* * * GEORGE HARRISON. "Cloud Nine." Dark Horse/Warner Bros. "Long time ago when we was fab / When income tax was all we had," sings the Quiet One on his first album in five years, once again proving that some of the best work from ex-Beatles comes when they don't fight the fact that they are ex-Beatles.
With its "I Am the Walrus"-like arrangement, the seriocomic "When We Was Fab" falls somewhere between the irreverence of the Rutles (Eric Idle's spoof of the Beatles, in which Harrison participated) and the wistfulness of Harrison's 1981 John Lennon eulogy "All Those Years Ago" to make the definitive statement about the status of Beatle emeritus.
That he has been able to let go--neither denying his past nor pandering to it--is clear on nearly every song on this album, helping to make it the most pleasing pure pop offering from a former Moptop since 1973's "Ringo."
Some of the credit goes to Harrison's co-producer, Jeff Lynne, who spent much of the '70s re-creating Beatlish styles as leader of ELO. With help from a cast that includes Eric Clapton, Elton John and Ringo himself, the pair resists the temptation to go hog-wild with the Beatlisms (except on "Fab," where they're appropriate), keeping the arrangements generally spare.