George Harrison

harrison albums

George Harrison
The Apple Years 1968-1975
Wonderwall Music
Electronic Sound
All Things Must Pass
Living in the Material World
Dark Horse
Extra Texture (Read All About It)

by David Chiu

When it comes to his solo music, the late George Harrison seems to be under appreciated. Certainly he had moments of commercial success with the masterful opus All Things Must Pass and hits such as “My Sweet Lord” and “Got My Mind Set On You,” but the whole body of his solo work never really got its critical or serious due then and now. And in the CD and digital age, his albums have been either scarcely available or out of print. That oversight has been partly remedied with the reissue of his Dark Horse albums ten years ago – and now his early and mid -70s Apple works have been recently re-released – remastered and with bonus tracks – as part of a new boxed set that further solidifies his stature as a legend in his own right and not just for his tenure as a Beatle.

Wonderwall Music (1968), the first solo work by a Beatles as well as Apple Records’ debut release, is pioneering in that it introduced Indian music – let alone world music – to a wider audience. Recalling the feel and tone of Magical Mystery Tour at times, this mostly instrumental release juxtaposes Indian music with whimsical and experimental rock and pop. Notable tracks from it include “Ski-ing” with its mixture of rock guitar, drums and Indian (featuring Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton); the ethereal and avant garde “Dream Scene,” and “Party Seacombe” that recalls “I Am the Walrus.” Among its bonus tracks is an alternate take of “The Inner Light.”

Before such artists as Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder became famous for their work in the genre, Harrison was perhaps one of the earliest forefathers of electronic music, as in the case of the groundbreaking Electronic Sound. Quirky, experimental, ambient and noisy (especially on the sidelong “No Time in Space”), Electronic Sound predates contemporary electronic music by decades. Tom Rowlands of the Chemical Brothers summed it up best in his essay for the reissue: “Those who only know George for his melodic spiritual songs and slide guitar will be in for a pleasant shock from Electronic Sound.”

But it was really All Things Must Pass (1970) that Harrison emerged from the shadow of the Lennon-McCartney partnership in spectacular fashion in the wake of the Fab Four’s breakup . The audacity of releasing a then-triple album set at the time really spoke about Harrison’s desire to have more of his songs recorded and heard that wasn’t possible as a member of the Beatles. With an all-star cast of players that included  members of Derek and the Dominos, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Dave Mason,  All Things Must Pass is astonishing for its musical breadth and scope, from conventional rock/pop songs like the classic “My Sweet Lord,” “What Is Life” (emblematic of Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ production) the rambunctious “Wah Wah” and the majestic and thought provoking ballad “Isn’t It a Pity”; to the “Apple Jam” mostly-instrumental section. It is no wonder that nearly 45 years since its original release that All Things Must Pass remains Harrison’s signature work. This edition of All Things Must Pass replicates the track listing of the 2001 reissue and reprises its bonus tracks, including Harrison’s update of “My Sweet Lord.”

Living in the Material World (1973) followed in the wake of the all-star The Concert for Bangladesh that Harrison spearheaded – and like All Things Must Pass, it carried on Harrison’s spiritual yearning in his lyrics. It’s primarily best known for another Harrison hit, “Give Me Love”; but there are some strong tracks on the record: the very elegant and heartfelt “The Light That Has Lighted the World” and “That Is All”: the caustic “Sue Me Sue You Blues” with some great slide guitar; and the deeply philosophical title song, This new edition of Living in the Material World also contains a remix of the single “Bangla Desh” and and the relaxed country-tinged Deep Blue, which recalls the Beatles’ “For You Blue.”

1974’s Dark Horse (which would later be the name of his record label) follows in the same musical and thematic vein as the preceding solo albums—characterized by the uptempo and jazzy slide-driven instrumental “Hari’s On Tour (Express),” the folksy-sounding hit title song, the lovely ballad So Sad, and a reworking of the Everly Brothers hit “Bye Bye Love.” And Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975) is perhaps Harrison’s most soulful and reflective record up to that point – maybe even the most underrated of this batch – thanks to tracks like the sublime “The Answers at the End,” the jazzy “Ooh Baby” (a tribute to Smokey Robinson), the gorgeous “World of Stone,” and the uplifting “Can’t Stop Thinking About You.” Harrison also recorded “This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying),” a sequel to the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The reissue also features Harrison’s 1992 re-recording of “This Guitar” with Dave Stewart that now features overdubs by Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison and Kara DioGuardi – it’s a lovingly treated revisit.

With the exception of All Things Must Pass, these overlooked albums finally get the proper attention and due warranted, revealing the depth and range of Harrison’s talents – from his excellent guitar skills to his spiritually conscious view – that goes way, way beyond his sideman status for the greatest rock band of all time.

George in front of a fireplace painted by The Fool at his home (© Harrison Family)
George in front of a fireplace painted by The Fool at his home (© Harrison Family)

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