Thursday, July 10, 2008

HARRISONGS: THE BEST OF OHNOTHIMAGAIN!

A while ago, I read that a compilation of material from George Harrison's solo years was in the works. This is, of course, long overdue. There have so far been two "Best Of" collections: an embarrassing collection from his years at Apple/Capitol (side one devoted to his songs recorded with the Beatles), and a much better one, now out-of-print, covering his recordings from 1976 to 1989, while his Dark Horse label was distributed by WEA. As a bonus, this one included material not available elsewhere . Luckily, all of George's material is now under the EMI/Dark Horse umbrella, allowing for an easy-to-do career-spanning retrospective. His would be the last of the Fabs to have his label-jumping catalogue represented on one shiny, silver disk.

Since the beginning of this decade, George's catalogue has been slowly upgraded. The affair has been a classy one, and much needed, with improved sound, enhanced artwork, and additional music. This did much to improve the "quiet Beatle's" reputation. However, it has also been a rather stingy exercise, with many opportunities to satisfy a fan's hunger for unreleased material unsatisfied. Perhaps this material will be released in a rarities box set that was once referred to as "Portrait Of A Boot-Leg", a companion to "Portrait of Leg-End", which presumably became "Brainwashed". I hope to address Harrison's re-issue program in more detail in a future blog.

So I was wondering to myself: What would be a better way to pay tribute to George's legacy than by choosing and sequencing material from his solo years into an appealing listening experience for fans and neophytes alike ? This isn't rocket science, or at least it shouldn't be. The most interesting greatest hits albums are the collections compiled by the artists themselves. John Lennon's 1975 LP "Shaved Fish" is a good example. John said some of the master tapes were starting to disappear, and wanted to gather his singles on one album before it was too late. It included a handful of singles that did not appear on any of his albums at that time, making the record that much more appealing. But in many other cases, these sets are puzzling for fans -- with poor song choices, irrational sequencing, lame artwork -- no real thought about what it says about the artist--although it speaks volumes about a lack of respect for the artist's fan base. Yet since they are cheap to produce, and easy to generate revenue, record companies -- being short-sighted--continue pumping them out.

So, I made a preliminary list, trying to choose between one and three songs per album, with two singles per disk being the ideal. There were also "rare" tracks to consider, songs that still have not appeared on any of the recent re-issues. The first ones that came to mind were "I Don't Want To Do It" (a rare Dylan cover from, of all things, the soundtrack to "Porky's Revenge"), "Horse To The Water" (recorded just before his death in 2001), and the three rarities from "The Dark Horse Years" :"Poor Little Girl", "Cockamamie Business", and his collaboration with fellow Wilburian Tom Petty, "Cheer Down". I assume "I Don't Care Anymore" will appear on the re-issue of "Dark Horse". After making this list, I decided that I might include a couple of these, if there would be enough room. And, of course, NO BEATLES SONGS !

Finally, I wondered, what would be the order of the songs? Should it be chronological ? Random? Should it start with the most popular songs ? I decided that someone as spiritual as George should have something special, so my fantasy compilation would start with his first solo hit "My Sweet Lord" (skipping over his early solo efforts, "Wonderwall Music" and "Electronic Sounds"), following his career with his most accessible songs until we reach his last album, then journey backwards to 1970, ending with one of his most moving songs.

It seemed so . . . George.

So here's what I came up with:

1 My Sweet Lord 4:44
2 What Is Life? 4:28
3 Give Me Love 3:32
4 Dark Horse 3:50
5 You 3:30
6 Crackerbox Palace 3:57
7 Love Comes To Everyone 4:56
8 All Those Years Ago 3:45
9 Wake Up My Love 3:36
10 Got My Mind Set On You 3:42
11 Cheer Down 4:07
12 Any Road 3:52
13 Horse To The Water 5:00
14 When We Was Fab (12" Extended Mix) 3:57+ :15 ?
15 Teardrops 4:07
16 Blow Away 4:00
17 This Song 4:14
18 Ding Dong 3:39
19 Bangla Desh 3:59
20 All Things Must Pass 3:47

