Under-appreciated: George Harrison’s Cloud Nine

When I was thirteen, my friends and I used to go to a little used books and records store called Oak Bay Books and More. Blessed as we were with turntables despite it being 2003, we loved browsing, recognizing, and buying records. I loaded up on some shitty AC/DC and Black Sabbath, but those naive mistakes were balanced out by the occasional great find like The Ramones’ ‘End of the Century’ or an old Tad LP. Image

One day I went in alone and perked up to the music they had playing in the store. The melodies were affecting and the guitar was the Clapton-y white blues guitar my dad turned me on to at the time. I had to run to the bank to afford what turned out to be the deluxe re-release of George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’. I was heavily into that album for the next year or so, after which my friend bought me a copy of ‘Living in the Material World’. Those two albums formed a sturdy backbone to the classic rock and pop sensibilities I had in my early teens, as well as giving my spiritual curiosity a point of reference. Punk, hardcore, noise and a couple modern indie classics took me over in my mid teens, and I hadn’t given the early George Harrison stuff another pass until relatively recently. In my updated opinion, All Things Must Pass holds up really well, while Living in the Material World is less definitive than I remember, sounding like a more self-centred, late career release, despite having been released only two years after All Things.

Just a few hours ago, I listened to George Harrison’s 1987 release, and the final album released before his death in 2002, ‘Cloud Nine’. I’ll have to spend some time with this one but right out of the gates I think it stacks up against the heavyweights in Harrison’s catalogue, as well as his contemporaries’. The album is slightly tainted by some of the misguided production that pervaded the 80’s, but is altogether ahead of its time. Songs like Fish on the Sand and This is Love anticipate the harmonies and driving riffs of modern indie rock. When We Was Fab presents a very satisfying relief from the predominantly bitter songs about the Beatles (Wah-Wah, Sue Me Sue You Blues), with chord structures even recalling Harrison’s work with the Beatles. Fab also anticipates some of the positive but haunting structures Harrison explores on his posthumous release, Brainwashed (in particular the song ‘Stuck Inside a Cloud’). Devil’s Radio and Wreck of the Hesperus recall the best moments of The Travelling Wilburys, and the work is topped off by the real breakout from this album, ‘Got My Mind Set on You’.

Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to going deeper into George Harrison’s solo material, as well as finally watching the new documentary about his life. I’ll let you know how it goes.

PS. I am torn between totally not being able to stand the cover of this album and being really charmed by it. Thoughts?

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