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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

John Ono Lennon (With The Plastic Ono Band): Instant Karma! (We All Shine On) (1970)

Kronomyth 2.5: MOTHER GOOSE, YOU HAD ME BUT I NEVER HAD YOU. The idea has been advanced, not without merit, that both “All You Need Is Love” and “Instant Karma!” are based on the nursery rhyme, “Three Blind Mice.” When my musical elitism gets the better of me, I remind myself that I (apparently) have the same musical tastes as a two-year-old. This song has always held a special place in my heart and head. After four albums and two singles, John finally got serious. “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” is the first work from the man that actually holds up against the legacy of The Beatles. No hippy chants, no primal scream therapy, this is rock & roll magic at its finest. Alan White also hands in an inspired performance on the drums. Yoko delivers a lovely, complementary song on the B side, “Who Has Seen The Wind?” Featuring flute and harpsichord accompaniment, it’s a nearly beguiling number that presents Yoko as the antithesis of Nico.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Ringo Starr: “It Don’t Come Easy” (1971)

After two noncommercial albums, Ringo released the single “It Don’t Come Easy,” the first sign that Ringo might have the makings of a rock star. Adopting a sound that borrowed heavily from George Harrison’s solo work, the song introduced what would come to be called “boogaloo,” rock songs with horn charts and a large, loose cast of players that suggested a party with a mike in the middle. Not for nothing, it was also one of the most fully realized songs that Ringo has ever written, featuring George Harrison on guitar and Ringo himself playing the drums as well as singing. The flip side finds Ringo in the familiar role of country bumpkin, reprising his turn on “Act Naturally” with an open invitation to the rest of The Beatles on “Early 1970.” The pokes at Paul, John and George (as well as himself) are good natured, and happily the invitation was accepted by all three during Ringo’s solo career (George was already on board). Originally a sought-after single, both tracks were later included on the greatest hits compilation Blast From Your Past and, in 1991, the expanded reissue of Ringo. It appears the single was re-released through the ‘70s and ‘80s, a fact I know only through the tireless work of Tim Neely, whose 45 rpm Record Guide is filled with goodies like this. (And, yes, I will scan the labels one of these days so you can track your vinyl through the ages.)

Continue reading

Ringo Starr: “Back Off Boogaloo” (1972)

“I sat down with Marc Bolan one night and he’s using this ‘Back off, boogaloo’ kind of language. I went to bed and I woke up with this song in my head, ‘Back off boogaloo, what d’ya think you’re gonna do.’” – Ringo Starr as quoted in Keith Badman’s The Beatles: The Dream Is Over – Off The Record 2.

Kronomyth 2.7: CANDY GLAM FOR RINGO. Ringo took a greater interest in film after The Beatles, appearing both in front of and behind the camera as an actor (“200 Motels,” “Blindman”) and director (the T. Rex concert film, “Born To Boogie”). This single is sort of the musical soundtrack to that moment, featuring the Bolan-inspired “Back Off Boogaloo” on the A side and, fittingly, his song from the B movie “Blindman” on the flip side. The enthusiasm for “Back Off Boogaloo” owes much to Beatlemania; outside of Ringo’s stellar drumming (the song’s best feature), it’s pretty forgettable. (A film short was made to accompany it, featuring Ringo and a man dressed as Frankenstein’s monster. If Ringo has any acting ability, he hides it well for three minutes.) “Blindman” is interesting as Ringo’s interpretation of the spaghetti western scores popularized by Ennio Morricone, fused with a country song. While it’s tempting to re-appraise Ringo’s work as better than it really was, I don’t believe he released a decent record until Ringo and have yet to see a film where I would refer to Ringo as an “actor” without wincing a bit.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Ringo Starr: Ringo (1973)

With a little help from his friends, Ringo delivered a pop album that put to rest questions of whether he would succeed as a solo artist. The self-titled Ringo spawned three Top 20 singles: “Photograph” (cowritten by George Harrison), “You’re Sixteen” (which included vocal backing from Harry Nilsson and Paul McCartney) and “Oh My My” (cowritten by Vini Poncia). Ringo doesn’t have a great voice, but his everyman charm is winning, deferential where John Lennon was egotistical, grounded where Harrison could seem celestial. Ringo’s records (like Lennon’s) always seemed to be loosely aggregated parties, with guests coming and going, some staying only briefly (Marc Bolan, John Lennon, Billy Preston, The Band) while others hang around long enough to help clean up afterwards (Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, Nicky Hopkins, Tom Scott). These are the same circle of friends who formed the extended Beatles family, supporting Lennon and Harrison throughout their solo careers as well, so it’s no surprise that Ringo feels like the work of John and George from this period (e.g., Walls & Bridges, Dark Horse), which is referred to as “boogaloo” (whatever that means). But where fans had set expectations for the other Beatles, it’s fair to say that anything Ringo added was pure gravy; after all, Sentimental Journey and Beaucoups of Blues hardly boded well for the future, though the singles “It Don’t Come Easy” (which was added to this disc for the 1991 reissue) and “Back Off Boogaloo” did show promise. Starting with the Lennon-penned “I’m The Greatest,” Ringo gets out of the gate quickly, reprising his role as Billy Shears in order to remind folks of whence he came (Lennon obviously perceived the importance of Ringo’s first serious commercial album). Material from George [“Sunshine Life For Me,” “You And Me (Babe)”] and the McCartneys (“Six O’Clock”) added to the album’s cachet, with Starr (a.k.a. Richard Starkey) ably filling in the holes on “Devil Woman,” “Step Lightly” and “Oh My My.” Although his next albums would follow the same formula, it was on Ringo that listeners became starr-struck all over again, and for most fans this remains his best solo album.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading