Adiós proves an all too poignant title.
It’s hard to know where to start with an album that you know will be the last from an aging performer gradually slipping away at the hands of Alzheimer’s disease. Much like Warren Zevon’s swansong The Wind, Glen Campbell’s Adiós finds the legendary artist going out on his own terms, knowing full well this will be his last time behind the microphone, the last time he’ll be able to connect with fans new and old on any level. Add to that the heartbreaking photograph of Campbell that graces the album’s cover, a shadow of his former self, and you have the makings of an unbearable pity party.
And yet Adiós ultimately proves to be anything but. The consummate professional, Campbell shows himself to still be in fine, though noticeably weaker at times, voice and more than game to take on a wide range of songs from the heyday of his recording career. Opening with the Harry Nilsson-by-way-of-Fred Neil hit “Everybody’s Talkin’,” Campbell’s current situation lends the song an added layer of pathos, something of a recurring theme that crops up time and again not only in the song selections (“Funny How the Time Slips Away,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and the title track), but also in the new meaning inherent in some of the lyrics. You can’t help but wince when he sings, “Maybe someday I really will forget” on “Just Like Always,” knowing the degenerative nature of the disease that has put an end to his storied career as a guitarist and performer.
But this is all on the listener. Campbell himself comes off as having the time of his life, enjoying each and every last minute of the time he’s been afforded to put together a fine conclusion to a career that stretches back to the early 1960s and his legendary stint as a session player with the Wrecking Crew through to his own solo stardom later on in the decade. Having firmly established a particular aesthetic with hits like “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Wichita Lineman,” Campbell remains firmly rooted in the stylistically familiar here, the songs ebbing and flowing with what would become a trademark adult contemporary feel.
There’s nothing here that does anything to further Campbell’s career or reputation – and really, what would be the point on what is clearly set up to be little more than a victory lap a la his “Goodbye Tour”? Judging the album within the context of Campbell’s rather extensive discography, Adiós is nothing particularly special from a musical standpoint, but it’s the contextual nature of both Campbell’s struggles with Alzheimer’s, the clear endpoint of his career having been reached and the nature of the material selected that makes it an album worth considering.
Yet another fitting selection, “Funny How the Time Slips Away” proves the perfect choice for a duet between Campbell and the song’s writer, Willie Nelson. Through their low-key, unhurried performance here, these two aging icons imbue the song’s titular sentiment with greater meaning, the years having fallen by the wayside as both find themselves in their twilight years. Their world-weary voices offer a near-perfect blend of a lifetime’s worth of trials and tribulations, highs and lows, successes and failures. And yet neither sound as though they’re anything but content with where life has seen them end up, making the pairing all the more striking – this despite Nelson’s seemingly endless series of guest spots with nearly anyone who asks.
Along for the ride as he has been virtually since the beginning, singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb lends a final closing statement to Campbell’s career with the title track. Previously a hit for Linda Ronstadt, “Adiós” proves a fitting closure to a life-long creative partnership that resulted in some of Campbell’s biggest hits (“Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” to name but a few) and helped make a name for Webb as a songwriter. It’s an affecting curtain call that puts none too fine a point on the track’s titular sentiments: “Don’t think that I’m ungrateful and don’t look so morose,” he sings. “I’ll miss the blood red sunset, but I’ll miss you the most.” And yet the last notes we here coming from his voice are just as soaring and grandiose as anything released during his commercial heyday. It’s a fitting goodbye to fans and friends alike from an iconic performer. Adiós proves an all too poignant title and closing number for what will likely be the last we hear from the former Wichita Lineman.