Monday, 3 August 2015

The Rolling Stones "no 2" (1965)

The Rolling Stones "No 2" (1964)

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love/Down-Home Girl/You Can't Catch Me/Time Is On My Side/What A Shame/Grown-Up Wrong//Down The Road Apiece/Under The Boardwalk/I Can't Be Satisfied/Pain In My Heart/Off The Hook/Suzie Q

"This is  the Alan's Album Archives, new review within. You really don't need to cast deep in your pocket to read our groovy and fancy words. If you don't have the bread, don't knock that blind man on the head and steal his loot, give him some peace and understanding and all of your spare change because music is so much more important than merely money and you're getting this for free/dirt cheap anyway (well, cheaper than a Rolling Stones t-shirt costs these days anyway - have you seen the price of some of that merchandise?) And even if we rather put in the boot to this LP at times, that's still another album story told"

I'm Alan's Album Archives mascot Max The Singing The Dog and I'm so pleased to be here tonight because I just want to tell you all about having an album to love. No not that this one - that would be silly when there are so many other great Rolling Stones albums to choose from - but everybody needs somebody to love, love, love, music that will stay with you through all the times, music that can lift you up and bring you right down, music that gets you in the groove, makes you wanna move, makes you wanna swagger, makes you wanna singalong and pretend you're Mick Jagger, and I believe every man and woman and every dog should listen to this here music y'all and it will save the whole wide world! Yes everybody....

The Rolling Stones second album is by far the most ignored of the band's 1960s canon. At least records like 'Satanic Majesties' get (unfairly in our view) mocked and dismissed for being 'weird' - the Stones' sequel doesn't even get that short shrift. On the one hand it's not hard to see why: the formula is much like the first album (lots of outside African-American songs 'whitened' for a new younger audience and with a swinging backbeat) but not quite as good, with The Stones choosing material that's both less suitable to their own arrangements and that are a lot more 'obvious' than the comparatively rarer grooves from the first LP. As early as the second album The Stones seem in danger of 'selling out' and already sound dog-tired at times after years of endless touring. The first real crop of Jagger-Richards songs are also a long way from the glory days to come, with the pair choosing to imitate drippy Western ballads rather than the rock and R and B that turns them on and sets their spirits free - The Stones have never sounded drippier than they do on the worst of this album and never have they sounded less like the band they will become with their natural air of cool that even drug busts, murders and band deaths can't displace. However while 'no 2' is undoubtedly an inconsistent album, it's highs are still about as high as any other band around in 1964 and a handful of the performances are actually better than the debut, with The Stones so much more self-assured in the studio. Like many a sequel, you do spend half your time wishing the band had tried something else instead of a lesser replicate of the first album - but equally this record deserves more respect than the 'least interesting Stones record' tag with which it usually gets branded.

This is worth looking into in a bit more detail because this is, you see, a softer Stones concoction than usual even though it isn't if you see what I mean, as if the band haven't quite realised just what a monster they've unleashed with their earlier recordings and are content to play it 'safe' - a word that won't be associated with the Stones again for at least another decade. The simultaneously most interesting and disappointing aspect of the record is the branching out away from the band's R and B roots into the Motown covers lesser contemporaries covered as a 'safer' option to the likes of Muddy Waters and Arthur Alexander and that much closer to the European ideal of 'pop'. The Stones are hilariously mis-cast for this role and Jagger - who usually sounds good singing any style when given half the chance - sounds hopeless trying to act the role of Otis Redding on 'Pain In My Heart' (the fellow AAA soul giant's debut single, which he sings like it's the most important thing in the world and which Jagger drawls somewhere between a music hall turn and a bored housewife reading aloud her shopping list) and The Drifters' 'Under The Boardwalk', which turns a song of mystery and romance into the musical equivalent of a painting by numbers set - everything is replicated as close as the band can get to the originals but along the way they've lost the 'feel' somehow. Even this record's regular 'Chuck Berry' slot is the weakest of the bunch, with 'You Can't Catch Me' rattled off with all the enthusiasm of a band enjoying a dentists' appointment, not celebrating the fact that they can do what they were born to do. Throw in a couple of dippy originals (the mock-depression 'What A Shame' that doesn't even have the decency to sound, you know, depressed and 'Off The Hook' which must be the most 60s pop song ever about a girl not answering Jagger's calls) and you can see why fans re-acted to this album not so much with horror (as greeted the debut, before it turned to secret delight) but feigned indifference. You can almost hear R and B purist Brian Jones' teeth gnashing from here as The Stones move ever further and further away from the raw and dangerous beginnings.

However when the band return to the formula of the first album - African-American R and B cover songs that add a rockier drum pattern and a whole load more energy that the originals never had - they actually manage a higher strike than they did on 'Rolling Stones'. The opening 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' by the late, great Solomon Burke is extraordinary for many reasons: the lengthy five minute running time (John Lennon, asked his comments on the album, said The Beatles would never dare bore their audience with a song this long - a comment that will come back to bite him in a few short years!);  Jagger's extraordinary vocal delivery which is relentless but in a good way, prodding and poking the listener into being swept up in his energy; the audacity of a band that takes a sound that alien to middle-class white pop fans largely from Europe still (gospel churches and spirituals) and makes it sound that good and yet still that close to the 'real' thing. It's all one hell of a lot more convincing than 'All You Need Is Love', coming with much the same message three years early. 'Down The Road Apiece', featuring the late, great Stone founder Ian Stewart on some great bluesy piano, is one of the band's most unfairly overlooked cover songs with one of the greatest Charlie Watts-Keith Richards interactions of the band's half century together. The slower, bluesier 'Down Home Girl' by Jerry Leiber (without Mike Stoller for once and with Arthur Butler instead) is less immediate than either and yet may well be the best thing on the album with Jagger purring his way through one of the Stones' sexiest cover songs as he tells a down-trodden girl she's perfect all the same (this song also includes the album's single greatest line: 'Every time I kiss you, girl, you taste like pork 'n' beans!') No other band would ever think of recording material like this, more less make the most of such unlikely styles - the trouble with 'no 2' isn't that the band have lost the plot entirely but that they just aren't comfortable enough with their own 'natural' sound for a whole LP.

While the Stones were losing their confidence, their manager Andrew Loog Oldham had never felt more positive. This is arguably the moment where the Rolling Stones stood out from the pack of R and B wannabes and became the 'band to fear' - not because of the music (which if anything is less revolutionary song-by-song than what The Animals were doing in this time) but because of the publicity they got for this record. All those 'would you let your daughter go with a Rolling Stone?' headlines start in earnest here, helped along by Oldham blowing up a minor incident in a garage (where, when Bill Wyman was refused entry to the bathroom open to the public but not 'long haired weirdoes' the band decided to all go on the garage forecourt - amazingly the Stones got the fine in court despite having a case for 'discrimination'!), a horrific appearance on a Dean Martin TV Show (where the past-it crooner laughed at the band's haircuts and even claimed that their parents must have considered suicide when they were born - the Katie Hopkins of his generation?), a growing sense of excitement and danger than often led to rioting at shows (something that happened to most 60s bands, even the ones with a more 'gentlemanly' reputation like The Hollies and Moody Blues). 

The difference with Oldham - a half or even a whole generation younger than most of the other managers of the day - was that he didn't pay money to bury incidents like these in the national press; on the contrary he paid money to promote it. While it's 'wrong' to say The Stones were 'manipulated' by the creation of this image (they both knew and approved of most of what Oldham was up to) the Stones image of them as demented unstoppable rebels in league with the devil starts here and it starts principally because of the manager not the band. Oldham's position within the band will take a bit of a knock at this point, however, mainly because of the unspeakably wicked album sleeve notes he wrote to go with the American version of this album ('The Rolling Stones Now!' The record has seven of the same tracks but swaps a few for UK outtake 'Surprise Surprise', the song 'Mona' left over from the American debut album, a preview of 'Oh Baby' from next album 'Out Of Our Heads' and recent singles 'Heart of Stone' and 'Little Red Rooster'. It's even more of a rollercoaster ride in quality terms than this LP!) The original text of the back cover - parodied in our opening lines - actually consisted of the words 'See that blind man? Knock him on the head, steal his wallet and low and behold you have the loot - if you put the boot in then good, another one sold!' Equating the Stones with 50s hoodlums out to destroy everyone (rather than tough R and B rebels who do things their way) seems deeply uncomfortable and 'wrong' even today, establishing an image the Stones would never quite shake off. The wording was even raised in the House of Lords by peer Tom Dreiburg, who further labelled the band 'complete morons who always wear filthy clothes' (actually the Stones cared greatly for their appearance - Brian Jones spent hours washing his hair!) To be fair Oldham probably thought he was being 'intellectual', paraphrasing sarcastically from the Anthony Burgess novel and film 'A Clockwork Orange' (which is all spoken in similar 'hip' speak and first glorifies and then attacks the source of violence within humanity) - but try explaining that to a group of irate parents of teenyboppers who have pictures of Brian on their wall because he looks 'cute'. Oldham's gradual separation from the band seems to begin right here.

