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George Harrison

George Harrison

With The Beatles' long and winding road coming to an end the smart money predicted that John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the group's dominate forces, would duke it out for Rock supremacy. Little, if any, thought was given to lowly George Harrison, the quiet Beatle who led the group down the path of Eastern enlightenment, which turned into a dead end for everyone except Harrison. Harrison had been limited to two songs per Beatle album (and on some albums that was one, maybe two songs too many). Frankly, he didn't appear to be a songwriter of Lennon and McCartney's caliber nor was he comparable as a performer. So it was with low expectations that Harrison began recording "All Things Must Pass," an obvious reference to The Beatles but also a philosophical statement. The triple album was released December, '70.

Seems Harrison had been writing more than two songs per album and had a backlog. In addition, since being liberated from The Beatles (earlier that year), he was going through a remarkable creative spurt. Harrison was the first ex-Beatle to score a #1 single, "My Sweet Lord," (Harrison was later found guilty of "unconsciously plagiarizing" the Chiffon's early '60s hit "He's So Fine" and ended up paying a six figure sum) and #1 album. With war in the former Indian state of Bangla Desh bringing starvation, Harrison organized a benefit concert in NY that included Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr. The Concert For Bangla Desh documentary film and soundtrack resulted. Following the release of "Living In A Material World" ('73) which contained the modest hit, "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" ('74) Harrison embarked on a world tour with Indian sitar master Ravi Shanker in tow. The North American leg took a critical bashing with audiences wanting Harrison and not Indian music. And Harrison also got lambasted for being a poor showman.

He tried to regain his footing with the modest '77 release "33 1/3" which featured "Crackerbox Palace," a song that failed to reach the upper reaches of the charts. '77 was also the year Harrison and his wife Patti divorced after eleven years of marriage. She had taken up with Eric Clapton and was the inspiration for Clapton's epic "Layla" (recorded by Derek & The Dominoes - Clapton's one-off project).

Harrison's career reached its nadir when his record label rejected "Somewhere In England" for not being commercial enough. He was forced to record additional songs. The album did contain the tribute to Lennon, who had been murdered months earlier, "All Those Years Ago." Harrison released "Cloud Nine" in '87 which contained another song referencing The Beatle era, "When We Was Fab." Shortly thereafter, Harrison became a Traveling Wilbury with Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. The group recorded two albums of friendly vocal/acoustic based Rock 'n' Roll.

With his music career operating in fits and starts from the mid-70s forward, Harrison wisely developed other interests. He raced cars, started his own label, Dark Horse, and became a film producer with his Hand Made Films production company which financed a couple Monty Python films, among other projects.

Some people, diagnosed with terminal cancer might, if they had the means, locate some remote Caribbean island and savior their last remaining days. Hardly anyone would choose to spend that time in a cavernous recording studio working on an album. Perhaps that was the most telling sign of Harrison's commitment to his craft. The album was just about finished when Harrison succumbed to cancer on November 29th, '01. Producer Lynne and Harrison's son Dhani (from George's second marriage) carefully and tastefully completed the "Brainwashed" album.

"Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison," the first compilation focusing specifically on the legendary musician's post-Beatles recordings, landed in '09 (a bit overdue). But The Beatles weren't completely absent. The remastered collection also included live versions of Harrison-composed Beatles songs.

Another compilation, "Early Takes, Volume 1-George Harrison," arrived in '12. It contained unreleased demo tracks recorded during The Beatles demise and highlighted Harrison's collaborations with Bob Dylan.
George Harrison Discography

1968 Wonderwall Music
1969 Electronic Sound
1970 All Things Must Pass
1971 The Concert For Bangladesh
1973 Living In The Material World
1974 Dark Horse
1975 Extra Texture (Read All About It)
1976 Thirty Three & 1/3
1976 The Best Of George Harrison
1979 George Harrison
1981 Somewhere In England
1982 Gone Troppo
1987 Cloud Nine
1989 Best Of Dark Horse 1976-1989
1992 Live In Japan
2002 Brainwashed
2009 Let It Roll: Songs By George Harrison
2012 Early Takes, Volume 1-George Harrison

"All Things Must Pass" is brilliant album that turns out to be George Harrison's career best. On "Concert For Bangla Desh," Harrison does a nice but fairly straight reading of "Here Comes The Sun." The other performers add little to their songs but the album is an OK concert souvenir.

Harrison's albums, "Living In A Material World," "33 1/3," "Somewhere In England," and "Cloud Nine" all have good songs and performances but are not great albums. One problem is Harrison's tendency to get preachy or whiny. "Extra Texture" ('74) and "Dark Horse" ('75) are weak spots in Harrison's catalog. So after "All Things Must Pass" go for "The Best of George Harrison" which contains a selection of his Beatles' songs along with his solo hits including "What Is Life," his best song.

Harrison's quest for the "meaning of life" which began in the late '60s reaches its conclusion with the '02 release "Brainwashed" - a clever title open to several interpretations. Ironically, Harrison seems only a bit closer to the truth than he was when he started. There's no fault there, greater (and lesser) talents have pondered the same issues and come up empty. With no worries about his label rejecting the album or dropping him (both concerns in the past), Harrison creates a warm album that is neither ponderous nor overbearing (two major shortcomings - see above) and departs on an up note.


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