Brainwashed: A Warm Goodbye From George Harrison


God God God 
You are the wisdom that we seek 

God God God 
The lover that we miss 
God God God 
Your nature is eternity 
God God God 
You are Existence, Knowledge, Bliss

Brainwashed by the military 
Brainwashed under duress 
Brainwashed by the media 
You're brainwashed by the press 
Brainwashed by computers 
Brainwashed by mobile phones 
Brainwashed by the satellites 
Brainwashed to the bone

- "Brainwashed" by George Harrison -

Almost a year after George Harrison's death, Brainwashed, his twelfth and final studio album was released on 18 November 2002. Brainwashed is the messages of spiritual solace, ecological warning, vaguely liberal snipes at capitalism, and the reality of dying, with positive vibrations. 

The recording began as early as 1988 and continued to do so in a sporadic manner over the next decade and a half. Progress was delayed due to his work with the Traveling Wilburys, Ravi Shankar, and his work on the Beatles Anthology.

After recuperating from being attacked and stabbed in his home by an intruder named Michael Abram on 30 December 1999, George focused on finishing the album, simultaneously sharing his ideas for all its details, from the sound of the finished songs to the album's artwork, with his son Dhani.

In 2001, he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs and radiotherapy for lung cancer which had metastasised to his brain. Once he realised it was an irreversible situation, he worked further on the album's songs with Dhani and his old collaborator, Jeff Lynne of ELO (Electric Light Orchestra). 

With 1987’s Jeff Lynne produced Cloud Nine (George's eleventh album), George had regained his critical and commercial standing. Lynne also produced two songs: "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" for the Beatles Anthology albums which released in 1995 and 1996.

George's final work on the album was carried out at a recording studio in Switzerland shortly before his trip to the United States for cancer treatment. But, George died on 29 November 2001, leaving Brainwashed unfinished.

With a guide to completing Brainwashed in the hands of Dhani and Lynne, they working on George's final songs and added the appropriate instruments, as per their composer's specifications, to the recordings. So close to completion was the project that the two used the exact timetable and session bookings that George himself had originally planned.

After 14 years of indefinite delays, the work was done and George's final album was completed.

Brainwashed

The songs are full of nimble chord progressions, tasteful slide-guitar solos, and warm vocal harmonies. George made each note count for something. From the overlapping rings of electric guitar in "Run So Far" to the hula-blues dobro snaking through "Rocking Chair in Hawaii." The quivering tremolo in "Pisces Fish" and the long, gleaming curls of slide guitar in "Any Road" reflect George's class and touch.

One of the best songs on Brainwashed is an instrumental "Marwa Blues." It is a cleansing waterfall of slide guitars. And let's not forget the charming ukulele turn on ''Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea'' that'll leave a smile on your face.

Dhani and Lynne have completed the album with impressive sensitivity, to the point that George feels immensely present: strong and centered in his singing over the lazy rivers of strum, uncrowded by excess reverb or overstuffed choruses. Lynne, typically known for his grandiose, symphonic productions with ELO, kept the songs tight and spacious.

The luxuriant sound and reflective tone make it easy to mistake Brainwashed for mere homily, a recycling of sermons from previous George's albums.

As a songwriter and guitarist, he never lost his gently intoxicating way of posing big questions about guilt and transcendence. There is pain, bitterness, regret, and anticipation in these songs. In Brainwashed, fear and acceptance run together, anger as well as serenity.

George puts real spring into the Zen lesson of "Any Road" — "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there". 

"Pisces Fish'' is a simple song about the simple things that meant more to him than a high public profile. George turns in a bunch of lovey song tinged with regret yet lifted by his trademark slide guitar in the gently atmospheric folk of "Stuck Inside a Cloud".

He berates a world gone wrong on ''P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)'' and ''Brainwashed". "Brainwashed" ends the album on a hectoring note, a laundry list of social ills, softened only by an old tape of George performing an Indian chant with the later double-tracked voice of his son Dhani, a welcome coda of deliverance.

Brainwashed sold respectably, reaching number 18 in the US and going gold, and number 29 in the UK, where "Any Road" became a top 40 hit single in spring 2003. In 2004, "Marwa Blues" won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

Though it’s been over 14 years since its release, Brainwashed remains a tuneful, tasteful source of comfort — a warm goodbye, from one of rock’s finest talents.


Brainwashed track listing:
  1. "Any Road"
  2. "P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)"
  3. "Pisces Fish"
  4. "Looking for My Life"
  5. "Rising Sun"
  6. "Marwa Blues"
  7. "Stuck Inside a Cloud"
  8. "Run So Far" – First recorded by Eric Clapton on his Journeyman album in 1989, with George on guitar
  9. "Never Get Over You"
  10. "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" – This recording is from a 1992 TV broadcast
  11. "Rocking Chair in Hawaii" – Originally demoed in 1970 for All Things Must Pass
  12. "Brainwashed" – Includes a concluding prayer, the "Namah Parvati", a mantra dedicated to the Hindu goddess Parvati, chanted by George and his son Dhani in unison
All songs written by George Harrison, except "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler.

Personnel:
George Harrison – lead vocals, lead guitar, slide guitar, Dobro, Banjo uke, ukulele, keyboards, bass, percussion

Jeff Lynne – bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals

Dhani Harrison – guitar, Wurlitzer electric piano, backing vocals

Jim Keltner – drums

Additional personnel
Mike Moran – keyboards (3)
Marc Mann – keyboards (3), string arrangement (5, 6)
Ray Cooper – percussion (6), drums (10)
Jools Holland – piano (10)
Mark Flanagan – acoustic lead guitar (10)
Joe Brown – acoustic guitar (10)
Herbie Flowers – bass (10), tuba (10)
Bickram Ghosh – tabla (12)
Jon Lord – piano (12)
Sam Brown – backing vocals (12)
Jane Lister – harp (12)
Isabela Borzymowska – reading from "How to Know God" (The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali) (12)