However if Oldham is the album's biggest villain then he's also the record's biggest hero. He was the one who heard worth in the early Jagger-Richards partnership when goodness knows no one else did and encouraged the pair to write and record their material come what may. Strange as it may seem now, the re-action of most fans at the time to the band's own material was 'oh no - this sounds like Peter and Gordon, where did the R and B go?' not 'wow these boys are songwriting geniuses!' (something that won't change until they come up trumps with 'The Last Time' later in the year, ironically given the title the start of their break-through moment as writers). Jagger and Richards were amenable, mainly because of the extra money they made, but were still deeply reluctant writers - Oldham had to physically shut them in a room to make them write, only unlocking the door when they came up with something good. Sometimes the pair didn't find anything, stuttering their way into becoming songwriters in contrast to Lennon and McCartney (who started writing when they were no bigger than their guitars). Sometimes they came up with dross as per this album - the sound of a band spending too much time looking over at its shoulders at what's a-selling, instead of the passion inside their head that's a yelling. 'Off The Hook' is a terribly dumb song, even in an era famous for its high quota of dumb songs ('Maybe she's sleeping? Maybe she's ill? Her phone's disconnected - unpaid bill?') and 'What A Shame' isn't a lot better, the pair of wannabe writers all too obviously looking around for a formula to steal and not even borrowing a 'good' one ('Hey, uhh, Keith, what shall we, like, write about?' 'Hey man, I'm just like the umm, ah, guitar player around here - just make up some like wacky stuff about making a chick upset or something, right?') Only 'Grown Up Wrong' shows promise and even that's in a 'well, it was 1964 when everyone wrote like this!' way rather than being a long lost classic. However Oldham kept prodding, allowing the Stones the luxury of releasing their songs no matter how bad and encouraging them to write through the rubbish while they slowly found their own voice. Who listening to these two songs would have guessed that 'Satisfaction' was just a year away?

That sums up the album as a whole, really. Though rather underwhelming as an album in its own right, 'no 2' is something of a necessary stepping stone towards greater things, cementing the strong work the band had already done, while proving to them what they shouldn't under any circumstances ever do again. Even the album cover is a rip-off of the debut, the band now in a semi-circle instead of a line and copying the same revolutionary idea of not having the band name or title printed anywhere except the spine (note though how short the band's haircuts still are in this period - though The Stones invariably got the flack for it other band's hairdos were longer - and how smartly dressed everyone seems to be!) What's odd it that The Stones didn't simply ape their predecessor further as the album had become a very high seller (it was the only non-Beatles album of the 'British Invasion' records to hit #1 in the UK across 1964 - this album also made #1 so people can't have disliked or been indifferent to it all that much at the time) and the sea of R and B songs to roll a stone sound over was virtually endless (the band could have released a record of twelve songs twice a year every year till now and they'd still be mining undiscovered gems that record buyers deserved to hear). The Stones clearly had a passion for this music and an ability to pass that passion on to their audience - so why not use that more instead of going for the sort of contemporary covers every band was doing (and often doing better?) Perhaps the answer is how 'rushed' this record was (though no more rushed than other record of the period) with the band taking the easy way out during exhausting tours that separated the band from both their beloved record collections and their home studios ('no 2' was recorded in London, Hollywood and Chicago, with the latter recordings sounding the best). Back in the days before downloads, CDs, mp3s, ebay and when ordering something from a catalogue took weeks not hours, chances are the Stones just decided to learn their arrangements from the records at hand on their US tour - most of which, naturally, happened to be charting songs. How much better might this record have been, then, if it had all been recorded 'back home' with as much time given over to arranging as recording?

Ultimately it's another of those AAA albums that got away. The better stuff is great, full of the power, energy and crackle of the early Stones at their best. While the material and means of singing it isn't quite up there with the best of the debut, the overall 'sound' of the record very much is. Bill Wyman's bass will never sound quite as big or as intrinsic to the band sound again. Keith's finally worked out how to do the Chuck Berry riff 'his' way instead of just copying the records in everything he does. Brian's adding texture and colour, often in Keith's shadow for now but as usual the musical moments you take away from this record are all his - the swanky slide on 'Down Home Girl', the gulping stinging lead on 'What A Shame',  and the deep fuzz part on 'Pain In My Heart' among them. Jagger's swagger comes and goes but at its best is sultry and seductive and thrillingly daring and his harmonica puffing is thankfully all over this record, one of the best places to hear one of the best practitioners of one of rock and roll's most colourful and evocative instruments. Just imagine being sixteen and owning a song as 'adult' and 'sinful' as 'Down Home Girl' without quite understanding what it means yet knowing your parents do only too well ('Every time you move like that I gotta go to Sunday mass!') As for Charlie, he's particularly good here tonight inne? There's just about enough worth here to keep the Rolling Stones ship safely afloat so they can ride out another marking-time album in 'Out Of Our Heads' before the band find their way again with their own material and to suggest that 'no 2' ought to be a lot more loved than it currently is. However, at the same time, this record remains a disappointment compared to not only what the band had done before and will go on to do but also to the changing musical world around them, which sounds very different to this record already (for instance, the countrified confessional 'Beatles For Sale' beat it to the shops by a few weeks, with the more varied 'Kink Kontroversy' following soon after). Time was, it seems, not on the album's side after all - but half a century on the record remains an under-rated period piece, more interesting and entertaining than it perhaps sounded at the time.

'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' is perhaps the  bravest moment on the record. Hardly anybody was breaking the three-minute barrier back in 1964 (some radio stations refused to play The Animals' 'House Of The Rising Sun' because it lasted for - shock horror - 4:29) so this epic five minute version is perhaps the single most inventive thing the Stones will do until writing 'The Last Time'. What's more, this isn't a song big on variety anyway, it's a sped up chugging blues with the same hypnotic riff played throughout, hopping about from one foot to the other in sheer excitement. However this song is never boring - Mick is on such great form that he really nails the part of a Westernised gospel preacher so overtaken with the impact of love in his life that he wants to tell everyone else about it. While there aren't many words to this song considering its length (it's a track very much based around repetition) Mick makes the most out of all of them with one of his all-time greatest performances as he drives on a backing choir of Keith and Brian onto embracing love. While many 50s legends looked down on the Stones and co covering their records (famously Bo Diddley told The Animals they were 'the biggest rubbish I ever heard in my life!' while others like Chuck Berry said they enjoyed the money it brought them more than the music!) Solomon Burke was an early Stones supporter - he knew how out of line with most 50s records this song was and indeed for all his success in his own career few artists ever covered Burke's material across the 1960s and praised Jagger for his portrayal. 'Somebody To Love' was then a brand new untested song too - Burke's version beating the Stones' into the shops by weeks, not a decade as per most of their cover songs. It's a shame, then, that The Stones never recorded any of his other songs as they clearly had a 'feel' for the material. Recorded in Hollywood at the start of the album sessions, it's an explosive start to the recording sessions, though some fans at the time admitting to being underwhelmed by the lengthy way this song is stretched out; however compared to the eleven minute ramble that will be 'Goin' Home' in 1966 this song is compact and keeps up the interest well. Beware, though, that the American copy of this song (released as part of 'Rolling Stones Now!') includes a shortened three minute version of the song which while not losing anything specifically important loses much of the tracks' overall bombast and build.

Leiber and Butler's 'Down Home Girl' is the album's other highlight, a slow and sultry blues song not unlike 'Little Red Rooster' though played in a much louder, aggressive manner. Jagger's vocal is delicious, sly and sultry as he goes from blues holler to crooning to pop in the space of a few bars. The Alvin Robinson original is pure blues, sung with irony and despair as the poverty-stricken narrator finds love in his equally poverty-stricken girlfriend, not caring if he smells like turnips and tastes like pork and beans because he probably does too a bit. His 'monkeychild' nickname for her sounds more affectionate than rude. Jagger's vocals turn this song into sarcasm, as he leers at his girl for being poor and effectively sounding as if he's being kind by loving her despite her down-trodden ways (the band will return to this theme on their original song 'Backstreet Girl' on 'Between The Buttons', the 'I love you girl but I'm not going to make any effort to keep you and you'll do as you're told' formula). As for the 'monkeychild' insult Mick just sneers his way through the line, as if putting the girl firmly in her place. Jagger's passion is still in evidence though, especially from his echo-drenched harmonica puffing which is terrific across the song, pointing towards the real feelings of love he will never express himnself. He's ably backed by an interesting backing track that features Ian 'Stu' Stewart back temporarily as the band's piano player who sounds great, a sombre Bill Wyman part that adds plenty of murk and depth and an interesting early example of Keith and Brian's weaving style, as Richards' slashing style prodes and pokes Jones for a response which comes in the form of an occasional 'Bom! Bom! Bom!' riff. All in all this is one of the Stones' better cover versions, re-working an original that was already pretty good into something entirely new.

You'd have thought The Stones could have made it three gems in a row by tackling their beloved Chuck Berry, but despite being on safer territory the band don't seem anything as like about their abilities tackling a song by a songwriter they loved so much,. Compared to the blistering cover of 'Carol' on the debut and the infectious 'Talkin' Bout You' from a recent EP, this version just has no life about it, slower than Berry's fast-talking jive original without enough of a sense of world-weary weight with which the band are clearly aiming for. This is, after all, a song that's effectively about freedom - the narrator takes off in his new car he nicknames 'Mabelline' with his girlfriend where their only worry is running out of gas. However by Berry's standards there's something slightly troubled about this song, which spends far longer than normal trapped in the 'minor key' verse before the happy release of the chorus and the title alone suggests being chased by something (even though it turns out to be a Beach Boys style declaration to 'shut down' any other driver who thinks he can match the narrator for speed). Keith does a good impression of his hero on guitar, but it's the sort of 'copy' that comes from hours of listening to the record and trying to get the 'feel' right rather than a copy of the 'essence' of the song. Once again The Stones prove to be the juniors to the Berry master and are further away from 'getting' this song than ever before.

