Category Archives: George Harrison

George Harrison Discography

George played lead guitar and sang in a band called The Beatles. The youngest member of the group, he was initially cast as the “quiet” Beatle. During the 60s, George had a spiritual awakening and became a member of the Hare Krishna movement (a branch of Hinduism). Many of Harrison’s songs after his religious conversion have overtly spiritual themes that could be applied broadly in a monotheistic sense (Harrison, like Aldous Huxley, subscribed to the idea that all major religions emanated from the same source). His music also began to incorporate Eastern themes (e.g., meditation) and sounds, and songs such as “Within You Without You” and “The Inner Light” introduced the Beatles’ fan base (i.e., the world) to new musical and philosophical ideas.

Much has been made of George’s development in The Beatles; suffice to say, like the Monty Python joke, he got better, eventually finding his own voice within the band. His first solo albums were recorded while still a member of the band and were experimental, instrumental efforts; Wonderwall Music (1968) was a deep dive into Eastern and soundtrack music, while Electronic Sound (1969) was exactly what it said it was. When Harrison did finally release a real solo album, however, it was a doozy: the triple-elpee All Things Must Pass (1970). Featuring some songs that Harrison had stockpiled while a member of The Beatles and joined by Eric Clapton’s band, the album re-asserted the notion that George was an underrated and undervalued songwriter. The next year, Harrison organized The Concert for Bangla Desh (1971), featuring Clapton, Bob Dylan, Dave Mason and many others, which would go on to win the Grammy Award.

Subsequent solo albums, unfortunately, re-re-asserted the notion that maybe George wasn’t so undervalued or underrated after all. Living In The Material World (1973), Dark Horse (1974) and Extra Texture (1975) had a few good songs each (well, maybe not so much Dark Horse), but none approached the level of All Things Must Pass. (The same, of course, could be said of Clapton and Derek and the Dominos’ double-album Layla.) In 1976, George began releasing albums on his own Dark Horse records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers. Thirty-Three & 1/3 (1976) and the eponymous George Harrison (1979) were in line with what could be expected from Paul McCartney and Wings at that stage: a couple of Top 40 hits, pleasant melodies and a few clunkers. Around this time, George also formed Handmade Films, which produced The Life of Brian, Time Bandits, Withnail And I, Mona Lisa and other films.

After the death of John Lennon, Harrison released the generally disappointing Somewhere In England, which featured the tribute, “All Those Years Ago,” and a bunch of crappy songs that probably should have been written about John Lennon too. Gone Troppo (1982) was better (there being but the one direction…), but a lack of commercial enthusiasm kept George quiet until the comeback album Cloud Nine (1987). That record, produced by Jeff Lynne, led to the formation of The Traveling Wilburys with Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, who recorded two albums.

George Harrison didn’t release another new studio album in his lifetime. He passed in 2001; the following year, Brainwashed (2002) was released. In addition to authorized and unauthorized biographies, Martin Scorcese released a documentary of Harrison’s life, Living In The Material World, in 2011, in which Olivia Harrison reveals that there was a great light present in the room when George’s spirit was loosed from this mortal coil. Not quite the shot-out-of-a-clown-cannon death that I’m hoping for but, um, still pretty cool.

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Cream: Goodbye (1969)

“Cream’s last year was extremely painful for me. When we started in 1966, Eric and Jack had one Marshall each. Then it became a stack, then a double stack and finally a triple stack. By 1968, I was just the poor bastard stuck in the middle of these incredible noise-making things. It was ridiculous.” – Ginger Baker, in as quoted in a 2014 Guitar World article.

Kronomyth 4.0: HELLO GOODBYE. Cream had already left the building when Goodbye was released. The album packaging seemed almost gleeful at the prospect: the band was decked out in silver tuxedos on the front, the inner gatefold opened to a cartoon graveyard, Cream’s magical mystery tour complete. Exit through the giftshop and don’t forget to pick up your copy of Goodbye on the way out. Originally planned as a double elpee with an album each of live and studio material (like Wheels of Fire before it), Goodbye was pared down to a single record because of a lack of good material. The live material is louder than loud, with Clapton and especially Bruce much too high in the mix. This version of “Sitting On Top of the World” is good, but the other tracks are sonically inferior to what you’ll find on the two Live Cream discs. As for the individual musicianship on the live tracks, it’s amazing, but the band loses points for not playing nice together. The members also had a homework assignment to write one new track for the album. Clapton tapped George Harrison as his study partner and came up with the brilliant “Badge,” while Bruce and Pete Brown delivered the deliciously surreal “Doing That Scrapyard” and Baker kicked in the psychedelic “What A Bringdown.” All three tracks are strongly influenced by The Beatles, suggesting that Cream (like most of the world) had already worn out their copies of Magical Mystery Tour. It’s nice that the band took the time to write a note before leaving, but I’m far more likely to thumb through the photo albums of Wheels and Gears than take the tear-stained Goodbye out of its crypted envelope and read it. That said, the closing studio tracks are some of the best things they’ve ever done; maybe they should have put those first.

