Suddenly we were living in a world with only two Beatles, and one of them was Ringo. While we hadn’t had any new music from George in over ten years, at least he’d been somewhat active. He had performed some of the better numbers at 1992’s Bobfest, and got completely involved with the whole Anthology project. He beat cancer, won an embezzlement suit and even survived a stabbing. And then cancer came back and took him, and he went happily. Thankfully, he was nice enough to prepare an album that said goodbye to us.
He calls for more guitar, and “Any Road” carries us off. This song was previewed on VH1, on an interview they’d sat on until after he’d died, and it’s a gem. “P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)” takes a few stabs at organized religion amidst some cryptic lyrics. “Pisces Fish” is really smooth, with a wonderful reference to “Canadian geese crap”. “Looking For My Life” seems like a reaction to the attack, but is actually an affirmation of faith. “Rising Sun” is similar musically to “Pisces Fish” but different enough to be just as good. “Marwa Blues” is a beautiful (and even Grammy-winning) instrumental with lots of weeping guitars and a nod towards “Strawberry Fields” in the middle.
“Stuck Inside A Cloud” was an odd choice for the first single, very reminiscent of his early-’80s sound with lots of electric piano played by son Dhani. “(Can Only) Run So Far” had appeared on an earlier Eric Clapton album, and is probably the weakest track here. “Never Get Over You” hearkens back to the love songs on Extra Texture crossed with the production of Somewhere In England, but stands head and shoulders above those songs. We know George loved the ukulele and old standards, which makes his version of “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” so charming. “Rocking Chair In Hawaii” is something of a surprise to ccollectors, considering that its seeds came from the All Things Must Pass sessions. All this leads up to the grand finale of the title track, an angry litany of the evils of the 21st century, much like “Save The World” was twenty odd years earlier. There’s a midsection with a reading from some ancient text, then back to the driving verses. What sounds like another detour turns out to be the big finish, a hypnotic chant performed by father and son. And that’s the end.
Brainwashed would be a good album even if George had lived to promote it. Dhani gets most of the kudos for learning from his dad, and he even manages to keep Jeff Lynne in check. All sorts of friends helped out, and it sounds like the sessions, however long a period they covered, were a lot of fun. We can only hope we’ll get more buried gems one day.
George Harrison Brainwashed (2002)—4