'Time Is On My Side' is something of a breakthrough cover and generally lauded as the best moment on the album. However I wouldn't quite go that far - while The Stones were again brave in their choice of song (A ballad! The Stones?!) their sloppy performance shows why they hadn't been brave enough to try this sort of thing before. The song was first performed by trombonist Kai Winding as a jazz B-side, though Irma Thomas had the first hit with the song and the song's composer is our old AAA friend Jerry Ragavoy who'll go on to become particularly close to Janis Joplin, under his early writing pseudonym 'Norman Meader' (wrongly credited on the original album as 'Norman and Meade'). Cleverly the song stretches out the word 'ti-i-i-i-ime' so that it sounds like the longest word ever, as  Jagger plays one of his more uncharacteristic roles as a patient boyfriend ready to wait until his girlfriend is ready to do what he wants (the original version hints at 'marriage; the bark in Mick's voice suggests he's thinking more about 'sex'). Jagger sounds corny on the spoken word middle eight and rather out of tune on the chorus, messing up the start of Keith's guitar solo as he screams 'go ahead, uh.....yeah go ahead!' when he realises he's gone wrong. The rest of the band sound deeply flat-footed too, the slowness of the tempo and the lack of sheer oomph showing up the cracks in their playing which their usual speed and aggression covers up. The result is a song that only a fan could love, though many of them do with this song requested at many a band show in the future and a track with one of the longest runs in the Stones' live set of them all. Poor as it is, there is a certain charm about the sloppy intimacy of the track, which is actually a re-recording of an even sloppier version recorded much earlier (May 1964 in London, as opposed to the album cut recorded in November in Chicago) with a much more prominent organ part from 'Stu'.

Stones original 'What A Shame' features some great slide guitar and a classic Charlie Watts thumped drum part (simple yet not simple, in a way that only Watts could manage, as if he's a player you know is capable of so much more yet 'chooses' to play things basically because that's the best way). The song goes downhill quickly when the vocals come in though, with Mick having an off day on a lyric that even on a good one he'd struggle to perform: 'What a shame! Nothing seems to be going right!' The lyric goes on to discuss suicide with the dark line 'You might wake in the morning and find your poor self dead!', although the way Mick sings the line it's easy to miss and sounds more like he's having a lovely time. Jagger and Richards were clearly aiming at  writing their own blues song and the track could have worked slowed down a la 'Little Red Rooster'. They've made the mistake of speeding the track up with a rock feel, however, because that's what they always 'do', without the benefit of the knowing wink to the audience who know the original and can see what they've done to it. Jagger sounds slightly mad as he sings to a fast-paced backing which forces a smile onto his face how 'nothing seems to be going right' and that the thought of losing his girl 'scares me so I could sleep in the shelter all night!' (a rare World War reference there - Londoners growing up in the 50s like the Stones did often had their bomb shelters intact at the bottom of their gardens, although they were probably at more risk there than inside a brick building). Not until Steps sing The Bee Gees 'Tragedy' with pearly white teeth while a track sound this 'wrong' in terms of performance mood. The tune is a bit basic too, a quick stepping riff that Keith seems to be having an awful lot of trouble with considering he wrote it. However Mick's harmonica instrumental is pure class, the interaction between Stu and the others is spot-on and Charlie finally has lots of space that needs filling and fills it the best way he can.

'Grown Up Wrong' is the pair's second original on the album, given a 'sneak preview' in America on the '12 x 5' LP exclusive to the States. It's not a song so much as a curious slide guitar riff and a chorus that comes and goes at random across the verse. The lyrics to this one are better at least - this is the start of a run of Stones songs that put down girls but this one has more reasons to complain than most: the girl has 'grown up mean' and has 'grown up too fast', demanding that the narrator take more responsibility than he wants. An off key Jones slide part, some bluesy Mick harmonica and a clunky Charlie Watts thud-thud-thud-KA-BLOOM! drum part are all fine in their individual ways, but together they make for rather an unholy racket and sound like the narrator running away and tripping over his own feet. It appears that the band have tried to be too clever for their own good, aping the blues style of irregular time signatures without quite understanding how to do this in a rock environment (which depends on a regular beat much more than blues does) - the resulting bars of 4/4, 4/4, 4/4, 7/8 doesn't end up sounding clever so much as that your record player keeps skipping a groove by accident. I'd get out of there quick if I were you Mick...

Side two starts in explosive style with an old 1940s Don Raye song that would have been well known to the parents of teenage Stones fans (and reflecting more than any other Stones cover the music they'd have been listening to in their teenage years) that's been revved up with a Chuck Berry-style riff and solo and a very sixties rhythm track into something completely new (Berry himself covered the song in an arrangement very similar to this one, which is presumably where the band learnt it). Though Keith messes up the final twirl of his guitar solo, it's one of his best till then, driving and exciting as if hurling itself at the sides of the track trying to break free and party! Mick 'introduces' the band in a 'Sultans Of Swing' style verse where the band have different names (Charlie Watts for instance is now 'Charlie McCoy', 'that rubber-legged boy') and Jagger offers to sing some 'boogie' though he clearly meant to say 'rock and roll', sounding as if he's having the greatest fun of his life. Meanwhile Stu has gone slightly mad  with a noisy decorative piano part more like the sort session musician Nicky Hopkins will play on later Stones records and there is no Brian Jones to be heard, the band now effectively a power-quartet-with-singer. The band were probably interested in this song because of the similarities to 'Route 66', the similar song from their first album which was particularly well received - however this song is arguably better, played with a bigger sense of wild abandon that keeps up the energy levels right to the end. It's another album highlight and one of the band's better covers from their early years. Berry even paid the band a rare compliment when he turned up to a session to watch the band record an earlier take of this song: 'Wow you guys are sure getting it on!' They sure are Chuck, they sure are.

Many fans also rate 'Under The Boardwalk' highly, a Drifters song with Mick doing his best soul/Motown impression. However to my ears it's horrid, easily the worst mistake on the album as a sneering Mick tackles a song that should be performed with love and care and which just sounds 'wrong' Stonesified into a new sound it should never have had. Most Stones covers can get away with the changes in sound, partly because of the subject matter and partly from the sheer force of the band's performances, but the ballads have to be performed 'straight' to fill the 'holes' and this band don't sound as if they've forgotten how to do that. The song starts with Bill Wyman not quite getting the 'gaps' between the notes of his solo opening wrong and goes downhill from there, with some false percussion, backing vocals and one of the sloppiest drum performances from Charlie in history. The backing vocals are particularly poor, sounding more like an extract from a horror film than from a romantic movie as they're meant to. Jagger starts off trying to sound authentic but gets bored quickly and - after reaching for a falsetto in the chorus that's hard to find - simply starts sending the song up. Only Brian sounds at home here, with an angry insistent guitar part that manages to be in keeping both with the original and the Stones' style, although it's Keith who gets the solo on an acoustic guitar that sounds out of place. Though The Stones sounding entirely at home rattling down Route 66 in an old jalopy, they sound less comfortable in America's city landscapes and billboards, ultimately sounding as out of place and unauthentic as the boardwalk billboards the song takes place beneath. Recorded the same day as 'Little Red Rooster', it's proof that the Stones didn't always understand their 'sound' and how to apply it and that they come up with as many 'misses' as 'hits'. The song has been surprisingly popular with fans down the years, even making #1 in Australia when released as a single where this re-recording quickly outsold the vastly superior original.

Presumably Muddy Waters fan Brian chose his hero's song 'I Can't Be Satisfied' to cover and he's by far the best thing about the Stones' version. His slide guitar is incredible, one of his best performances on any Stones record, purring and pawing at the song depending on the mood and adding a nice haze of built-up desperation and anxiety over the course of the song. Mick sounds oddly under the weather however, singing under-statedly rather than with his usual bark and he sounds like he doesn't really 'get' this song either. It is perhaps the most authentic blues song the Stones ever covered (as well as the first of their small handful by the blues singer whose song title gave the band their name) and in it you can hear both the strengths and weaknesses of the Stones' sound: it's more memorable than the slower original and the rock backbone makes the song sit up and 'live' rather than feel sorry for itself as per most blues originals. However the blues sung at a fast tempo naturally sounds happy and for once Mick doesn't go the full way and make this song 'angry' - instead he sounds detached, with no emotion at all. This is after all a lyric that contains such lines as 'Well I feel like snapping a pistol in your face!' and 'Going to let some graveyard be your resting place!' The band should  be performing it with some passion, even if the strongest emotion in the original is admittedly a world-weariness hard to come across on a rock recording.

