[Review] George Harrison: Cloud Nine (1987)

George Harrison finds his second wind with his biggest fan, Jeff Lynne, behind him.

Kronomyth 12.0: Cirrusly good fun.

The best George Harrison album in years*. This was a new golden age, the wheel of fame having spun full circ… oh, you looked down and read the asterisked part already, didn’t you? No point then in my pretending to share a “george moment” with you. Not that I’m retracting my asterisk. I mean, All Those Years Ago? Blood From a Clone? Gone Troppo? Crap, crap and what’s that other word for crap? Oh yeah, crap. Then comes Cloud Nine and George finds his second wind. No matter that most of the wind is generated by the world’s largest (electric) Beatles fan, Jeff Lynne. The XELO leader was just getting started; Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Ringo Starr were all in lynne for a makeover.

I really like ELO, and I love the Beatles, but the one was essentially an adept imitation of the other. On Cloud Nine, the combination of original ingredients and imitation flavors can sometimes leave an odd taste in your mouth (e.g., “When We Was Fab,” which is what I secretly wanted “All Those Years Ago” to sound like), with Jeff Lynne presumably licking his fingers in delight. Even without Lynne, this still ends up being George’s best album of the ‘80s, backhanded compliment that it is. With the added participation of Eric Clapton, Elton John and Ringo Starr, George had to be more engaged this time around and it shows in the material.

But Cloud Nine isn’t the celestial alignment that some have made it out to be. Rather, I tend to see this as a consummation of Jeff Lynne’s Beatles fantasies with George playing the gracious host. For the remastered reissue, two tracks from the quickly forgotten Shanghai Surprise film (which Harrison produced and partially scored) were added, “Shanghai Surprise” (a duet for Vicki Brown) and “Zig Zag,” just in case you were jonesing for a couple more Hoagy Carmichael songs.

*And holy crap were some of them awful.

Original LP Version

A1. Cloud 9 (3:14)
A2. That’s What It Takes (Jeff Lynne/George Harrison/Gary Wright) (3:58)
A3. Fish On The Sand (3:20)
A4. Just For Today (4:04)
A5. This Is Love (Jeff Lynne/George Harrison) (3:47)
A6. When We Was Fab (George Harrison/Jeff Lynne) (3:55)
B1. Devil’s Radio (3:51)
B2. Someplace Else (3:50)
B3. Wreck of The Hesperus (3:29)
B4. Breath Away From Heaven (3:33)
B5. Got My Mind Set On You (Rudy Clark) (3:50)

All songs written by George Harrison unless noted.

Expanded CD reissue bonus tracks
12. Shanghai Surprise
13. Zig Zag

The Players

George Harrison (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Eric Clapton (guitar), Ray Cooper (percussion and drums), Jim Horn (baritone and tenor sax), Elton John (piano), Jim Keltner (drums), Bobby Kok (cello), Jeff Lynne (guitars, bass, keyboards), Ringo Starr (drums), Gary Wright (piano). Produced by Jeff Lynne and George Harrison; engineered by Richard Dodd.

The Pictures

Photography by Gered Mankowitz. Art direction by David Costa.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, CD and cassette on November 2, 1987 in the UK and Germany (Dark Horse, WX-123/C), the US (Dark Horse, 25643-1/2/4), Argentina (WEA, 80689), Canada (Dark Horse, 92 56431/4), Hungary (Gong, SLPXL-3718), Israel (Dark Horse, BAN-925643-1), Japan (Dark Horse, P-13576/32XD-848), Mexico (Dark Horse, LWB-6666), Spain (Warner, 9256431), Venezuela (WEA, 3208) and Yugoslavia (Jugoton, LSWB-37222) and in 1988 in Brazil (Warner, 000134) and Colombia (Warner Bros., 23(1031)00034). Reached #10 on the UK charts and #8 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1989 in Czechoslovakia (Supraphon, 04631311-ZN).
  2. Re-released on expanded CD in 2004 in the UK (EMI, 594090), the US (Capitol, 94090) and Japan (EMI, TOCP-67339) with 2 bonus tracks.

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