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George Harrison: All Things Must Pass (1970)

The Rolling Stone Record Guide of 1980 called this a “grand gesture,” and one was needed after the letdown of The Beatles’ breakup. None of the Fab Four had sketched out a roadmap for the future, McCartney opting to recycle ditties from the past, and All Things Must Pass became something of a beacon. Great works from John, Paul, even Ringo would follow, but it took George to call their bluff. Spread out across three albums (now two discs), All Things Must Pass confirmed what many already knew: George was a good songwriter just waiting for a patch of sun to call his own. No longer overshadowed by John and Paul, the quiet Beatle has a lot to say about the breakup, God, and (on the album of jams) his own guitar heroes. Phil Spector sometimes suffocates good ideas under too much varnish (“Wah-Wah,” “Awaiting On You All”), but more often elevates these acoustic songs into powerful statements (“My Sweet Lord,” “Beware of Darkness,” “Isn’t It A Pity”). With Bob Dylan contributing half of “I’d Have You Anytime” and “If Not For You” (given a more earnest reading on his own New Morning), it’s perhaps no surprise that All Things Must Pass sounds like a son of the Nashville skyline, all cool country charm when the mood strikes. You can imagine “Let It Down,” “Behind That Locked Door” and “All Things Must Pass” sharing a train ride with “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” Maybe it’s the pedal steel guitar or the fertile arrangements, maybe it’s the easy way these songs just roll along with an offhand genius. And then there’s the joy apparent on All Things Must Pass. It’s at the heart of songs like “What Is Life,” “My Sweet Lord” and “Awaiting On You All,” a sort of revival-meeting energy that sweeps you up. Toss in some songs that recall the solo work of John (“Beware of Darkness” in its demo version) and Paul (compare “Art of Dying” to “Mrs. Vanderbilt”) plus a few nods to The Beatles (“I Dig Love,” the second version of “Isn’t It A Pity”) and you may have the most substantive solo musical statement in all of Beatledom. The album of instrumental jams, while often overlooked, show Harrison, Eric Clapton and Dave Mason blowing off some steam in various settings. Of course, Jimi Hendrix left vaults full of stuff like this behind, so they’re best seen as a bonus disc of curiosities rather than a balanced contribution.

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George Harrison: Living In The Material World (1973)

Kronomyth 5.0: IMMATERIAL. I remember that the B side for “My Sweet Lord,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” scared me off from buying All Things Must Pass for years. What if the other songs sound like that?, I wondered, doing the multiplication in my head with trepidation. Two years later, the sunny single for Harrison’s modest Material World arrived and I wondered: What if the rest of the album sounds like “Give Me Peace” and “Miss O’Dell?” This was an album I had to own! Only, in retrospect, it turned out to be more Pity-full than George’s earlier Pass. Living In The Material World is wonderfully packaged and expertly produced (I think) by George, but gone is the joy of tracks like “What Is Life,” “Wah-Wah,” “Awaiting On You All,” “I Dig Love,” etc. In essence, George the lighthearted Beatle had been replaced by George the enlightened Beatle, who turned out to be something of a killjoy. “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” is at least a match for “My Sweet Lord,” the title track is neat as is George’s version of “Try Some Buy Some,” but the rest of the record is minor-key music minus the memorable melodies of his earlier, grander opus. You get the sense that George could write these songs any time, and in fact he revisited some of them on subsequent records like 33 & 1/3 (e.g., “The Light That Has Lighted The World” sounds a lot like “Learning How To Love You,” la la la). From a production standpoint the Material World is more complex than I first imagined; I’m suspending final judgment until I hear this on a digital remaster. But I don’t suspect that any digital remaster will reveal melodies that were never there to begin with. Living In The Material World set the stage for a solo career that offered a respite from John and Paul rather than an alternative. All Things Must Pass, it turned out, was a fantasy world pieced together from bits of broken Beatles. Here was the real world, and the material was frankly a little dull in comparison.