Mick Jagger is clearly a rock legend, with a voice able to convey any emotion in a rock setting. Compared to his soul heroes, however, he's just a young skinny middle class early-twenties white kid who doesn't know the full dramas of life and love yet in this period. Just compare 'Pain In My Heart' to Otis Redding's cover from earlier in 1964 (a mere ten months old when this version was taped in November that year): Otis doesn't sing this song he lives it, turning on a coin from hope to anguish to anger and sounding like's having his 19th nervous breakdown singing it. Mick is singing the same lyric but conveys far less emotion, even throwing a 'woah-ho-ho-ho' on the fadeout which is just wrong wrong wrong: this isn't mere pop, it's a matter of life or death and it's odd that as big a music collector as Mick didn't instinctively understand that and either sing the song with a lot more gusto or leave it to another singer to do. That said he's not alone - compared to Booker T and the MGs the Stones don't 'get' this song either, plodding where they should soar. The only really inventive part comes from a wonderfully inventive Bill Wyman part that works in tangent to everything else, bringing a dark shadow across the rest of the musicians. Note, though, that while the album credits Otis for writing the song, that's actually 'wrong' - it was penned by Allen Toussaint under his pseudonym Naomi Neville and had been around a while before Otis sang it (chances are Decca asked the Stones for the label credit and they went 'uh, we don't know - Otis is a writer so it must be him, just put that down!') Interestingly the song sounded much better live, staying in the band's set lists through to the end of the 1965 and grew better with every performance judging by the bootlegs, with the band perhaps 'understanding' the intensity at the 'heart' of this song at last.

'Off The Hook' is one of those silly songs no band could get away with past 1965. Arguably it sounded a bit suspect even at the time of this record's release, a daft song about the narrator not being able to get through to his girlfriend. Nowadays we'd say the girlfriend 'had no signal' as her excuse for not answering the narrator's calls, but what we the listener can tell and which he can't is that he's been dumped - she isn't sleeping, she's not ill and she probably has paid her bill, she's just less keen on Mick than he thinks she is. How odd that the 'Glimmer Twins', even this early on in their writing partnerships, should write a song where the girl gets the upper-hand, something that will rarely ever happen to the Stones again. Mick playing a dim-witted narrator who doesn't get that the joke is on him is so out of character that you wonder where on earth it came from - did the pair intend to give this song away to someone else before doing it themselves? As poppy as the Stones ever get, it's all competently played and has a bit of a catchy riff going on at the heart of it all but seems very out of place even on what's arguably the Stones' most pop-driven album. Released as the B-side of 'Little Red Rooster' (and recorded the same day, along with 'Boardwalk') it sounded even more out of place somehow.

'Susie Q' was perhaps the record's most obscure song, a small hit in 1957 for Dale Hawkins. The most rock and roll thing on the record, it's perhaps the best performance on the record as Mick sound bigger and badder than ever singing in front of a hand-clapping band who are all playing at top speed and at their loudest with a classic Keith Richards guitar solo that could strip paint. The narrator is in love with his 'Suzie Q', adored the way she walks and talks and hopes she'll never leave him - it seems an unlikely name (though Suzie Quatro proved it's not altogether unfeasible) but it's the welcome starting point for a whole series of fun rhymes based on her initial. However There's one thing that stops this song from being a classic - it's too flipping short! Even by 1964 standards the running time of 1:50 is laughable and with only three clipped verses this song could have stretched out for oh so much more - a few guitar solos alone would have done!) There's no change in tempo or tone either, which suggest the song could have been a nice bookend to 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love', stretched out for minute after minute as the lustful riff goes round and round. It's still a good cover of a great song, though and ends the album's rather patchy second side on a strong note.

Overall, then, 'Rolling Stones no 2' has several problems. When the Stones mess things up they mess them up royally - this band have no excuse for singing soul songs without passion, Motown without joy, original pop songs without - well - anything going on that I can see and covering older blues and R and B songs as if they're reading a telephone directory. But that is of course compared to the excitement that we know this band can bring to material that suits them best: the Chuck Berry style 'roots' R and B, the slow and funky blues given a whole new suit of clothes to wear and the gospel songs that sound good the way the Stones do them. 'No 2' is one of the most rollercoaster rides in terms of quality across the entire AAA series, winning a marathon by a thousand laps compared to the competition of 1964 some tracks and then tripping over it's big hairy feet out of the starting blocks at other times. The fragmented recording sessions, interrupted by tours, must have played a factor in the creation of this album while all that bitterness in the media surely played it's part as well - the Stones know now they'll get a career out of this sort of thing but back in 1964 when everybody hated them and they couldn't get through a gig without a riot breaking out it must have been very wearing defending who you were and what you stood for so many times over all day everyday. No wonder that at times the band sound like they'd rather be anywhere than in a recording studio and at times hearing the band struggle through such unsuitable material so badly you'll feel the same. The worst of this record really doesn't sound worth bothering to listen to for free, never mind being worth assaulting a blind beggar for as the sleevenotes as you to do. However there's too much material here to just dismiss this album out of hand and for half the record at least (side one basically, minus a couple of tracks added from side two) are on fine form, having found what they were born to do and doing it superbly.

Other Stones-related articles from this site you might be interested in reading:

'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' (1974)

'Some Girls' (1978)

'Emotional Rescue' (1980)

'Undercover' (1983)

'Steel Wheels' (1989)

'Bridges To Babylon' (1998)

Rolling Stones: Unreleased Recordings

George Harrison: Live Records/Compilations/Spin-Offs/The Occasional Wilbury

'Unknown Delight - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of George Harrison' is available to buy now by clicking here!

"Electronic Sounds"

(Zapple, May 1969)

Under The Mersey Wall/No Time Or Space

"Bleep! Squee! Bleep! Whistle! Bleep! *Random Sound Effect impossible To Put Into Words*"

The Beatles had lots of weird ideas for Apple, the business they put together in 1968: as well as records and films there was a boutique and even plans for a nursery and schools (to be run by Lennon's school-friend and qualified teacher Pete Shotton) that sadly came to naught: just imagine all those fab Yellow Submarine lunchboxes everyone would have had in a Beatles-themes canteen! You'd have thought that the fab four could have stayed out of trouble in the music division of their label but even here they had a few wild and woolly ideas that EMI would never have let even a band as big as The Beatles get away with. The band agreed early on to create 'Zapple', an Apple subsidiary dedicated to releasing avant garde music which was set up with great glee at the end of 1968 - only for new manager Allen Klein to sweep it under the carpet with the big broom he used to turn the Beatles' money-losing folly into a bona fide business, ending many a long-term Beatles business relationship in the process. Actually losing Zapple was just about the only good move Klein made as it was probably a self-indulgence too far and released a grand total of two records before it was unceremoniously closed in mid-1969. Inevitably Lennon was the first Beatle to use the label with the release of the second and best of his 'unfinished music' series with Yoko Ono 'Lie With The Lyons' (a harrowing combination of a squeal-filled Yoko jazz gig, John randomly turning a radio on and off for five whole minutes and a loop of his mis-carried baby son's heartbeat).

Less inevitably Harrison was second, seemingly the last Beatle who would have had anything to do with such a self-indulgence. Retaining the cynicism that Lennon had always had about such things before meeting Yoko, for better or for worse it had been George who'd raised the biggest eyebrows and muttered the most sarcastic comments about John's antics at the end of the Beatle days. And yet here he was, just a few months after Lennon, playing around with similarly un-commercial and frankly even less listenable musical pursuits on the aptly named 'Electronic Sounds'. However the album makes more sense when you realise what George was trying to do. While George always laughed at reports that called him the most 'musically aware' of The Beatles, it was nevertheless true that he was the most interested in instruments for their own sake. Beatles albums would have been far less rich in the spectrum of sounds had it not been for George's interest in most famously the sitar and tablas but also the moog synthesiser released at the end of the 1960s and heard - for the third time ever - on 'Strawberry Fields Forever' (The Monkees and Moody Blues, however, weren't far behind). Proud of his new toy, George was keen to see just how much it could do and taped himself 'playing around' with it for two sessions a few minutes either side of twenty minutes. The result of what it could do - not much by today's standards - has caused more than one fan to scratch their heads over this LP, which has none of the like-it-or-else progressive aggressiveness of the similar avant garde JohnandYoko LPs or Paul's desire to add conventional styles on top of the music (see 'McCartney II', a far more interesting and revealing album than it's ever given credit for).

However George is too much of a professional to simply 'throw away' this album the way that John and Yoko had done. For his album cover he chooses to keep things properly home-made and makes his own painting - the only one he'll ever do for one of his albums - featuring a cute little blob-headed man with a big grin on his face, dwarfed by the huge synthesiser complete with endless buttons to press. 'How I could I resist?' the cover seems to be saying, whilst having the typical Harrison knee-jerk humour about both getting carried away with what he may now be thinking as a self-indulgence not fit for other people's ears and the typical Harrison motif of man being rather small and humble in the great scheme of things (although rather than God or nature, this is the only time it happens because of a man-made object). It's interesting too that, unlike Lennon who gave the most basic even curt names to his avant garde 'songs', George goes the extra mile by being creative even here: the second piece is given a pleasing poetic name fully in keeping with the space-age sounds and the first piece is a jokey nod to the past and the 'Over The Mersey Wall' about local characters in the news  which appeared most weeks in the Liverpool Echo, funnily enough written by a reporter also named George Harrison and who often got sent on Beatle-reports round the world with them, mainly because of his shared name (the use of the word 'wall' may have been on his mind after making 'Wonderwall').  Note too that the front cover doesn't claim that this album is 'played' by George Harrison, merely 'produced by', as if George is aware that the real creative artists here is the creator of the synth. There's also a fun defensive joke o the back sleeve with a quote attributed to the made-up Arthur Wax and possibly a dig at the similarly structured McCartney quote on Lennon's 'Two Virgins' album about him 'being : 'There are a lot of people around making a lot of noise; here's some more!' Sadly though Apple paid less attention, at least in America, where the two recordings were unaccountably switched round by mistake even though the track names on the cover were kept the same (so for nearly half a century many Americans have come to know these tracks by the wrong names!)

