Cloud Nine (1987)


 
1. Cloud Nine 2. That's What it Takes 3. Fish on the Sand 4. Just for Today 5. This is Love 6. When We was Fab 7. Devil's Radio 8. Someplace Else 9. Wreck of the Hesperus 10.Breath Away From Heaven 11.Got My Mind Set On You

 

Who would have thought George could pull off something like this? This is just about the least likely thing that anyone could have possibly expected. George really hadn't done anything significant in almost fifteen years. Every solo album he had released had either had a lukewarm critical reception, poor sales, no interest, or a combination of all. Word was, around the time of this release, that George simply didn't care. So how did he, out of the blue, come up with what would closely rival the best thing he'd ever done as a solo artist or as a Beatle?

The answer, I think, was a simple two word solution: Jeff Lynne. Jeff Lynne was best known for fronting the mammoth 1970's syntho-disco-string group The Electric Light Orchestra and was largely responsible for every aspect of success that his group achieved. At first, the pairing between Lynne and Harrison seemed a bit of an odd choice, but for those who know E.L.O., they can attribute that Lynne changed the style of the band dramatically once the eighties took hold and they were a much different band once the new decade began. Sadly, no one was buying their records by this point, and Lynne simply retired the whole project to pursue what he really loved to do, and that was producing other people's material. This wasn't his first job, but by far his first successful gig as a producer. The music on this album seemed to define a "Jeff Lynne" sound that would be prevalent as he would produce other well known artists such as Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, The Traveling Wilburys, Ringo Starr and Roy Orbison. It also helps that George has many "pros" helping him make this record including Eric Clapton, Elton John, and even Ringo.

The whole album plays as simple, straight forward pop. The variety of the tunes is enough to keep the listener interested, as he goes through normal pop ditties, sad heartbreak tunes, a couple of heavy guitar laden songs, and probably the best reminiscent track of The Beatles ever (When We Was Fab). The album is pure enjoyment, with George even enjoying a successful video that accompanied the first, and best song on the album, Got My Mind Set On You.

As mentioned, the guitar work is stellar, and at times I can't tell if it's Harrison or Clapton (or maybe even Lynne, himself) playing on such great songs as Just For Today, Someplace Else or the incredible title track that leads off the record. Amazing how just when anyone "writes off" a former member of The Beatles during lulls in his recording career, he always manages to bounce back with something brilliant.

Things do get a tad too heavy near the end of this record with the horn crunching Wreck of the Hesperus and the slightly mystic Breath Away From Heaven, yet the whole album plays very well and has a timeless quality that probably endures better than just about anything else in his catalog. It was nice to have George back.

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