Unfortunately, by my calculations, it seems to be about one minute too long. What to do ? I like the way it is sequenced. If you are uploading this onto an iPod, of course, it would make no difference - it would all fit. Heck, ALL of George's albums would fit ! But I've given myself a challenge, and I need to figure out a solution. I like how the two "rare" songs flow, but I guess you could take out "Horse", and replace it with a much shorter song. "Teardrops", a relatively obscure gem, was a UK A-Side, but it was an edited version. Maybe if you used that instead, and use the regular version of "Fab", you could fit it all. Or you could take out "Teardrops" altogether, but that makes the disk kind of lopsided. Another option is: you could take out "All Things Must Pass", and make "Bangla Desh" the closing track, or make "What Is Life?" the closer, and end on a much more upbeat note. Or find a shorter, alternate version of "All Things Must Pass", like the impromptu one he did at VH1 studios in 1997 while appearing with Ravi Shankar.

Luckily, I don't have to decide. You could do it all yourself, and do it multiple ways. All I'm hoping for is that if Olivia and Dhani do release a compilation like this, it will do justice to his legacy, as well as to his fans.

7 comments:

Thrillington said...

I like your idea about how George's solo best of CD should look.

It's probably close to what we'll get.

However I do have an issue.

I think George's compilations suffer the same problem as Paul's: too many hit songs, and not enough of the good, or I should say, great songs.

Teardrops and Wake Up My Love are, at best, B level George. I'd quickly dispose of them. Hell, I could live my entire life without ever hearing Blow Away or Got My Mind Set On You again. So I'd cut them too.

I'd like to see the obvious huge hit songs sprinkled together with key album tracks that are criminally overlooked.

So, I'd get away from the chains of archiving hit singles and I would instead cull George's greatest songs from each album.

Or, I'd push for a two disc set like John's Working Class Hero collection.

Like Paul, some of George's singles just haven't stood the test of time and are not truly representative of his massive talent.

If the Harrison Estate is going to release another 'Best Of' collection, I'd hope they use the definition of 'Best' to mean quality, not sales.

Cheers,

Thrillington

PS I LOVE your blog!

Stavros said...

I agree with Thrillington a 2 disc set in the vein of 'Working Class Hero' or 'Wingspan' would give a bit more room to showpiece some of George's lesser known gems. At a decent price it might even shift a few more of his albums to 'new' fans. I always liked Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp, Beautiful Girl and Shanghai Surprise as oddities for example. Maybe you could throw the George vocal version of 'It Don't Come Easy' on there too.

Dr_Rudi said...

Hmm - too many singles for my liking. The market does need something like this tho (a 1 or 2 disc 'best of' for those with no intention of buying the catalogue).

I haven't given this too much thought, but how about this track line up ?:

Wah Wah
Awaiting On You All
I Dig Love
Living In The Material World
Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long
Maya Love
It Is He (Jai Sri Krsna)
Tired of Midnight Blue
Woman Don’t You Cry For Me
Learning How To Love You
Your Love Is Forever
Save The World
Wake Up My Love
Blood From A Clone
Wreck of the Hesperus
Breath Away From Heaven
Any Road
P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)
Marwa Blues
Horse To the Water (the remixed version)
Brainwashed


I don't think we should shy away from George's big themes (God and Love) and a bias towards the more 'up-tempo' songs would be wise for the market. No covers (or co-writes I think).

Chris said...

I think making it a two-disc set would go a long way toward demonstrating the depth of George's catalog for newcomers. Strictly chronological, and throwing in a couple of Wilburys tracks -- because that was clearly George's focus during that period and I think leaving them out leaves a hole in his artistic development.

Chris said...

P.S.: Following along the lines of dr_rudi's comment, it would be fun to see a disc entirely of George's spiritually themed songs.

Bob K said...

Very nice - I did the same thing a while back with McCartney and your blog prompted me to post the results on my blog this morning.

rogovoy said...

I want it to include his Cole Porter cover, "True Love," from 33.3