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Ron Wood: I’ve Got My Own Album To Do (1974)

Kronomyth 1.0: 1-WOOD (WOOD IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT). If you’re looking to round out your Rolling Stones collection, you could do a lot worse than I’ve Got My Own Album To Do. Although Wood wouldn’t join the Stones for another year still, his first album is a kind of early audition featuring Keith Richards, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger. The album also features not one but two Richard/Jagger compositions: “Act Together” and “Sure The One You Need.” Wood wastes little time in making a strong impression, bringing in Mick Jagger on the first track (“I Can Feel The Fire”) and George Harrison on the second (“Far East Man”). It’s a hard act to follow, and Wood’s vocals are more in line with Ronnie Lane than Rod Stewart (who contributes backing vocals on a few tracks), but a lot of help from a lot of friends helps to smooth out the rough edges. Not everything here is gold: a cover of “If You Got To Make A Fool of Somebody” is half baked, “Shirley” is sexist nonsense. Yet the consensus is that IGMOATD is the best of Wood’s works. “I Can Feel The Fire,” “Cancel Everything” and “Far East Man” are better than I expected, and the interplay between Wood, Richards and Ian McLagan is a treat to hear. It’s all a bit roguish, which is what you’d expect given Wood’s legend, and more than a little fun. The album apparently slipped under the radar, strange given the success of Rod Stewart and the Stones at the time, and is well worth the discovery if you haven’t already had the pleasure.

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George Harrison: Dark Horse (1974)

Kronomyth 6.0: AT THE RISK OF BEATLING A DEAD HOARSE. Ahem. Let me just clear my throat before lighting into Dark Horse. George Harrison was going on tour and, since tours typically promote an album, he decided to record a new one. Only George was beset by a bad case of laryngitis during the recording sessions (and the subsequent tour), and what came out of the gate was more of a Dark Hoarse. The record still charted well enough in the US since The Beatles’ fans were a forgiving lot (exhibit A: Ringo Starr), but doff your rose-colored teashades and you’re looking at one of the lamest efforts from any of the Fab Four. “Ding Dong, Ding Dong,” which is about as good as it sounds, joined the dubious ranks of jingle bell rockers and remains the only track from Dark Horse that still shows up on American radio; presumably the English trot out “Dark Horse” from time to time as well. Of the remaining songs, “Simply Shady” is a bright spot, and “Maya Love” and “So Sad” aren’t so bad. But this album never should have been recorded; the material wasn’t there to support it and George’s voice was is no condition to do anything but butcher the few good ideas he had. Unlike the earlier, spiritual Material World, Dark Horse finds George in a less peaceful mood, striking back at Pattie and Eric Clapton (in a failed reworking of The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love”) and what I always took to be a poke at Frank Sinatra in the opening of “Far East Man” (although, in his defense, Frank’s version of “Something” was nothing short of criminal). All in all, not the tastiest apple on the tree, despite the tantalizing cover—which was switched with the back cover on the Capitol non-gatefold reissues, probably to cut their costs/losses.

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George Harrison: Thirty-Three & 1/3 (1976)

Kronomyth 9.0: YOU SAY YOU WANT SOME REVOLUTIONS? Thirty-Three & 1/3 is a clever title; it alludes to both the revolutions per minute (RPM) of an elpee and George Harrison’s age at the time. The album has its share of admirers and detractors, strikingly similar to John Lennon’s Walls & Bridges in many ways. Both albums featured a pair of strong singles (in this case “Crackerbox Palace” and “This Song”), a mix of languid ballads and boogaloo (i.e., a slightly soulful, kinda funky brand of uptempo rock music), and more emotional depth than Paul or Ringo could plumb. Fans of the album can point to well-written songs that smack of vintage Harrison, rendered in countrified boogaloo (“Woman Don’t You Cry For Me”), a sort of spiritual disco (“Learning How To Love You”), or the lightly gilded and translucent pop that Harrison could conjure on command (“Beautiful Girl”). Detractors will fault Harrison for settling into too comfortable a setting and not wringing more from his muse. In a way, it’s flattering that George is held to the same high standards as John and Paul (and, in my opinion, this gets the nod over Wings at the Speed of Sound as the better bicentennial ex-Beatles album). “This Song,” which lampoons his legal troubles over “My Sweet Lord” (though the incorrigible Beatle steals from his own “What Is My Life” in the process) and the remarkably funky “Crackerbox Palace” are primo George-o. The rest of the album is rarely less than engaging, with some fine guitar work (“Pure Smokey”), sage advice (“See Yourself”) and a kickin’ one-man horn section in Tom Scott. Thirty-Three & 1/3 is a good album, not a great one. Together with the eponymous album that followed and 1987’s Cloud Nine, it’s one of the few Dark Horse releases you can bet on showing you a good time. (Thanks, Jim, for letting me keep this one.)

