In many ways, George Harrison's kinda had it unfair. Just as Let It Be has probably always been underrated mainly because it was a Beatles LP, Harrison's songwriting's always been a little underrated mainly because he played in a band that included two of the greatest pop geniuses in the history of Western civilization.
But Harrison could be damn good. ‘Cry For A Shadow’, ‘Don't Bother Me’, ‘I Need You’, ‘Think For Yourself’, ‘Savoy Truffle’. His ended up being two of the best songs on Let It Be. I mean, the man never really produced anything to be embarrassed about. All Things Must Pass was an excellent album; how many three-record sets can you say that about? There were scattered brilliant moments afterwards – ‘You’ from the Extra Texture LP sounds like punk (depends on your definition) pop as Phil Spector might've done it, and remains a killer to this day. And when I saw Harrison perform in 1974, he put on a far better show than the one I would later see Wings do.
At any rate, burn out and just dealing with the pressures of being formerly fab led to two final LPs that didn't do much to bolster Harrison's (at the time) sagging reputation. So he did what several other smart rock 'n' rollers have done over the years, retiring from the rat race. Cloud Nine is Harrison's first release in years and the time away has evidently been good for the man and the artist, not to mention his backlog of material.
With Jeff Lynne (who's finally sorta done what he's wanted to do ever since Eldorado) at the boards – not to mention a stellar cast, including Ringo and Elton John, in the band – the first thing you might notice about Cloud Nine is how good the sound is. The title track and ‘That's What It Takes’ kick the album off on a pleasant pop note; both are immediately likeable. But it's ‘Fish On The Sand’ that really clues you in to the fact that Harrison still has it. He's always been someone who knows a good riff when he hears it, and ‘Fish On The Sand’ features a great melodic riff...well, a couple of them, actually. This should be the record's next single – along with the current hit, ‘Got My Mind Set On You’, it's the kind of song I sure wouldn't mind hearing on the radio. Especially in the summertime.
‘When We Was Fab’, a wry look back at those swingin' moptop days, quotes Lennon, Dylan and Harrison's own ‘Within You, Without You’ and – while it may not be as memorable as its Lennon or Zimmy reference points – it's a vast improvement over George's songwriting contribution to Sgt. Pepper. And ‘Devil's Radio’ (interpret it as you will) just might steal the disc, especially with its choral "gossip, gossip" refrain, complete with Jerry Lee-like pounding piano licks.
The major problems on Cloud Nine come in the form of ballads. Harrison has always been far better with his rockers (though ‘Something’ fans may care to argue that point) – and he reaches what might be a pinnacle of mediocrity here with ‘Breath Away From Heaven’. Still, he reflects his Eastern roots in it, and even the "bad" songs on Cloud Nine reflect a certain psychedelic spaciness, not to mention a sense of George's much-vaunted spirituality – that is, good vibes. Kinda refreshing. (What the hell? I liked hippies.)
Cloud Nine ends on a great note with ‘Got My Mind Set On You’, an obscure little chestnut that I won't pretend to have ever heard before Harrison recorded this version and turned it into a current radio staple. People might complain that he didn't write one of the best tunes on the record – but neither did a lot of great artists. As George's old mate in that band we used to love back when we was all fab once said: "A good song's a good song."
And a good album's a good album, and Cloud Nine is plenty good. It's by no means a GREAT record in the classic sense of stuff we used to expect, but it's the best record from a former Beatle in at least seven years.
And a good album's a good album, and Cloud Nine is plenty good. It's by no means a GREAT record in the classic sense of stuff we used to expect, but it's the best record from a former Beatle in at least seven years. Хороший альбом, в Cloud Nine много хорошего. Но это не значит что это ВЕЛИКАЯ запись в классическом понимании того что мы привыкли ожидать, но это лучшая запись бывшего битла, по крайней мере, за последние семь лет.