The crown jewel of his career

By Sergio Ariza

The twelfth and last album by George Harrison, Brainwashed, was released in November 2002, nearly a year after his death. Despite having begun to record it more than a decade before its release was finalised by his son Dhani and his mate (and Travelling Wilbury) Jeff Lynne after his death. What could have been a washed-out record and without much interest, little more than a collection of songs to capitalise on the legacy of an ex-Beatle, was actually one of the best records of Harrison’s career. The final point in the career of one of the most important musicians and composers of the 20th century.

The roots of this album go far into Harrison’s career, after the success obtained by Cloud Nine in 1987, produced by Lynne, the guitarist formed the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys together with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Lynne, with which he would end up recording 2 albums. But after the Japanese tour in 1991, from which a live album was made, Harrison moved away from the spotlight and returned only to participate on the Anthology of the Beatles. He kept composing and accumulating songs but wasn’t sure what to do with them, until terrible news prompted him to return to the recording studio.

In 1997 he was diagnosed with throat cancer and Harrison decided to fight it by brushing off the dust of his Strats and other old friends. He called Lynne and decided he was going to record a new record, among the songs he was considering were some that went back to the times of All Things Must Pass, like Rockin’ Chair in Hawaii, and others from the Cloud Nine period like Any Road, a song that was written during the filming of the video of This Is Love.  But difficulties kept coming and in 1999 he suffered an attack receiving several stab wounds by a man who suffered from schizophrenia. However, Harrison kept on going and began to share information about what he wanted the record with his son Dhani to be like, something that would prove valuable in the future. Then in 2001 cancer spread again throughout his body and ended up beating him, he died as a result on November 29, 2001.

It was Lynne and Dhani Harrison who were left in charge of finishing the record, but they were faithful to George’s instructions and the final work can be considered his best since the distant Living in the Material World. This is a record where you can enjoy some of the best moments of Harrison on slide, of which he had already become an absolute master, as can be seen on one of his most important achievements, the incredible Marwa Blues, which contains two different slide tracks recorded by Harrison that perfectly sum up his career, with a wink to Indian music and the sitar included. There is also room for gems written by him, like Any Day, Stuck Inside A Cloud (it’s impossible not to get emotional when you hear him sing "I wish I had the answer to give, don't even have the cure") or Rising Sun, as well as his interesting cover of the standard Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, with George on ukulele and Jools Holland on piano.

In short, a remarkable record that doesn't sound anything like an incomplete one, despite it having been labeled his posthumous record. Brainwashed holds a privileged place in the collection of any Harrison music lover as it is nothing but the perfect last goodbye of his work.