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The Best of George Harrison (1976)

Kronomyth 8.0: APPLE COBBLER. This was the first solo Beatles best-of to mix the fab four with the less fabulous four what followed (ATMP, LITMW, DH and ET), and I remember taking umbrage with that at the time, seeing as how no one thought Ringo needed to be propped up with “Yellow Submarine,” only I must have misplaced that umbrage over the years and now it doesn’t rankle me so. Plus, let’s be honest, you’d rather hear “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” than “This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying),” wouldn’t you? The Best of George Harrison is actually something of a trailblazer among compilations by mixing group work with solo work; it took years before anyone dared reconcile Roxy Music with Bryan Ferry’s solo music, for example. The selections presented here are pretty much spot on, although I would have placed them in chronological order (because I am a gray little man with no imagination) and maybe tried a little harder to squeeze “Piggies” in here. The decision to add something from Dark Horse is also a necessary evil, I suppose, if only to warn people away from buying it (BEWARE, the other songs are even worse, it says). Maddeningly (ah, there’s that umbrage), the labels waited years before releasing another compilation of Harrison’s material, and then it was contained to the albums that followed, so that if you pieced the two compilations together you had twenty minutes of the Beatles, twenty minutes of solo George at his finest, and forty minutes of crap. (Okay, that’s not entirely true, since I think The Best of Dark Horse ran closer to 60 minutes.) My griping aside, The Best of George Harrison really is the best plastic shrine to any of The Beatles that I’ve encountered and a great place to start if you’re, um, re-entering the earth’s atmosphere after 50 years in space.

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George Harrison (1979)

Kronomyth 9.0: SOFT-HEARTED MANA. Rolling Stone gave this album one star. AMG two. Billboard three. All of which explains why I don’t rate albums on here. What’s the difference between two stars and two-and-a-half stars anyway, and is it worth the time it takes to think about it? Better to say that George Harrison’s self-titled elpee is a fitting followup to Thirty-Three & 1/3. The same pop sensibilities are there, wrapped in soft and spiritual arrangements, rendered with humility and humor. Coproduced by Russ Titelman (fresh from sessions with Randy Newman), the album lacks the sharp horn attack that Tom Scott brought to George’s last record, which means that these songs may take a little longer for their intrinsic melody to be revealed. Once that’s done, George’s fans should agree that “Blow Away,” “Dark Sweet Lady” and “Soft Touch” were worth the wait. However, in the defense of its critics, there are indications here that Harrison’s engine was losing steam. Despite having two years to write new material, the ex-Beatle trumps out a wannabe from Let It Be, “Not Guilty,” a pale imitation of an old classic on “Here Comes The Moon,” and indications in track placement and subject matter that suggest a formulaic reprise of his last album. These suspicions would be confirmed on Somewhere in England, but it seems unfair to blame this record for future failings. I’d rank this right alongside Thirty-Three & 1/3 and Cloud Nine as bright spots from his Dark Horse days. If you like George Harrison the artist, you’ll like George Harrison the album.

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George Harrison: Somewhere In England (1980)

Kronomyth 10.0: NOWHERE, MAN. I wouldn’t give out my address either after releasing this stinker. Somewhere first appeared in England in 1980, but Warner Bros. declined to release the album in the US. That is, until John Lennon died, at which point they engaged Harrison in a conversation that I can only imagine went something like this:

Warner Bros. A&R Flunkie (WBARF): George, we can’t release this album in the US.

George: Is it the Hoagy Carmichael songs? Because I can get rid of those.

WBARF: NO, NO, don’t touch the Hoagy Carmichael songs. We LOVE those!

Assistant to the WBARF: Yeah, Hoagy Carmichael songs are really hot right now.

WBARF: It’s just that the record is so depressing. It could use something more upbeat.

Assistant WBARF: Like a Beatles song, or a song featuring the Beatles, or a song about a Beatle who may have died recently.

WBARF: Or a song about how much you hate making music.

George Harrison: Seriously, if it’s the Hoagy Carmichael stuff, I can take out “Hong Kong Blues.” I don’t even know why I picked that. I mean, I sing the words “colored man” on that song for crying out loud.

Assistant WBARF: Colored people love Hoagy Carmichael!

WBARF: His music lifts people’s spirits.

George Harrison: Seriously? “Baltimore Oriole” is about a woman who cheated on her man. “Hong Kong Blues” is about an opium addict who doesn’t have the money to buy a ticket home.

WBARF: See? I feel better about my life already.

George Harrison: Okay, so I’ll keep the Hoagy Carmichael songs and write some new, really depressing songs with happy melodies?

WBARF: Perfect. We’ll have your percussion player produce them. Now, he has some ideas about the cover art…

This is me again. You don’t need to buy this album. You don’t need to hear any of the songs on it other than “All Those Years Ago.” And you certainly don’t need to spend $18 on a remastered version that includes only a demo version of “Save The World” that totally wasn’t worth saving.

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