Hi 71 / Lo 46
|Volume 68, Issue 62,
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Arts & Entertainment
Posthumous release a fitting end for Harrison
By Ed De La Garza
George Harrison speaks from beyond the grave. Literally.
The "quiet Beatle" died of cancer almost one year ago (Nov. 29), but the posthumous release Brainwashed, begins with Harrison saying "Give me plenty of that guitar" before "Any Road" kicks in. Itis not the songis intro. Itis a sign of things to come for the guitar-driven album.
Considering Brainwashed is a collection of songs Harrison was working on before he died, itis easy to interpret some of the lyrics as his attempt to reconcile his life with his impending death. But itis not a stretch. Heid been battling cancer for a while and knew he was dying, and he does inject his songs with images of mortality mixed in with sardonic wit.
Former Beatlesi guitarist George Harrison focuses on the guitar and brings to life his final work in the recently released Brainwashed.
Brian Roylance/Capitol Records
Itis to be expected.
While John Lennon was off making political statements with Yoko Ono; while Paul McCartney was slumming it with crude recording devices (and even cruder compositions); while Ringo Starr was off being Ringo; Harrison was making the first musical statement of any former Beatle. In 1970, he released the sprawling All Things Must Pass. Itis still one of rockis most essential albums. Itis beautiful when it needs to be and sweeping when one least expects.
Brainwashed comes more than 15 years after Harrisonis last solo album, Cloud Nine, and is a fitting end for the man who helped to keep the Beatles grounded and wrote some of the bandis most memorable songs: "Something," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Here Comes the Sun." The album was finished by son Dhani and former Beatle wannabe (and bandmate in the Traveling Wilburys) Jeff Lynne.
The two remain loyal to Harrisonis gift for making a note sound effortless yet perfect. He didnit write most of the Beatlesi catalogue, but those he did stood out like a sore thumb — and not just because he sang them. He didnit write silly love songs ("Something" isnit silly) or rhyme schemes that displayed his penchant for wordplay. His songs always mattered. That comes out on Brainwashed.
Itis not a eulogy or a tribute. Itis about acceptance and willingness to welcome whatis to come, even if itis the unknown. Images of Harrison floating down a river or in a cloud abound on the album, but somehow, it seems as if heis truly at peace.
On the lead single "Any Road," Harrison comments "Oh Lord, we pay the price with a spin of the wheel/ With a roll of the dice/ You pay your fare/ If you donit know where youire going/ Any road will take you there."
But far from just being a willing participant in the game of life and death, Harrison knows itis important to at least have lived life. The album is full of those songs too, but itis not about wallowing in self-pity or crying for Harrison.
On "(Can Only) Run So Far" he sings "Lonely nights, traveling far/ Thereis no escape, can only run so far/ Lonesome tears, after dark/ Thereis no escape, can only run so far." But thatis followed by "Rocking Chair in Hawaii" in which he sings "Going down to the river gonna take me my rocking chair/ And if those blues donit leave me/ Gonna rock on away from here."
The title track — and the albumis weakest cut — is thankfully saved for last. It doesnit really fit the rest of the albumis theme and is the one time Harrison comes across as bitter. But itis not a big enough reason to dismiss the rest of the album.
Whatis left is Harrisonis own idea: "Sometimes my life it seems like fiction/ some of the days itis really quite serene/ Iim a living proof of all lifeis contradictions."
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