 Unfortunately bad blood seems to have coloured this album for George: in a sign of things to come in the troubled years to come he was sued over 'No Time Or Space' by synthesiser expert Bernie Klause, who claimed the bleepings on side two were really his and taped inadvertently whilst demonstrating the wonders of the machine to George. The suit came to nothing - how can you prove who plays one lot of unmusical bleeps against another, especially as this was a recording made at home at Friar Park without 'session logs' rolling? - but its interesting that Bernie should have tried to take credit for the less musical side two compared to the more melodious side one. Oh and if it was a demonstration then how come it took twenty-five minutes of other-worldly blobs to sell the product to a millionaire Beatle who was clearly sold the minute the machine was delivered to his house? Interestingly a co-credit 'assistance by Bernie Krause' can be seen faintly to the right of George's name but seems to have been painted over at some stage in the album's production - did the pair have a falling out?

So is the most obscure of all of George's album and his second and last while still a Beatle of interest to fans? No, not really - unless you're a practitioner of late 1960s moog technology, need some Beatles-related music for a self made horror film (though good luck getting Apple to clear the rights!) or want to own the funky album cover. Perhaps a self-indulgence too far and certainly far less worthy of George's name and time than his superb first album 'Wonderwall'.

"The Concert For Bangladesh"

(Apple, Recorded August 1971, Released December 1971)

Introduction/Bangla Dhun (Ravi Shankar)//Wah-Wah/My Sweet Lord/Awaiting On You All/That's The Way God Planned It (Billy Preston)//It Don't Come Easy (Ringo Starr)/Beware Of Darkness/Band Introduction/While My Guitar Gently Weeps//Jumpin' Jack Flash-Youngblood (Leon Russell)/Here Comes The Sun//A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan)/It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry (Bob Dylan)/Blowin' In The Wind (Bob Dylan)/Mr Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan)/Just Like A Woman (Bob Dylan)//Something/Bangla Desh

"Won't you lend your hand and understand? Relieve the people of Bangla Desh?"

Forget Live Aid, Forget Live Earth, don't even mention Farm Aid - it's the Concert For BanglaDesh that's the world's most important charity gig for a whole number of reasons. For a start it was the first time ever that big musician names had got together to raise money for a worthy cause rather than take a salary. Secondly it was the first time that Bob Dylan had been seen in public since a 'motorbike accident' in 1969 that was really just a good excuse to keep out of the limelight (Dylan never did turn up to rehearsals and was unsure about going on up to the last minute - a handwritten setlists that's survived from the first gig simply reads 'Dylan ?' at the second half of the show). Thirdly, and most crucial at the time, it was the first time ever that more than one Beatle had been seen in public, with Ringo eagerly accepting George's call as the Beatle flicked through his address book of contacts to make the gig happen (he even swallowed his pride enough to ask John and Paul - the former reportedly declined when it was made clear that Yoko would not be allowed to appear and the latter said no guiltily after much thought due to the fact that Paul and George were currently in court over the Allen Klein business affair and Paul didn't want to be 'steamrollered' by the other Beatles into giving way). Still, we got a serious-looking full-bearded George breaking some 18 months of public silence and belatedly promoting his best LP, with Ringo and some of the early 1970s' biggest names gathered together on stage together - what's not to love?

The concert had been the brainchild not of George but of Ravi Shankar, who'd been devastated to read about the 'Bangladesh Liberation War' that had left millions of refugees homeless and facing starvation. As an Indian born and bred, Ravi was appalled not just at the Western world's reluctance to help but the fact that most people round the world had never even heard of the troubled or the lengthy wars that had been running there for decades. Knowing that few people would turn up to a Ravi Shankar charity gig on his own he turned to George for help. Harrison was still reluctant to appear on stage - it had been five years since The Beatles appeared at Candlestick park and he'd been the least supportive of The Beatles' attempts to make a live comeback with 'Get Back/Let It Be'. But Ravi came armed with as much information as he could gather and it didn't take long before George was sagely nodding and agreeing that something had to be done. Ravi had merely been after a George solo concert, but wary of getting back on stage alone and figuring that calling in some friends would make an even bigger splash with the papers, George called as many people as he could - which is why you only see George's friends on stage. It's a measure of how much love and respect they had for George that so many said yes: Ringo, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Klaus Voormann, Badfinger (who George had just abandoned to make 'All Things Must Pass' remember) and even future fellow Traveling Wilbury Bob Dylan all dropped everything to come and be a part of the event - much to George's surprise it seems (as a side note did he ever ask Doris Troy or Jackie Lomax, two Apple artists George had just produced for Apple who are conspicuous by their absence - oh and why don't Badfinger, a bigger name than say Leon Russell in 1971, get a song of their own to sing?) Their biggest McCartney-written song 'Come and Get It' would have been sadly prescient). The song 'Bangla Desh' was also composed more or less on the spot  to help the gig along and become its 'focal point' (and sounds like  it too - odd that someone who should go to such lengths should include the line 'though I couldn't feel his pain' for Ravi, whilst having gone to such a superhuman effort to bring this gig together). 

Hearing the gig on record  - released as a full triple-vinyl set in a handsome and understandably pricey box - is by turns as woeful as such a hastily thrown together gig would naturally sound (Ringo forgets the words to his own 'It Don't Come Easy', George forgets his to 'Awaiting On You All', whilst Dylan is just...Dylan, as impenetrable as always and the rhythms tend to speed up and slow down throughout the gig) and full of spots of the magic that everyone luckily enough to get tickets to the two shows in Madison Square Gardens insists was there. George struggles to overcome his natural shyness at first, but overcomes it far more successfully than he ever will during his only other tours in 1974 and 1989, hiding behind his friends, the occasion and his beard. The show has many mistakes but also many highlights like a passionate 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps (with Eric playing lead just as he did on 'The White Album' original) and a sensitive 'Beware Of Darkness' drip with added poignancy and longing. With only one 'proper' solo album under his belt George spends far more time on his Beatles songbook than many fans expected (including the first time ever that a crowd would have heard 'Guitar' 'Here Comes The Sun' and 'Something' played live and years before a still Beatle-weary McCartney got the chance to sing 'Yesterday' in front of people - a big deal at the time) although he also has extra space to give some unexpected songs from 'All Things' a workout: 'Wah-Wah' 'Beware of Darkness' and 'Awaiting On You All' as well as the inevitable 'My Sweet Lord' (sadly there's no 'Isn't It A Pity?', which would have been perfect for the occasion), all highly welcome and sounding all the better for being performed live, rough edges and all, in comparison to the sheer epic-ness of Phil Spector's album production. However George's spotlight is stolen wholesale by many of his friends - Dylan is on astonishing form, with several songs his fans would never have heard him play live before, with George and Ringo and co all desperately trying to keep up as he throws out one song in one key after another (they just about get to the end of the set ok, but its a close run thing!) However both giants are overshadowed by a sterling performance of Billy Preston, whose cheery 'That's The Way God Planned It' overcomes the cynicism in the lyrics to become a crowd-cheering song about humanity's ability to change their fate, moving Billy to the point he quits singing and gets up from his piano stool to start dancing, a delightful moment that's proof of just how much emotion there really was on that stage.

Alas things didn't quite work out the way George and Billy and everyone else on stage had planned it. While the concerts were well received and greeted with rapturous applause most of the press was confused more than supportive, with several columns on the lines of 'why don't these millionaires just out their hands in their pockets instead of asking us to pay?' and 'why is it any business of ours what happens on the other side of the world anyway?' Worse was to come when George pushed to get the well-recorded gig (perhaps Phil Spector's finest hour, 'All Things' not withstanding) out into the shops. Though The Beatles owned Apple, EMI still had a say and amazingly to modern ears it was this album they truly baulked at - not 'Life With The Lyons' or John and Yoko's 'Wedding Album' or even 'Electronic Sounds' but this record. A triple record cost too much and no one would buy it, they argued. The glossy booklet was a waste - who wants to see pictures of dying children, it'll kill off sales they added. George also found himself locked into a battle over what money would go to his chosen charity of UNICEF: first Allen Klein fought him on song royalties and the money coming into Apple, then the Inland Revenue fought him over whether this really was a 'charitable product' and demanded their usual high rate of tax. What had once been born of love and made out of speed to get help out to Bangla Desh as soon as possible was quickly becoming an obstacle that just wouldn't move - a weary George made a rare appearance on Dick Cavett's talk show in America, booked in order to promote the album, admitting that the album wasn't out as quickly as he hoped and might never be, ending with a dark look at the camera and a message to the boss of EMI 'sue me, Bhaskar!' (because everyone else has!) Thankfully sense prevailed - $250,000 was raised for Bangla Desh refugees directly from the concerts and an extra $12 million was eventually raised through sales of the album and the concert film. However the event always held a question mark over it for George, not least when rumours began to fly that political shenanigans meant that UNICEF were unable to pass all the money over or send it where it was needed most. Other reports still claim that a sizeable proportion of the funds (wer don't know how much) went straight to Allen Klein's pockets - which might be why the film footage of this show was so hard to get hold of right up until his death (when it magically appeared, almost overnight, on DVD). A sad end to a worthy try - and yet the legacy of the Bangla Desh concerts didn't stop when the music did. Charity gigs, something so new in 1971, became the norm after this and if it wasn't for the pitfalls George fell into and happily warned others like Bob Geldof against then we might not have had Live Aid, Band Aid or all the many thousands of charity releases we have in our times. 'George  may not have got everything right, but even if his wallet was in the wrong place his heart was in the right one and Bangla Desh still did a lot of good for the refugees, not just by money but by allowing others to hear of their plight and shaming others into joining in the fight against poverty (with many politicians speaking up about the incident after George and Ravi first made it headline news). Similarly the concert may not always be as great as it's cracked up to be and in truth George himself probably gave better concerts during his much-maligned solo tour of 1974, but it's more than good enough, a brave idea taken off with a lot of love by a lot of very talented people which more than makes up for the mistakes both on-stage and off. Oh and a nice bit of trivia for you: this was the only time one of The Beatles was on-stage when someone covered a Rolling Stones track, although sadly its Leon Russell who does 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' not George (and no, Lennon at the Rolling Stones Circus doesn't count as that was a Beatles one!)

