Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cd Review - George Harrison "Living In the Material World"

This is a killer album - possibly my second favorite Harrison release, though that's a toss-up with "Brainwashed." For whatever reason, "Material World" gets forgotten - probably mainly because it followed up the epic "All Things Must Pass" and how could it possibly have lived up to those expectations?

Well, maybe back in the early '70s, but all these decades later I think it's only fair to judge the album on it's own terms. The lyrics do get a little heavy on the religion - which may or may not be an issue for you. "The Lord Loves the One (That Loves the Lord)" is every single bit as heavy-handed as the title would suggest - but the music is great, so it doesn't especially bother me. George did all his own lead guitar playing on this album, as opposed to his last, and he is far and away in a different league than during his Beatle years (he was just beginning to reach his mature style in '69). Even more striking than the guitar playing is the passion singing George musters on "The Day the World Gets Round" - though obviously never possessing the range and power of Lennon or McCartney, on this track he is every bit their equal for expressiveness.

This isn't really a rock album - most of it is down-tempo and rather mellow. But not without exception: the title track chugs along at a good clip (the Indian-music-themed bridge, "In the spiritual sky..." is drop-dead gorgeous) and "Don't Let Me Wait Too Long" is one of the most commercial-sounding pop records George ever did. Speaking of pop singles, "Give Me Love" was a deserved number one hit single. Oh, and "Sue Me, Sue You Blues" cuts a surprisingly deep groove - GREAT slide playing from George on that one.

The only clunker for me is "Try Some, Buy Some" which I understand was originally recorded by Ronnie Spector and George re-used the same backing track. Something like that. I don't care about the backstory all that much, however, because it just isn't all that good a song.

Here's where things get a little complicated: whether to go for this deluxe boxed version or the single disc version. For the vast majority of people, I'd say hte single disc will more than suffice. Both of them have the same two bonus tracks - each previously released as b-sides, but making their CD debut. "Deep Blue" is is a good bluesy track, I believe it was an expression of grief following the passing of George's mother. The A-side was "Bangla Desh," so far only available on The Best of George Harrison. I was disappointed at it's exclusion, but I guess there must be other plans for it. The other B-side is "Miss O'Dell" which is a fantastic George song, perversely marred by hysterical laughter from none other than George himself. It's funny to hear initially, until A) you realize how good the song is and B) you watch the DVD.

The DVD is frustrating because it should be the main attraction; the most compelling reason to shell out beaucoup bucks for this deluxe version. The DVD is too short, but the problems go beyond even that. First up is a Live In Japan performance of "Give Me Love" - fine, that makes sense and it's nice to see (though the complete concert will hopefully be released someday, at which point this one song will be redundant). There are two bonus tracks on the DVD that play over slide-show images. These should have been bonus tracks on the CD, if you ask me. What I was getting at about "Miss O'Dell" earlier is that the song appears on the DVD as well, in an alternate take with no laughing! I really truly wish this version had also been featured on the CD. The second song is a demo of "Sue Me Sue You Blues" which is quite extraordinary - just George singing over his acoustic slide guitar playing - and is sounds like something off an old Mississippi Delta blues recording from the '20s! Okay, okay - I'm not a blues expert (I wish), so Mississippi Delta might not be the correct comparison. But my point is, this sounds a lot like an old vintage blues recording - and NOTHING like any George playing I've ever heard. It's awesome, and I really wish it had been on the CD (and I really, REALLY wish I could hear the rest of George's demos for this album!). Outside of that, there is a very unusual 'music video' of the album's title track that shows footage of the vinyl record albums being pressed and packaged.

So get this album if you like George Harrison and/or the Beatles, but be forewarned: this version is a bit too expensive considering what the extras are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

at least you're hip to george-peace