With the release of the Martin Scorsese documentary, George Harrison: Living In The Material World debuting on HBO last month and the 10th anniversary of his passing coming up on November 29th, there has been renewed interest in the life and music of George Harrison.
While Scorsese’s film concentrates more on the spiritual aspects of George’s life, it is a bit lacking with many of the musical moments. Of course it pays a lot of attention to Harrison’s time with the Beatles, but as far as his solo career is concerned, the documentary doesn’t go far beyond his massive declaration of independence from the band, the commercial and critical smash, All Things Must Pass. The director also gives fair time to George’s coordinating and headlining of the first major musical all-star charity show, the Concert For Bangladesh.
But Harrison had a number of hit singles in the mid-70’s. His albums also continued to sell well even if they were met with somewhat mixed reviews. By 1977, he began to step away from the spotlight, focused on his personal life, got married and had a child.
Harrison reemerged in 1979 with George Harrison, a self-titled album that is arguably his strongest album since All Things Must Pass almost a decade earlier.
The first single released from the record, the top 20 hit “Blow Away”, is a breezy, highly-crafted, pop tune decorated with George’s melodic guitars sliding in harmony. It’s a great sampler for the rest of the album.
Co-produced with Russ Titelman, George Harrison has a laid-back vibe with lots of acoustic guitar playing and layered, lush vocals. There are also cameos from old friend Eric Clapton and Clapton’s former Blind Faith band mate, Steve Winwood. Other highlights include the opening track, “Love Comes To Everyone” (which Clapton would later cover), George’s paean to another passion, auto racing, with the majestic “Faster”, complete with engine’s revving up to start the song. There is a sequel to one of George’s most famous songs with the Beatles, “Here Comes The Sun”, the tranquil “Here Comes The Moon”. He also resurrects the White Album outtake (now available on The Beatles’ Anthology 3) “Not Guilty”. “Your Love Is Forever” includes a fantastic, trademark Harrison guitar solo and might be one of the best ballads in George’s solo career. There really isn’t a weak song in the bunch.
George’s understated (and sometimes underrated) guitar playing is on full display here, as is his gift for melody. If you ever wanted to explore George Harrison’s music beyond All Things Must Pass or a Greatest Hits package, George Harrison is a great next step further into his catalog.