 "The Best Of George Harrison"

(Parlophone/Capitol, November 1976)

Something/If I Needed Someone/Here Comes The Sun/Taxman/Think For Yourself/For You, Blue/While My Guitar Gently Weeps//My Sweet Lord/Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)/You/Bangla Desh/Dark Horse/What Is Life?

"I've got a word or two to say about the things that you do...I left you far behind, the ruins of the life that you have in mind...And you've had time to rectify all the things that you should!"

Of all the tricks that EMI played on The Beatles, this was about the worst. Having access to both George's Beatles songs and his pre-1976 material cut for Apple, they cobbled together not a true best-of featuring loved album tracks and hard-to-find songs but a mishmash of George's Beatles work and solo singles, oblivious of how well received or how well they'd sold. To put that in context George had been one of the best sellers of the 1970s, thanks to 1970 alone, and would easily have sold a full 'greatest hits' set based on extracts from his first four solo albums plus standalone singles, especially had they had the nerve to add the better tracks from the increasingly rare 'Wonderwall Music' and extracts from 'Electronic Sounds' into the pot as well. George wasn't consulted about the song choice, the packaging was bland and out of date (with a 1968-era picture of George on the front cover) and the whole thing smacked of even more desperation than EMI's series of Beatles compilations themed after 'ballads' 'love songs' 'rock songs' and those taken from 'film soundtracks'. After all, while George's stock was falling compared to John and Paul's, they hadn't even done this to Ringo, whose EMI-made compilation 'Blast From Your Past' from the same era is surprisingly good (and along with the solo-Beatles-made 'Ringo' on which George worked hardest and the under-rated 'Stop and Smell The Roses' provides the only song of Ringo's any Beatles fan would ever really need).

W don't even get the 'right' songs here. No Beatles fan in their right mind would possibly claim that 'For You Blue' and 'Think For Yourself' were better songs than the majestic 'Long Long Long' or the powerful 'Love You To' or even the sweet and innocent pair of songs from 'Help!', although given the seemingly random way this set was put together I'm simply pleased that the gormless 'Piggies' isn't here. As for the solo songs, fan favourites 'All Things Must Pass' 'Isn't It A Pity?' 'Wah-Wah' and 'Beware Of Darkness' were all passed over in favour of 'You', the unloved we-need-a-single-in-a-hurry-George flop from 'Extra Texture'. Even as a 'singles' collection this set fails, missing out on the new year's single 'Ding Dong Ding Dong' from 1974 and the bland 'This Guitar Can't Keep From Crying' from 1975 (the former of which actually outperformed both 'Dark Horse' and 'You' on first release). And why not appeal to collectors by featuring the hard-to-find B-sides (while perhaps only 'Deep Blue' is worth the re-issue I'd rather hear flipping 'Miss O'Dell' and 'I Don't Care Anymore' than the irritating 'You' again!) A talent of George's stature deserved better, however low his stock had fallen by 1976 - even though there were just four studio albums to choose from at this time and many of Harrison's biggest hits still to come in the 1980s, one of them was a triple record for heaven's sake - there's easily a better 40 minute compilation amongst them than this! Sadly George seems rather cursed by compilations though - to date he's only ever had three and all of them are flawed, though at least the other two were made with more love and care than this. The best of George Harrison? More like the worst! Shameful!

The Traveling Wilburys "Volume One"

(Wilbury Records/Warner Brothers, Oct0ber 1988)

Handle With Care/Dirty World/Rattled/Last Night/Not Alone Anymore//Congratulations/ Heading For The Light/Margarita/Tweeter And The Monkey Man/End Of The Line

"Reputation's changeable, situation's tolerable - but baby you're adorable!"

Of all the four Beatles George seemed the most relieved to be out on his own and away from the stigma of being in a 'band'. While Paul had Wings, John had the variable Plastic Ono Band and Ringo had his All-Starrs, George seemed content to stand on his own two feet, surrounded by a vast of friends who usually ended up playing on all his albums anyway. However, he still missed the camaraderie of a lifetime's musical experiences shared (though rightfully painted as the less rose-tinted member of The Beatles during the 'Anthology' interviews, a lot of affection for people in general if not Beatle-people in particular still shins through George's words, most notably in the early years) and his regular crowd of musicians were slowly dying or drifting off. The Traveling Wilburys was the perfect solution - a group of friends who had careers of their own already and weren't going to 'leech' off George's talents who had also been round the block enough to know that there was more to life than making music (fun for one thing!) and George delighted in the anonymity the band gave him, eagerly creating new monikers for the band (he's credited as Nelson Wilbury for this album). George tried hard to make the band a democracy and to some extent it worked - all five members (Dylan, Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and himself) all got to try out lead vocals on each song oblivious of who wrote it (and no individual credits were given on the sleeve either to keep the guessing game going!) and the band all voted on who thought were best. However, with Dylan in another creative slump and George currently 'favoured Beatle of the decade' the main calls inevitably fell to him and it speaks volumes that it was George who brought the band together.

The story goes that Warner Brothers felt that the first two singles from 'Cloud Nine' had sold well enough to warrant an unexpected third and asked George for a new B-side. With nothing left in the vaults (or so he thought - see all sorts of compilations in this book to come...George and producer Jeff Lynne decided to write a song on the spot and named it 'Handle Me With Care' after the label seen on a box in George's garage (Groeg, who had only recently appeared on The Simpsons, may have been thinking about the Beatles-inspired episode he cameod in 'Homer's Barbershop Quartet' where the 'Be-Sharps' have to write a song in a hurry and see the sign on a car 'Baby's On Board', which becomes the name of their first 'hit'! David Crosby's in the episode too by the way, making it a must-see for all AAA readers!)  Wanting to hear a particular sound, George remembered that he'd leant a guitar to his pal Bob Dylan and went over to get it, intending to ask him to the sessions. Dylan happened to have a house guest that day, Tom Petty, and he got roped into the session too. Recording the song in a hurry George submitted it to Warner Brothers and expected to hear nothing more about it. Instead they flipped, telling George that he had something too good to be thrown away on a B-side and noting the cast of characters sent in as 'session musicians' asked George to consider making more songs with them (In the end album track 'Breath Away From Heaven' was used instead and the single flopped anyway!)

The band had never been intended as  long-term thing, which is why in the end they only made two albums, but the quartet took things seriously enough to realise that with four voices in varying stages of fading they needed a full-time singer and quickly settled on Roy Orbison, a mutual friend of most of them who was eager to join in. I've always been intrigued by tales of who else might have been in the band - other names banded about include Byrd Roger McGuinn (apparently genuinely considered as Roy's replacement for the next record), Billy Preston and even Ringo, though the band wanted to stick to guitarists. The sessions for the album were a lot of fun and after years of struggling to write solo albums that had been pulling teeth for George came together amazingly quickly and easily. The DVD that came with the re-issue of both albums in 2010 features a great deal of home video material (some of it shot by George and Olivia) of the first writing sessions and demos and the band are as at ease with each other as you'd imagine, with even Tom Petty (the member who had less friends in the band than the others) free of nerves and even Bob Dylan eagerly throwing ideas into the mix. If one of the band was stuck for a rhyme they'd merely ask the others at a big writing session, going through several ideas (and getting too many good ideas to waste sometimes, which is what happened with the lengthy fadeout to 'Dirty World').
Officially there were no individually written songs and to this day there are no official writing credits. However it seems fair to say that each of the band got two songs each and while the band started off auditioning vocalists generally speaking each member sang the songs they'd started before the writing sessions. George gets to sing lead on 'Handle Me With care' naturally enough, a sweet and catchy song that's either simple or profound depending on how deeply you want to read it and the much more fascinating 'Heading For The Light'. Though mired by a horrid Lyne production of squealing saxophones, heavy-handed drumming and 1980s synths, it's arguably the best and deepest song on the album, a better take on writing about religion in modern metaphors than anything on 'Cloud Nine' and returning to the 'am I worthy?' dilemma of 'Gone Troppo'. George admits to being 'close to the edge hanging by my fingernails' and finding himself sitting amongst the 'roses and thorns', wondering which he really is (another song about duality that'll really come into its own on 'Brainwashed'). However, in keeping with the happy mood of the occasion, the song is treated as a spiritual song of acceptance, the narrator not so much wondering if he'll ever make the light as heading for it all the same despite his doubts. Elsewhere Roy gets to croon along to the typical big ballad 'You're Not Alone Anymore', Dylan addresses his demons in 'Tweeter and the Monkeyman' whilst airing his sarcastic side on 'Congratulations' (with the world's worst singing backed by the world's best choir!), Jeff Lynne returns to his rock and roll roots with 'Last Night', Tom Petty throws in a curveball with 'Marguerita' and the band write 'Dirty World' and 'End Of The Line' pretty much by committee.

