Brainwashed (Capitol)

George Harrison 

Brainwashed (Capitol)

In 1995, reflecting on the toll that Beatlemania took on the fab four, George Harrison said, "They gave their money, and they gave their screams, but the Beatles kind of gave their nervous systems." Harrison spent his solo career trying to reconstruct some semblance of normalcy while aspiring to the quiet spiritual rewards of a modest monk.

Knowing that his long battle with cancer was coming to a close, Harrison started his final musical statement with the understanding that he would not be around to see its completion. His son, Dhani, and friend and fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne finished the project according to Harrison's detailed instructions, allowing the disc's twelve tracks to retain a remarkably candid feel from an adamantly private man.

Even with all of Brainwashed's allusions to the search for spiritual peace -- a recurring theme that immediately hits with the heavy Zen of the disc's opener, "Any Road" -- Harrison manages to inject the album with a healthy dose of dark humor, including reflections on his Liverpudlian Catholic upbringing in "P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)." I wish somebody would tell me/That it's only a show, sings Harrison against a bouncy blues backbeat. I'll confess, own up, let's face it/In my concrete tuxedo.

Harrison's voice is vibrant, his songwriting is sharply honed and his characteristic guitar work reminds you how far it went in defining the sound of the Beatles. It's always been fashionable to ascribe the fabs with pithy identities -- that John Lennon was the conscience of the Beatles, McCartney its voice, Starr its sense of humor and Harrison its soul -- but such exercises only serve to diminish the range of talent possessed by each. With Brainwashed, Harrison proves he had each of these traits all along.

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