Thursday, May 7, 2009

George Harrison's "Let It Roll": I Don't Believe In Beatles

There's finally going to be a (solo) career spanning collection of George Harrison's music. Many people have already commented on how Beatlesque "Let It Roll : The Songs of George Harrison" is. From the "White Album" - era artwork, to the inclusion of three live Beatles covers, it is a disservice to the legacy of Harrison's post-Beatles career to focus so much on the days when he was "Fab". George, possibly more than any of the other Fabs, wanted to escape the shadow of his former band. So why all the references to The Beatles ? It's not as insulting as the Capitol Records 1976 "Best Of" album, which featured only original Beatles versions of George's songs on side one. However, ten of the 19 tracks on the new CD are songs were originally written by 1970 (albeit one was a rare Bob Dylan cover recorded for 1985's "Porky's Revenge" soundtrack, and another was a 1987 cover of a 1962 song), plus two of his later hit songs are about his Beatles days. To add insult to injury, only two songs appear from George's six albums from 1974 to 1982 - and he didn't even release another album until 1987's "Cloud Nine".

The collection concentrates on his early solo triumphs - "All Things Must Pass" and "The Concert For Bangla Desh", then skips over popular hits like "Bangla Desh", "Dark Horse", "Ding Dong", "You", "This Song", "Crackerbox Palace", and "Love Comes To Everyone", only to focus on his last two studio albums "Cloud Nine" and the posthumous "Brainwashed". Just five tracks are not from the four "big" albums. There are so many problems with the choices that I don't know where to begin.

I'm trying to be realistic here. By concentrating on his most popular albums, plus including a few Beatles songs and a couple of pseudo-rarities ("Cheer Down" and "I Don't Want To Do It"), technically it's an appealing collection. But this is very shortsighted. By cannibalizing his four most popular albums, it could very well cut down on sales of George's hit albums (including money that I assume still goes to the people of Bangla Desh), while ignoring some half-forgotten solo material that could increase sales of the rest of his catalogue. The CD is subtitled "The Songs Of George Harrison", yet the first song is George's hit cover of Rudy Clark's "Got My Mind Set On You", one of two songs Harrison did not have a hand in writing. George's rare live Prince's Trust versions of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Here Comes The Sun" from the deleted "Superstars In Concert" CD, while inferior to the "Bangla Desh" versions, would have added value to this collection. The choice of the mid-tempo "Let It Roll" as a new "single" (again, an assumption) gives more focus to "All Things Must Pass", while a better choice could have been the more lively "Don't Let Me Wait Too Long" from 1973's "Living In The Material World", which I believe was considered as a single while that album was new, and would shine a light on a wonderful album that could use some attention.

My first reaction was that the bigwigs at Capitol Records- a label probably hurting more than most of the other majors - wanted to exploit Harrison's Beatles connection. But Harrison's family have the final word. Why would they agree to this ? Are they being bamboozled? Do Olivia and Dhani think this is the best way to sell George to the public ? Maybe they, too, are Beatles fans? Was it another rush job to get an album ready for George's new star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame? You'd think his family, of all people, would be champions of George's complete solo catalogue, not succumbing to the dictates of the material world.

There is a bright side, however. This is one George Harrison album I do not need to purchase.

Official track list:
1. Got My Mind Set On You
2. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)
3. The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
4. My Sweet Lord
5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Live-Concert For Bangla Desh)
6. All Things Must Pass
7. Any Road
8. This Is Love
9. All Those Years Ago
10. Marwa Blues
11. What Is Life
12. Rising Sun
13. When We Was Fab
14. Something (Live-Concert For Bangla Desh)
15. Blow Away
16. Cheer Down
17. Here Comes The Sun (Live-Concert For Bangla Desh)
18. I Don't Want To Do It
19. Isn't It A Pity

To see my original idea of a George Harrison collection, please go here:


Dr_Rudi said...

I don't think too many visitors here are going to disagree with your observations. For fans, who already have everything, there's "nothing" on this disc. And nor is it the disc we'd rip and burn for ourselves.

Also, EMI/Capitol can't run away from including the songs of Rudy Clark and Bob Dylan on a collection supposedly of the songs of George Harrison. Give me a break. Grrr. Inexcusable.

dwpbike said...

i'm listening to the album now. i had to google a bit to find a meaningful critique. i agree with you. i would add that this is just another gasp from the record companies. who hasn't heard a better mix of george than this album? i think george would approve.

Nik said...

Yeah, depressing. I've been waiting for some kind of great 2- or 3-CD collection of hits, album cuts and perhaps even rarities and such like we've seen for Lennon, but this is just cheap and lazy. I still think the "Dark Horse" collection from the late '80s is a better summation of his later solo work.

Michael Lantz said...

I would like to see George Harrison Demos,outtakes and rare live performances by George Harrison,during his solo career.I would also like to see an album with George Harrison as a guest musician on stuff,by Nicky Hopkins,Billy Preston,Don Nix,Cheech and Chong,Doris Troy and etc,by one of the greatest underrated guitar players in the history of Rock and Roll.

Flowerpower said...

I would at least double that list and include all the 80s singles (Cockamaimee Businees, Poor Little Girl, etc), plus Blow Away, etc. In short, something from every LP would need to be represented, including singles, all soundtracks, and some key live tunes (Here Comes The Sun with Paul Simon on SNL). Then there are the demos and outtakes! In short, a 4-CD set.