How much you like this record will depend on how much you want to take from it. Given the names being banded about before the sessions many fans admitted to being disappointed at first, with the songs predominantly light and frivolous and returning to a retro 1950s sound rather than their current styles or anything new. Only 'Heading For The Light' and at a push 'You're Not Alone Anymore' and 'Monkeyman' even try to pretend to be anything other than silly songs, with the record in danger of turning into a collection of B-sides. Many called this first volume the album that got away - the equivalent of getting Michaelangelo, Rapheal, Da Vinci and Turner (the only one who wasn't a mutant ninja teenage turtle) to come together to paint...someone's kitchen ceiling! However there's another vocal group of fans, who've grown in number down the years, who consider this the best album George made after 'All Things Must pass', oblivious of how little he appears to be on it. George sounds at his happiest and most contented at last and it's fun to hear him letting off steam surrounded by friends rather than having the weight of his world on his shoulders. While I'd have much preferred another 'All Things Must pass' and would have settled for a 'George Harrison' or 'Somewhere In England' this album is the next best thing and has certainly aged better than the surprisingly popular monstrosity of 'Cloud Nine'.  'The best you can do is forgive' runs almost the last lyric on the album - good advice, as this album may not be as great a must-have as some of its fans will have it but it solved several problems at once (following up a major album quickly when George was all ready to hibernate again) and extended George's creative live by another few years, giving him and his friends fun at the same time. A 'filler' record, then, but a worthy one. After all, what other album gives you the chance to hear Roy, one of the greatest vocals of the past fifty years, trying not to giggle on the line 'love your trembling Wilrbury'?!

"The Best Of The Dark Horse Years 1976-1989"

(Dark Horse/Warner Brothers, October 1989)

Poor Little Girl/Blow Away/That's The Way It Goes/Cockamamie Business/Wake Up My Love/Life Itself/Got My Mind Set On You//Crackerbox Palace/Cloud Nine/Here Comes The Moon/Gone Troppo/When We Was Fab/Love Comes To Everyone/All Those Years Ago/Cheer Down

"The microscopes magnified the tears, studied warts and all, still the life flowed on and on, long time ago when we was fab"

Believe it or not the best of the three George Harrison best-ofs on the market is the one that was forced to cover just his lesser-known era between 1976 and 1987. 'The Best Of The Dark Horse Years' is, like 'The Best Of George Harrison', seemingly picked at random with several major songs missing (''My Dark Sweet Lady' 'You Are The One' 'Dream Away' and 'Just For Today' to name just a few) and doesn't even include a full quota of singles (with 'Faster' and 'Teardrops' both missing). However being released in the CD era means that there are more tracks to play around with, George's input means that he's added a few of his better songs that the whizzkids at the record company would no doubt have missed (including the two triumphs of 'Gone Troppo' - 'Wake Up My Love' and 'That's The Way It Goes') and with this compilation spanning five comparatively lesser known albums (apart from 'Cloud Nine') there's more reason for fans to want to own this than its predecessor. Fans were particularly drawn to this set by the presence of three rarities, though none come close to the best things on the set: 'Cheer Down', a Jeff Lynne Wilburys-style co-write bizarrely given away to the soundtrack of the shoot-em-up film 'Lethal Weapon Two' where it sounded hideously out of place, the Tom Petty co-written B-side 'Poor Little Girl', which is annoyingly bright and cheerful and typically empty B-side material and the solo 'Cockamamie Business', a 'Cloud Nine' outtake that features George's cynical side to the fore, sounding like 'Blood From A Clone' without the wit. However more could have been added: the four songs left over from the first 'Somewhere In England' for instance would have fitted here nicely, never mind all the extra-curricular material included on the movie soundtracks of various Handmade films like 'Shanghai Surprise' and 'Water'. Still, nestled away amongst such gems as 'Here Comes The Moon' 'Blow Away' 'Life Itself' and 'Crackerbox Palace'  (all first-class choices to go alongside the hits) even these sound more palatable than when you hear them alone. sadly this album is long out of print and one of George's rarest albums at the time of writing, the compilers of 'The Dark Horse Years' missing a trick by not including these songs somewhere on that lavish set. The packaging could be better (George looks more like Prince thanks to the blue-tonged album sleeve, but there's more to cheer up for than cheer down.

 The Traveling Wilburys "Volume Three"

(Wilbury Records/Warner Brothers, October 1990)

She's My Baby/Inside Out/If You Belonged To Me/The Devil's Been Busy/Seven Deadly Sins// Poor House/Where Were You Last Night?/Cool Dry Place/New Blue Moon/You Took My Breath Away/Wilbury Twist

"Better not forget it on your shopping list - everybody's doing it, it's the wilbury twist!"

Like many good jokes, The Traveling Wilburys experiment sounds less funny the second time around (and yes this is the second time around despite being titled 'Volume Three' - you haven't fallen asleep and missed a record - it's just that a bootleg recording full of demos from the first album leaked on bootleg named 'Volume Two' and George was tickled enough to insist on this record being named 'Volume Three' in 'homage'!) There are several reasons for this: the loss of Roy Orbison who died suddenly of a heart attack in December 1988 at the age of just 52 hit the band hard, robbing them of one fifth of their band and taking a lot of the free-wheeling laughter along with him. The band talked about replacing him (with Dylan and Harrison pal Roger McGuinn of The Byrds coming closest, as we've seen) but the band decided to stay as a quartet instead (Roy's given a sad signing off with the promo for 'End Of The Line' filmed the month after he died and featuring an empty rocking chair where Roy's verse should be - it's a typically subtle and moving reference for a band that just weren't built to handle tough times like this). The second reason is that George, especially, sounds distracted - while he sings a few odd verses here and the lines between who wrote and sang what get even more blurred, without any distinctive Harrison songs - just Harrison moments attached to what's mainly an album by Dylan and Petty. As a result the last studio album released in George's own lifetime barely features him at all and sounds awfully lopsided. Worse yet, the band ruin the 'theme' of the last album by appearing on the cover - and not in silhouette either but with a 'proper' group shot, albeit tinted sepia and placed off centre (though thankfully the band still keep their witty nom de plumes for this record: this time around George is 'Spike Wilbury'). 'Volume Three' was considered dead in the water before it even arrived in shops and sold a mere fraction of what the first album had done. Although the band talked often about getting back together again, one or other of the band always seemed to have some project on the boil and George's death in 2001 effectively put an end to the group for good (the closest reunion being 'The Concert For George' where Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty reunite in their old friend's honour, Dylan being conspicuous by his absence).

The official verdict then is that this for a long time rarest of modern Harrison releases wasn't worth forking out the hundreds of pounds it cost at one stage. It's certainly less funny and enjoyable than the first album, with a solemn mood that even the daft dance song at the end of the album can't shake off, without any of those serious moments being quite as excellent as 'Heading For The Light' or even 'Tweeter and the Monkey Man'. However this record is far from an unmitigated disaster with little nuggets of gold sprinkled across most of the songs, even if none of the songs themselves are up to the first album. Noisy opener 'She's My Baby' straight away blows apart the one negative point raised about the first album - that it didn't rock - with a stormingly angry guitar part from Petty and neat 50s retro backing vocals that are great fun. 'Inside Out' is about the best song on the album, with Dylan almost singing in tune on a song about how different the world feels when something major happens (like Roy's death) with a sweet lyrical nod of the head to 'Twist and Shout' and lashings of Harrison slide guitar. 'The Devil's Been Busy' is the track that sounds 'most' like a Harrison song, complete with 'sitar-style guitar and lyrics that recall 'The Devil's Radio' although not quite as good, with Petty, Lynne and Harrison all sharing out the vocals. 'Poor House' is a fun return to skiffle between Petty and Lynne with George finger-picking in style. George and Jeff sound good together on the rather basic 'Where Were You Last Night?' Petty's solo 'Cool Dry Place', sounding as if it was very much modelled on the similar instructions on 'Handle Me With Care', is a fair sequel and about the funniest song on the album. Lynne's 'You Took My Breath Away' sounds like ELO with George Harrison on guitar - and a better fit than that sentence makes it sound. Finally, the quick-stepping 'Wilbury Twist's Monty Python style lyrics  ('Put your teeth in the glass!') suggests George had a hand in there somewhere and really rocks, thanks mainly to **Jim Gordon's fierce drumming. Only the unlistenable 'Seven Deadly Sins' (I take it back what I said about 'Congratulations' - this is Dylan's worst vocal!) and the oddly unexciting trot through 50s pastiches on 'Blue Moon' (George's worst vocal? Ironically Dylan sounds pretty good on this one and steals the song with his 'wa-ha woo-hoo-you's) are really as bad as this record's reputation suggests. After all, the Wilburys had to try for a second album or they'd have been nagged into doing another one for the rest of their careers, even though doing the record a second time meant that it fell into more of a formulaic pattern - the lack of which was precisely what made the first volume such a strong record in the first place.

