Ranking the 5 Best Songs on George Harrison’s ’80s Comeback Album ‘Cloud Nine’

George Harrison decided to throw his hat back in the ring with Cloud Nine in 1987. After years of steering clear of the fame game, he enlisted Jeff Lynne to help him out in his quest to his return to the pop/rock limelight.

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Mission accomplished, thanks to rejuvenated songwriting and sparkling guitar work. Let’s look back at the five songs that reign supreme on Cloud Nine, one of the ‘80s most successful comeback records.

5. “This Is Love”

Let’s face it: You can’t really have a Beatles solo album if there’s not at least one ode to love on it. Harrison keeps this from getting too wishy-washy thanks to an insistent beat and urgent melody that dips into moody minor keys in the chorus. Lynne’s touch with arranging backing vocals is all over the album, and it’s especially effective on this track. “This Is Love” was a minor hit when released as a single in the UK towards the end of the album cycle, and it’s aged pretty well thanks to a message of positivity that never really gets dated.

4. “Devil’s Radio”

For the most part, Cloud Nine is a pretty easy-going album. It kind of sails along on the same good-natured vibes that would also characterize what Harrison and Lynne provided with the Traveling Wilburys. But Harrison’s songwriting bite shows up on this track, and it’s welcome. Sounding off on gossip doesn’t sound like going out on too much of a limb. But considering Harrison was on the receiving end of a lot of baseless rumors due to his reluctance to bask in the spotlight, it’s understandable. You can hear relish in his voice as he tosses off the one-liners here.

3. “Cloud 9”

Harrison’s Rolodex got a workout when it comes to the title track. That’s Elton John sneaking around the edges of the production with some electric piano. More noticeable is the guitar work of Eric Clapton, as the way he and Harrison (on slide) engage in a kind of low-key duel that invigorates this one. This is certainly the bluesiest of the songs on Cloud Nine, and Harrison is right at home in that setting. The saxophone work of Jim Horn also adds some grit to “Cloud 9,” which is a bit of misdirection as a somewhat moody opening track on an otherwise joyous album.

2. “Wreck of the Hesperus”

George Harrison was all of 44 years old when Cloud 9 came out, but you have to remember that this was the ‘80s, a time when youthful artists seemed to shove out all the veterans in the first half of the decade. It makes sense Harrison would feel the need to comically defend himself for his advanced age. There are effortlessly funny lines here, as well as some clever wordplay in the lyrics (which might have you looking up both the Hesperus and Big Bill Broonzy). Younger artists should be so lucky to rock this heartily.

1. “When We Was Fab”

Harrison, long skeptical of the myths that had grown up around his former group, clearly felt enough time had passed to gently and lovingly send all that up. “When We Was Fab” is the best song ever performed by a former Beatle about the group, as Harrison and Lynne nail a Magical Mystery Tour sound with eerie accuracy (right down to the off-kilter drum fills by Ringo Starr). The lyrics succeed not by giving a blow-by-blow of the Beatles era, but rather by hinting at the story with subtle references while also indulging in general nostalgia for things past.

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