).

Pity the poor cynic. Faced with this, the final studio recording of the great American pop singer whose advancing Alzheimer's disease won't permit another, they will be able to see only exploitation peering around the corner of tragedy and heartbreak. And yes, everything we are told by Glen Campbell's family, friends and co-workers could, by the heedless and heartless, be filed into the sad drawers of the hype cabinet.

But, my God, what is a person to do when learning that these songs, which he had sung so many times on the road, sometimes required his banjo player and friend (and the record producer) Carl Jackson to hold up large sheets of paper with the lyrics on them, to be fed to Campbell "one line at a time."

His wife, Kim, says, in the notes to this, "our son Cal ... once said that (Glen) performed better than most other performers could even with half his brain tied behind his back."

Listen to the final laugh at the end of his version of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and you'll swear that you're just hearing an older version of one of the favorite American singers, guitarists, performers and hit-makers of modern times. The voice is a tiny bit lower but still has that startling tenor clarity. Willie Nelson recorded a track for his song "Funny How Time Slips Away" to make it a duet. Vince Gill is here on "Am I Alone (or Is It Only Me)" whose original roughed out version by the songwriter Roger Miller is also included. Campbell's songwriting guru Jimmy Webb is represented by three songs we're told Campbell had long wanted to record – "Just Like Always," "It Won't Bring Her Back" and "Postcard from Paris," a song which, you can bet, took a lot of aid and coaxing to get through. ("Dear one at home/I just flew in from Rome/and Paris is a postcard/All decked out in color chrome.")

As a disc, it's a solid record by one our more beloved older recording stars. As a final gesture by a man whose long goodbye is rapidly advancing toward silence, it should move anyone and everyone.

3 1/2 stars (out of four)

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