March Through Time: George Harrison

This month, I’m hitting pause on coverage of new artists and releases, focusing instead for a bit on the bodies of work from some of my favorite artists. — bk

The saying applied to The Who’s John Entwistle – about him being a very good songwriter in a group that already had a great one – is doubly true for George Harrison. At his best, his material rivaled the quality of Lennon’s and McCartney’s. And when the Beatles ended, he had a massive backlog of material. But his solo work is admittedly uneven. That said, I treasure it all. But here’s my perspective on each release.

  • Wonderwall Music (1968) – George’s solo debut, leading in turns a band of pals and a gaggle of Indian musicians. Interesting music designed for a quirky film, it has its moments.

  • Electronic Sound (1969) – A curio. An all-analog-synth experiment, there’s a real question as to Harrison’s involvement with this; Bernie Krause’s name is silvered out on the cover. Completists will want it, but will they play it more than once?

  • All Things Must Pass (1970) – A landmark, must-own record. Don’t be put off by Phil Spector’s mushy wall of sound; it works in this context. Every song is at least very good, and many are great. “Run of the Mill” is the sleeper classic. The third disc of jams is for the hardest of hardcores only, though.

  • Living in the Material World (1973) – The overlooked gem in George’s catalog. It’s filled with great songs (“Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long”), superb production and all manner of guest stars working to serve George’s songs.

  • Dark Horse (1974) – Cynics dubbed it “Dark Hoarse” because of George’s vocals, wrecked by a bout with hepatitis. The songs aren’t very good overall; the whole record is something of a downer.

  • Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975) – It’s as if George completely ran out of ideas but made an album anyway. “This Guitar” is self-parody but sti lla good song. “You” is the best among the rest, and it’s actually a leftover from the ATMP sessions (and sounds like it).

  • Thirty Three & 1/3 (1976) – Quirky and wonderful, George’s best since All Things Must Pass. His sense of humor shines through, especially on the weird-n-wonderful “Crackerbox Palace.”

  • George Harrison (1979) – George isn’t rocking too hard here, but the songs are lovely, and the production is superb.

  • Somewhere in England (1981) – The record company forced George to remake this album, claiming it was too uncommercial in its original state. I disagree; it’s a fine if modest record.

  • Gone Troppo (1982) – Sadly, this is as dreadful as its reputation suggests. George seems to be phoning it in, not taking things seriously at all. Best avoided.

  • Cloud Nine (1987) – In retrospect, this is sonically almost indistinguishable from the other Jeff Lynne projects of its era (Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Traveling Wilburys) but George’s songs rise above. A delight.

  • Brainwashed (2002) – George’s farewell. A sentimental pic, it gets love similar to Double Fantasy, for similar reasons. Not as great as fanatics would have you believe, but not an embarrassment, either.