Thursday, October 2, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: GEORGE HARRISON - THE APPLE YEARS 1968 - 1975
Mr. Harrison certainly laid some less-than fragrant platters for us to carefully tread around in his time. And while a box set of The Apple Years sounds like a nice and proper thing, if you do purchase, you'll be getting the good, bad and in between from six albums and seven years. Prior to the dissolution of the group, all but Paul used Apple for some solo experimentation, mostly dubious. Harrison did do a decent job recording Indian and incidental music for the soundtrack to the movie Wonderwall, but unless you are a devotee of Indian or soundtrack music, you will need to open your ears quite a bit to enjoy the album. Having said that, it's ten times better than Electronic Sound. There, Harrison was just having a lark, experimenting with a synthesizer to see what it could do. Apparently, it could do nothing but buzz and tweet. Despite desperate efforts to claim it showed the way for today's electronica scene, Harrison himself always had the final say on the album, "It could be called avant garde, but a more apt description would be "Avant garde clue".
From the ridiculous to the sublime, Harrison was the Beatle to fare best right away from the split in 1970. He had been stockpiling great songs for a couple of years, and when he got to put them all out at once, he had a bonanza. There were so many, it made a tremendous double album. The only problem with that was he put it out as a triple, with an album's worth of jams that, once again, didn't need to be heard by anyone, ever. But the first two albums, wow. All Things Must Pass is certainly one of the very best of the post-Beatles albums, with such gems as Wah-Wah, Isn't It A Pity, Let It Down, Beware Of Darkness, and the smash hit, and even bigger lawsuit, My Sweet Lord. A deserved #1, and a must-own for any 60's-70's fan. This is the same version as released for the 30th anniversary celebrations, complete with the five bonus tracks, which include a couple of working acoustic versions, and a new-for-then re-recording of My Sweet Lord, Harrison playing around with it to see what could happen. It's alright, but doesn't beat the original.
The next album, Living In The Material World, was a decent one, home of the elegant hit Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth), and the title cut, which laid out his concern for a consumer society which had lost track of mindfulness. But it also started to show the other side of spending so much time concentrating on your own spirituality; you get a little self-centered. Harrison's songwriting often strayed to his own concerns, and really, while we were all sad about how the Beatles ended, a song about lawsuits (Sue me, Sue You Blues) was just as much a downer for us as it was for him going through it.
The final two Apple albums, Dark Horse and Extra Texture, had plenty of issues, and only a few good songs between them. Dark Horse was rushed because Harrison had to go out on tour, and it simply doesn't have enough quality cuts for a major writer. Plus, half-way through the album, his voice became shot, thanks to all-day tour rehearsals. So certain tracks, like the decent title cut, have this raspy vocal, which would wreck the subsequent tour as well. Too many of the songs were basically Eastern chants done with Western pop, something Harrison fell back on too much. And the sound was crap, and still is. Remastering has done nothing to help certain numbers that sound as if they have been overdubbed too many times, leading to quality loss and a compressed muddle. Extra Texture saw him return quickly to the studio after the tour, but again with mediocre material. The big single was You. Can you sing You? I can't remember it, and I played it four hours ago.
Ten years ago (yes, ten), the first Harrison box came out, called The Dark Horse Years, another mixed bag of good and weak, but a fine-looking set. Dhani Harrison and the team have made this one to match, the same enjoyable flip-top package and classy, expensive box. The big collectors bonus here are the extra tracks on each CD (the same bonus cuts as on original reissues, but whatever) and a DVD. The video doesn't have much new to offer, but it does collect a bunch of nifty items such as promo videos for Sue Me, Sue You Blues and Ding Dong, Ding Dong, the featurette done for the reissue of All Things Must Pass, and a live concert version of Give Me Love from Japan in 1991. Just about 40 minutes, nice enough but not a make-or-break part of the set. Here's the low-down: If you are a completist, this does that, the stray b-sides are here, and it's a lovely little box for the mantle. If you just want the regular albums, you will be much better off with the four proper studio albums, and if you have an old copy of The Best Of George Harrison, save yourself a fortune and just get All Things Must Pass.
so much time being the best you; you get a little self-centered. Harrison's