Brainwashed – George Harrison


George Harrison


Dark Horse / EMI

Today, November 29th, marks the anniversary of the day George Harrison died.  And, following my own rules, I must listen to nothing but his music (including The Beatles and Travelling Wilburys), except for when I have to listen to something else (I have to go to work today, and I’m sure the radio station we have on isn’t going to respect my rules).  Nonetheless, I have to admit that I haven’t listened too much of Harrison’s later solo work.  I love All Things Must Pass, and a few songs here and there, but overall I was never able to fully get into his stuff. 

This could be because of overtly religious tones on much of his work, or the idea of it (seeing as I don’t really know).  And, indeed on Brainwashed there are many religious references, though the album is not bogged down by this.  Actually, Harrison’s posthumous release (Harrison died in 2001, the album came out in 2002) doesn’t feel to be too spiritual, instead it’s steeped more in his love of music than anything else.  The opening of the album lets us hear George speaking, “Give me plenty of that guitar” (most likely speaking to whoever was mixing his session on that day – err, not mixing but, you know what I mean since I can’t think of the right word).  This opening statement provides a symmetrical balance to his life; as a child Harrison was enamored with the instrument, even drawing pictures of it during school.  I point this out – not as any insight into Harrison’s mind or life – but because I’m an English major who loves seeing symmetry in life, and stories coming full circle.  Still, it is an interesting touch to the beginning of the album.

The opening track, “Any Road” shows excellent slide guitar work, a style that Harrison used during his solo career, perfecting it.  The song is extremely catchy, offering great harmonies during the chorus.  This is not to mention that Harrison, being one member of The Beatles, knows how to craft a song.  The middle eight even features a jump in the key, changing to a minor.  Brainwashed was written and recorded sporadically since the late-80’s, and this song was one of the first to be written.  Strangely, the album is stylistically mainly the same – a hard idea to accomplish over that amount of time – and this song is a great opening track to ease one into the release.

“P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)” is one of the most religious based songs, but it’s just so damn upbeat and catchy, the context barely matters.  The intro has a winding guitar line, leading directly into Harrison’s enthused vocals.  The audience can tell the amount of time that went into this song, just fro counting the number of guitars – I hear four, not including the bass.  And each in turn melts into each other, a great mixing job.  But Harrison had some of the best working on this – himself (for one), Jeff Lynne (from Electric Light Orchestra), and his son Dhani (who has since been extremely accomplished in his own right).

“Pisces Fish” is my least favorite track, and probably the weakest, or one of them at least.  It’s a mainly acoustic song, that forgoes Harrison’s slide guitar for himself humming, which doesn’t really work.  The melody is horrible, and his voice has an awful quality.  Which, I guess, could be due to the fact that much of the work on this album was done in the two years before he died, and that he suffered from throat cancer and lung cancer.  But it sounds more like he’s emulating Dylan, and the song doesn’t work either way.

The next two songs, “Looking for my Life” and “Rising Sun,” both are very enjoyable and catchy.  However, within the context of the album, they come off as just filler songs.  The first offers great harmonies, and even better lyrics (“I never knew that life was loaded” conjures up so many images in my head).  The second, has Harrison’s slide guitar almost dissolves into the soundscape.  Although this is the weaker of the two, it at least has strings playing on it, creating a darker sound.

“Marwa Blues” is a beautiful song, completely instrumental.  The slide guitar here is the epitome of what slide guitar should sound like.  It is perfect.  The echo effect and reverb on it are amazing, which is countered by the soft strings in the background.  The song did actually win a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental and for good reasons.

“Stuck Inside a Cloud” follows “Looking for my Life” and “Rising Sun” as a filler.  However, an acoustic twelve-string is heard, creating a different sound.  It’s a very introspective song, and Harrison’s voice creates a very soothing tone.  It’s a very enjoyable song.  However, it is greatly, greatly overshadowed by the next two.

These two are “Run So Far” and “Never Get Over You,” extremely beautiful songs, and two of my favorites.  The first is more up-tempo, and very catchy.  The verses seem to slow themselves down, almost to a halt, before the bridge and chorus pick them back up again.  The chorus does, in actual fact, have great harmonies and a cool guitar line that offsets them.  The ending has a variation on Harrison’s humming from “Pisces Fish” however, now it seems sincere.

The second of the two, “Never Get Over You,” is a better song, maybe my favorite on the album.  The guitar lines are perfect, and Harrison’s voice is ethereal and soft.  The song, is perhaps strangely, a straightforward love song, and it sounds fresh coming from George, almost reminiscent of “Something.”  The harmonies during the verse keep this mood up, particularly on “So deep this feeling I have for you” (and other related lines) where the backup vocals come in halfway through the line.  This could be the best song on the album, which I’d count to be one of his best love songs the way it’s so cautiously arranged and meticulously constructed.

The next song is an old standard, “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.”  The song begins with a false start, followed by Harrison’s bouncy count-in.  To go off topic for a moment, I’m going to contrast this to his earlier work – particularly “Taxman” from Revolver.  There, Harrison had a creepy tone to his voice during his infamous count-in.  Now, this song features him almost giddy, and the tone of his ukulele emulates that.  While the song isn’t great, it’s different and deserves a treated respect for this.  The acoustic guitar solo, followed by the piano solo are also upbeat, and serve as a decent setup for Harrison’s vocals toward the end.  The only problem with the song, is the ending call-and-answer aspect, which comes off as really cheesy.

I’m going to skip over “Rocking Chair in Hawaii” because it’s a thoroughly boring song, and I don’t feel like listening to it.

The last song, “Brainwashed” is a harder song, the most rocking one on here (at least during the first half).  It is a mainly cynical song, listing many things that have brainwashed the general populace (kind of like Lennon’s song “God” – which is probably the exact opposite of this song.  While Lennon is basically saying he only believes in himself, Harrison is saying God is the only thing that can be believed – bringing back the religious aspect of his music).  Shortly into the song (not even two minutes in), the song completely changes to an Indian raga before changing back.  This comes back at the end, when you hear two voices chanting.  In fact, it’s George and his son Dhani together.  Which is kind of touching, thinking about it.  While, if one is not into this sort of thing, “Brainwashed” will be shut off before this comes in, you still have to deal with Harrison’s fondness for Indian culture and music.  He was the main creative force for introducing it into mainstream culture in the ‘60’s.  And ending his last album on the mood fits in perfectly with this idea.

So, with work done by Dhani and Lynne after the passing of George, Brainwashed caps off his legacy perfectly.  The album features some great lyrics, winding guitar lines, cool arrangements, touching songs, Indian ragas, religious overtones, and catchy songs.  Most importantly, the album is easily accessible.  Harrison was one of the most influential musician’s of modern rock music, and Brainwashed completely shows this off. 

Buy This Album

Official Site


2 Responses to “Brainwashed – George Harrison”

  1. Love the review – now I have to go listen to it!

  2. Robert Spinello Says:

    This album was a special treat after we all lost him…There was so much more we could have heard from him I’m sure,

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