History: While George was writing songs as soon as during post production of Cloud Nine, various circumstances kept him from recording a full album. When he was attacked in his home in 1999 he spoke with his son Dhani about his eventual plans for an album, and in 2001 when it began to become clear that his cancer was winning, it became all the more urgent to George to finish. He worked with Dhani and Jeff Lynne, but sadly was unable to fully complete the album before his passing. After a break of mourning, Jeff and Dhani were able to go back into the studio with Jim Keltner and George’s instructions to complete overdubs and put out the album as he would have wanted it.
My own personal history and initial prediction: I don’t think I’ve listened to this one before, though I’m definitely pretty familiar with “Stuck Inside a Cloud.” I remember it getting a fair bit of airplay at the time and it’s one that SiriusXM likes to play a lot. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites necessarily but I do enjoy it. I’m curious to see if this one is going to feel like Milk and Honey in terms of being unfinished.
Review: I guess my memory is starting to fade, because the moment “Any Road” started I realized I had in fact heard that one as well. It’s a good one too, with a fun country beat to it. It’s also largely a good intro to the mindset George is in for most of the album. While he may have been writing songs for a while, it seems clear that for what was to be his final album, he largely chose ones that tap into his contemplative and spiritual side. While this album suffers from a common problem of a lot of his solo works, that the songs all start to largely sound the same after a while, it’s clear that the real emphasis was on the lyrics here. I’d also imagine it may also have to do with the fact that they were finishing the songs for him. Had he been there to review, who knows what he might have wanted to tweak or change, whereas without him there I can understand their choice to not deviate from what he asked for specifically even if it ended up making the songs blur together a little stylistically.
To be fair it’s not all exactly the same, and it’s not all heavy meditative songs either. “P2 Vatican Blues” is a flippant and funny send up about a former Catholic, and we also have more traditional love songs like “Never Get Over You” on here. The instrumental track, “Marwa Blues” is also a highlight, and I can understand how it ended up winning a Grammy. “Stuck Inside a Cloud” feels like it was designed to be the single of the album, having a lot in common with a lot of George’s earlier singles. It’s probably still my clear favorite of the album itself.
Overall, this feels like the kind of album that I may not immediately fall in love with all of it, but with repeated listens I would probably hear the more subtle nuisances going on between the various tracks. It definitely feels like the type of album you want to sit back and listen to with the lyrics sheet in hand. It’s a strong way to end his career, and I’m glad he was able to get as far along with it as he did before he passed.
Next Time: Get ready for Ringo Rama, which is a fun title to say if nothing else.