Ok, so the big surprise for me when revisiting George Harrison’s 2002 swan song, Brainwashed, was not learning about the remastering effort put behind it, nor reconsidering that it was a fine album which many people overlooked at the time.
No, the big surprise was to find out that it was recorded on analog tape.
That shouldn’t really have surprised me given it was recorded at George’s home studio over a period of many years (beginning in 1988) and co-produced by the likes of Jeff Lynne and his Dhani Harrison (George’s son).
But… well… we were well into the 00s already when this came out and I just assumed it was a digitally made recording.
To borrow a phrase from one of George’s former band mates: “I should have known better…”
Well, actually, I may not be completely off the mark as in the liner notes there is indication of “digital editing” so perhaps it was a hybrid analog and digital recording. This makes some sense, specially considering that it was a project completed by co-producers Jeff Lynne (ELO, Traveling Wilburys, The Move) and George’s son, Dhani — there were probably over dubs done in different locations to finish the recording.
Whatever the case, it is a good sounding recording…. great even!
And the new 180-gram heavyweight vinyl reissue — pressed somewhere in Germany, but I wasn’t able to confirm exactly where at the time of this writing — presents the recording in a finer light than ever before.
Well… its a finer light than ever before for me, that is, as this is the first time I’ve heard Brainwashed on vinyl! Back in the day when Brainwashed was first released I completely missed that the album was even released on vinyl. I only had it on CD and I suspect that most of you who are fans of George’s music also had it on that format.
So this new pressing is a great improvement, sounding much warmer and fuller than the CD. Gone are the somewhat harsh angular edges of the CD, resulting in a warmer presentation of this fine music. The pressing on dark black vinyl is super quiet and thankfully waver-free due to perfect centering of the disc (an important detail — I think — especially for music like George’s which often features long soaring musical passages featuring his melodic slide guitar playing).
Its nice to hear this music with fresh ears after all these years. If you, Dear Readers, are anything like me, then back when Brainwashed was released you may not have spent as much time listening to it as you might had George lived on. I think many of us were in shock over George’s passing and by the time this came out more than a few of us kinda numb; reminiscing focused largely on his landmark 1970 post-Beatles release, All Things Must Pass. So, for those of you who don’t remember Brainwashed, I’ll say up front it is a strong album, almost as strong as George’s 1987 comeback smash hit Cloud Nine as well as the late 70s gems like his eponymous 1979 release and 1976’s 33 & 1/3.
Much of Brainwashed features classic George Harrison songwriting. For example, a tune like “Run So Far” could easily have been included 1973’s Living in the Material World. “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” is a jolly fun romp (written by Harold Arlen) featuring George on his beloved Ukulele backed by a rollicking group of players including percussionist extraordinaire Ray Cooper and the great pianist Jools Holland (ex Squeeze and of “Later… with Jools Holland” BBC TV fame). The title track is really quite haunting, lyrically bittersweet and musically rocking in the first section, yet ultimately giving way to the lovely album closing mantra “Namah Parvarti” which is chanted by George and his son Dhani set to a backing of ethereal drones and mindful Tabla pulses.
Kudos on this release must go out to both Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne for seeing the project through in such a timeless manner. In the 15 years since its initial release, this album’s stature has only grown (at least among Beatle fans I’ve chatted with over the years). So, indeed it is high time for people to revisit George’s fine last music on Brainwashed and the new LP reissue is a great place to start