Doing It Justice: The rock classic Jeff Lynne called “daunting” to work on

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Compared to most rock producers, Jeff Lynne feels like the kind of musician who lives in the studio. As much as he could deliver onstage when he performed with ELO, Lynne tends to be the most comfortable in the producer’s chair, often spending his best days making incredible music on his own or lending a helping hand to other industry giants like Brian Wilson or Paul McCartney. That many years in front of a board usually makes everything second nature, but Lynne thought that he was up for a real challenge when working on George Harrison’s Brainwashed.

It’s not like Lynne didn’t have a good idea of what a Harrison album should sound like. Before he was even a Traveling Wilbury, Lynne had become pretty comfortable producing with Harrison, bringing that sonic sheen to Cloud Nine and giving Harrison one of the biggest successes that he’d had in years.

While The Wilburys was fun, Harrison’s life in the 1990s was spent trying to put a nice bow on his career. After finding out that he had cancer, the former Beatle tried to put things in perspective and make something that would be his final artistic statement. Although most of the songs were completed before Lynne got involved, some were still in the demo stages, with Harrison not being in good enough shape to finish them.

After his tragic passing, Harrison’s son, Dhani, had talked about collaborating with Lynne on the album, saying, “It’s like my dad had the whole thing mapped out, and me and Jeff were the lab rats making our way through the maze that hadn’t quite been finished yet”.

Harrison had carved out plans for the album, though, and Lynne was practically fluent in whatever his fellow Wilbury needed in the studio. Then again, Lynne also had to make sure that he wasn’t overstepping his bounds, either. This was a George Harrison album, and it needed to sound like him before anything else.

Regardless of his pedigree, Lynne considered this one of the tougher albums he had ever worked on, saying, “To make an album like this, it started out really daunting until I realised that Dhani was going to be there the whole time. Once we went in there, after a couple of tunes, George was with us, really. What he wanted was sort of demo form of music, but they deserved more than that because they were great songs”.

For a man who was still looking death squarely in the face, this is one of the bolder posthumous albums to ever be released by a high-profile artist. Regardless of how you feel about Harrison’s solo career, every track feels like the culmination of his favourite forms of music, reprising his ‘Here Comes the Sun’ mythology on ‘Rising Sun’, bringing the ukuleles on his cover of ‘Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea’ and then ultimately breaking out the pop tunes like ‘Any Road’.

If there was a song that says it all for the record, the title track is the perfect amalgamation of Lynne’s production and Harrison’s spirit coalescing, building to a tranquil finish where Harrison chants his mantra in unison with his son. Lynne already had a signature production style, but getting the most out of his old mate is one of the more noble undertakings any producer has had to do.

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