The Quiet Beatle, George Harrison, caught his second wind with Cloud Nine in ’87. There wasn’t really a big change in the sound from this to his last studio record, 1982’s Gone Troppo, except he had some better songs this time – and a pretty stellar crew to support him.
For most of the decade he’d laid low, musically, but apparently had found a great foil in kindred spirit Jeff Lynne. The two of them recorded the “comeback” album at Harrison’s F.P.S.H.O.T. (Friars Park Studio, Henley-On-Thames) with an all-star cast that included those two, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Eric Clapton and others. Who knows whether it was the spell of that cast or some other magic that made Cloud Nine such a hit. In fact, it was George’s biggest album since All Things Must Pass nearly fifteen years earlier. Regardless of reason, here’s the album that laid the groundwork for the enormously successful Traveling Wilburys and their ouevre.
Most people know Cloud Nine for its three hit singles, “Got My Mind Set on You,” “When We Was Fab” and “This Is Love.” Strangely, the bigger hit (“Mind”) is a cover, but a fine cover nonetheless. “Fab,” of course, is a nostalgic Beatlesque tune that anybody else would’ve been taken to task for – but when you’re George Harrison, let’s face it, you do what you want. And so he wrote a fun song that just may have laid to rest the convention that George was also The Serious Beatle. The song itself isn’t humorous, but the video that went with it was definitely cheeky and it got a ton of play on the video channels of the day.
As an album, Cloud Nine is a pleasant work, but nowhere near as monumental as All Things or Living in the Material World. I mean, I like aspects of all four Beatles’ careers, but I think what has always held me back from completely embracing George’s work is the shortage of uptempo tunes on his albums. Not that McCartney, Lennon and Starr were exactly barreling down the M1 with their tunes (okay, Macca did with “Helen Wheels” – wait, that was M6 South). I don’t know what it is. Could it be that it doesn’t matter? Yes; it is what it is. And this is a nice enough record which can be enjoyed regularly, including today, which is George Harrison’s birthday. He would be 73. If he was still alive today that would be fab.
3.5/5 (Dark Horse)