The Vinyl Collection
Universal Music Canada
George Harrison…the quiet one, the spiritual one, the guitarist, The Beatles. I have always felt bad for John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and yes George Harrison because over the years The Beatles shadow has blocked out their brilliant solo careers. This was not always the case. This boxset tries to set the record straight. Sure, you know his hits (“My Sweet Lord”, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”, ‘“Got My Mind Set On You”), but Harrison was much much more.
At one time, George Harrison was one of the world’s biggest rock stars. He scored with rock’s first triple studio album All Things Must Pass, organized the first rock concert for charity The Concert For Bangladesh, and introduced the world to ‘world music’. He did this while scoring numerous hit singles and during the ‘70’s every album he issued made the top twenty, if not the top ten (three of which hit number one).
This boxset has been released to celebrate what would have been George’s 74th birthday and hopefully tune the world into some of the finest music ever released. There have been two previous CD box sets featuring George’s career divided by labels (The Apple years and the Dark Horse years, George’s own record label). But this box set consists of all 12 studio albums and the live album Live In Japan. Some of these albums have not be available on vinyl since the 1980’s, and let’s face it, this is how his music should and was intended to be heard.
The albums are faithful reproductions of the original albums, down to the specific labels. Also included are all the posters, inner sleeves, lyrics and everything that makes 12 inches of vinyl the beautiful thing it is. Also included in the set are two picture discs of 12 inch singles “Got My Mind Set On You” and “When We Was Fab”. Missing from the set are the two Traveling WIlbury albums, his two best of collections, and Early Takes: Volume One , not to mention rarities , such as B-sides (the wonderful “Miss O’Dell) and one A side, “Bangladesh”. But to be fair, this is a collection of his albums, not a definitive collection of his entire output.
The true beauty of this set is a chance to hear some astounding albums again and a chance for fans and music buffs to discover something new. Harrison was never one to shy away from risks (he was told he was crazy to release All Things Must Pass as a 3 disc set) and this is evident in his first two albums, Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound. Wonderwall Music (and yes this is where Oasis nicked the title for their single “Wonderwall”) is an instrumental soundtrack album where East truly meets West. The album features some of Harrison’s strongest melodies “Wonderwall to Be Here” and truly rocking songs. Clapton rocking out on “Ski-ing”. Electronic Sound is an avant garde album full of synthesizer sounds. No music, just effects, sound. Not for everyone, but a truly original album. Both albums released in the 60’s while he was still with The Beatles. By the 1970’s, Harrison had little to prove and set off on his career.
All Things Must Pass (1970) is now considered a classic, pure and simple. Comprised of songs that he wrote with The Beatles, but they did not release. The Beatles loss is George’s gain. The title track, “Run of The Mill”, and his first collaboration with Dylan “I’d Have You Anytime” and a whole album of jams (“Apple Jam”, sides five and six). The album is perfection. It would seem this would be hard to follow up, but Harrison did with the equally successful Living In The Material World (1973), which demonstrated Harrison’s sense of humour “Sue Me, Sue You Blues” and his quiet meditation, the heart breaking “That Is All”.
By 1974 Harrison seemed to be somewhat disillusioned with the whole ‘rock star’ thing. What is amazing is that the Dark Horse album was released 10 years after the Beatles debut in America, 10 years, most bands take this amount of time to record an album today! This is a darker George, marriage collapse, lawsuits, and this is reflected in the lyrics and music (“take the dawn of the day and give it pay to someone who can live the part” Harrison pleads in “So Sad”) Not a comfortable listen, but this album and 1975’s Extra Texture (Read All About It) are two of the most honest albums released in rock history. Both albums are self-reflective and at times more than a little depressing, but like Dylan’s Blood on The Tracks or Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band or Nirvana’s Nevermind, they are art and the honest portrayal of an artist. His voice may not be what fans expected (he was ill with hepatitis at the time of the recording), but my God the emotion is raw and powerful. “Grey Cloudy Lies” from Extra Texture (Read All About It)). For the record, it was not all doom and gloom, Extra Texture (Read All About It) features some fun songs and one of his most bopping hits, “You”.
Extra Texture (Read All About It) proved to be George’s final album for Apple. His debut for his own Dark Horse label, 33 and ⅓ (1976) stands up to All Things Must Pass and is perhaps one of the finest albums Harrison recorded and one that just cries out to be rediscovered. There is not one wasted second on this album. Mixing funk, rock, folk, spiritual hymns, a thrilling, fascinating album that gives you something new every time you spin it on the turntable. Harrison followed this up with 1978’s George Harrison, 1981’s Somewhere In England (another gem that does not get the attention it so deserves, check out “Unconsciousness Rules”, it could be released today, as it describes today’s music scene). Finally, his last albums for the ‘80s were polar opposites…1982’s Gone Troppo a lost gem that is one of the most unique albums of that decade and quite frankly, not very commercial. Whereas 1987’s Cloud Nine returned Harrison to the top of the charts, with three hits and a who’s who of rock players (Ringo, Elton John and co-produced with Jeff Lynne).
Harrison released one final live album in 1992, Live In Japan, documenting his tour of that year in Japan with Eric Clapton’s Band. This would be his last release of his life. 2002’s Brainwashed was assembled by his son Dhani, and released posthumously. Again, honest, painful and beautiful. Words cannot do justice this masterpiece. The title track itself is worth the price of admission alone.
It is impossible to condense this man’s career into one article. Books have been written, and they only scratch the surface. But this set allows to see an artist who not only grew but influenced generations. An artist who really needs to be held in high regard and celebrated.
Each album is also available separately, but this set allows the listener to begin to understand Harrison as a whole.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: GEORGE HARRISON – THE VINYL COLLECTION