 "Live In Japan"

(Dark Horse/Warner Brothers, Recorded December 1991, Released July 1992)

I Want To Tell You/Old Brown Shoe/Taxman/Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)/If I Needed Someone/Something/What Is Life?/Dark Horse/Piggies/Got My Mind Set On You//Cloud Nine/Here Comes The Sun/My Sweet Lord/All Those Years Ago/Cheer Down/Devil's Radio/Isn't It A Pity?/While My Guitar Gently Weeps/Roll Over Beethoven

"I  don't know how someone controlled you, they bought and sold you"

Oh dear. There are only two live albums of George's out there and they couldn't be more different: whereas 'Bangle Desh' is often a little too raw and rough for its own good (with the band more concerned with good causes than what they sounded like, with only two performances to choose from) 'Live In Japan' suffers from the other extreme - performances that are horrendously slick and lifeless and though taken from a whole tour might as well have been taped on the first day and the engineer sent home because the performances didn't change one iota from one day to the next. With memories of the bitter 1974 'Dark Hoarse' tour still ringing in his ears, George wisely stayed away from the European/American spotlight and decided to tour in the sixties-friendly and most importantly less critical country of Japan, 'borrowing' Eric Clapton and his current band in order to avoid many pain-staking rehearsals. If that sounds a bit harsh on Clapton then the tour was actually his idea and he was willing to do anything to get George out in front of the public again, hoping that seeing an audience loving his songs would do wonders for him the way that Wings' mega-mid 1970s tours had done wonders for Paul. Unfortunately it was a bit of mis-calculation: while Paul thrived on the adulation, George merely sulked and wondered what all the fuss was about, turning out note perfect renditions of a sadly predictable set list (most interesting for the sheer number of Beatle tracks that had never been played live before, like 'If I Needed Someone' 'Taxman' and even 'Piggies', though none sound particularly good and 'Piggies' actually sounds worse!) that was as lifeless as a tribute act. There are no risks taken with this concert, no soaring guitar solos (except for 'Weeps', played by Clapton), no talking to the crowd (even the bootlegs don't feature any - its not as if it was cut from the record), no enthusiasm of any kind. George really sounds as if he doesn't want to be there and wants to go home as quickly as possible and its notable that he never tried the experiment again, despite plans to take the tour on to at least Britain.

There are, though, at least one or two surprises that almost make this album worthwhile, all of them songs we never expected George ever to play on stage again: Beatles B-side 'Old Brown Shoe' (it's on the back of 'The Ballad Of John and Yoko') is born for the concert stage and while it sounds 'wrong' being played in tune with most of the rough edges smoothed out there at least a tension in the song that brings out some belated emotion in Harrison's voice. 'I Want To Tell You', while largely plodding, features some fascinating lyrical changes first added to the 'I Me Mine' book of lyrics published in 1980 where an older George corrects his younger 23-year-old's ideas about ego and the connection between brain and soul and action he's better learnt from his religious friends and books ('And if I seem to act unkind, it isn't me, it's just my mind that is confusing things'). 'Dark Horse' is a fun song to hear again and sounds better than most thanks to a less cluttered backing. The 'Cloud Nine' tracks too are slightly more palatable without so much 1980s production, although they still don't sound particularly good (and 'Got My Mind Set On You' sounds a lot worse!) The rest, though, sound tired and strained and far far too slick and polished, not the way we want to remember 'our' George at all. Perhaps sensibly, Harrison decided to release this record as quietly as possible and very few Beatles fans even knew it was out (except in Japan of course, where it sold well) and the re-issue after George's death was the first chance that many fans had to hear it. Most wishes they hadn't bothered, although there's a certain retrospective poignancy to some of the songs like 'All Those Years Ago' and 'Isn't It A Pity?' sung on what was to become the last official Harrison album of new material before his death.

 Various Artists "A Concert For George"

(Warner Brothers, Recorded November 2002, Released November 2003)

Sarve Shaam (Tape)/Your Eyes (Anoushka and Ravi Shankar)/The Inner Light (Jeff Lynne Anouska Shankar and Dhani Harrison)/Arpan (Anoushka Shankar)//I Want To Tell You (Jeff Lynne)/If I Needed Someone (Eric Clapton)/Old Brown Shoe (Gary Brooker)/Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) (Jeff Lynne)/Beware Of Darkness (Eric Clapton)/Here Comes The Sun (Joe Brown)/That's The Way It Goes (Joe Brown)/Taxman (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)/I Need You (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)/Handle Me With Care (Tom Petty Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison)/Isn't It A Pity? (Billy Preston)/Photograph (Ringo)/Honey Don't (Ringo)/For You, Blue (Paul McCartney)/Something (Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton)/All Things Must Pass (Paul McCartney)/While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton)/My Sweet Lord (Billy Preston)/Wah-Wah (Eric Clapton)/I'll See You In My Dreams (Joe Brown)

"In a screaming ring of faces...the big wheel keeps on turning"

The first time two Beatles had shared the same stage since, fittingly enough, 'The Concert For Bangla Desh', 'A Concert For George' is a moving experience all round. Planned by son Dhani and widow Olivia for the yearly anniversary of George's passing (an important date in the spiritual world), this concert from 2002 invited as many friends of George's as possible to come and pay homage to his memory. It's a testament to how much affection there was for George that so many big named stars (and smaller stars) said yes immediately, dropping everything to come and pay homage. This concert could have been awful: slickly sentimental, full of gushing tributes and focussing on just George's rock contributions instead of reflecting his many varied interests and hobbies. Instead its marvellous, with the closest to a gushing tribute coming from Monty Python Michael Palin, who interrupts his tongue-tying eulogy to pay homage to George the only way he knows how: by acting silly and becoming a lumberjack.

You can almost hear the guffaws from the next realm, as well as the tears when friend after friend after friend make their way to the stage to say goodbye: Ravi Shankar (who composes a new song especially for his friend), son Dhani (who along with Ravi's daughter Anoushka performs a sublime version of 'The Inner Light') Eric Clapton (who is on stunning form throughout the gig, performing a gorgeous 'Beware Of darkness' that brings the house down), Billy Preston (who reclaims 'My Sweet Lord' as his own and whose performance is especially poignant given his own sad untimely death not long after this show), Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty (who 'borrow' Dhani to re-create as much as they can of The Traveling Wilburys), Ringo (who announces 'Photograph' with a grin on his face before the moment hits him and he almost whispers the meaning's changed now of course!') and finally Paul, whose invited on stage not as 'a fellow Beatle' or a 'fellow musician' but as 'a best friend of George's'. And so he is, with all those bitter last years with The Beatles now fully dissolved, as Paul struggles to keep the tears back through a gorgeous ukelele re-arrangement of 'Something' (one he kept in his regular setlists the year after this), a fun 'For You Blue' and a stunning 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' which cross-fades back to Eric Clapton in time for the mother of all solos, before George's boyhood hero, skiffle star Joe Brown, closes the show with one of George's favourite songs. There's barely a dry eye in the house from the beginning - but this isn't a show about sadness but celebration, with George given as fitting a send-off as he could ever have wished for. Only the absence of Bob Dylan (the only major Harrison colleague not here) or anyone from the F1 world or gardening worlds (George's other major hobbies) is a shame, but far more people appeared than anyone was expecting when this gig was first announced, showcasing all the many sides of George's split Piscean personality. He'd have been well chuffed had he been around to see it, with moving performances all round. This should be the template for all memorials: lots of warm hugs all round, lots of jovial banter, lots of heartfelt tears, heaps of precious memories and an awful lot of love in the room. Goodbye George, you're still sorely missed.

 "The Dark Horse Years"

(Dark Horse/Warner Brothers, **2004)

CD One: '33 and 1/3rd' with bonus track Tears Of The World

CD Two: 'George Harrison' with bonus track 'Here Comes The Moon' (Demo)

CD Three: 'Somewhere In England' with bonus track ('Save The World' (Demo)

CD Four: 'Gone Troppo' with bonus track Mystical One (Demo)

CD Five: 'Cloud Nine' with bonus tracks Shanghai Surprise/ZigZag

CDs Six and Seven: 'Live In Japan'

DVD Eight: Music Videos, documentary and extracts from 'Live In Japan'

"All its got to take is someone to make it blow away blow away blow away!"

When John Lennon died and left Yoko nominally in charge of his back catalogue fans were fearful - were they going to be inundated with dozens of releases each year with teasing snippets of unreleased John or was his catalogue going to be ignored, with each release harder and harder to get? In the end we needn't have worried - Yoko has been an expert caretaker of her late husband's work and pretty much got everything right, with updates every few years and box sets and single CDs of rarities - not to mention the radio series 'Lost Lennon Tapes' jampacked with unreleased oddities. Most of the releases have been made with care and always with a lot of love. A similar frisson went through fans when George's albums - famously even more protective of his past releases - passed over to Olivia, but again worries have been unfounded. To date Olivia has made all of George's releases easier to find without shoving them down our throats or releasing them endlessly, with re-issues for all of George's albums now back in the shops, although none of them were rushed - indeed it took a full thirteen years after his untimely death for fans to be able to get hold of everything (at the time he died most of George's CDs were still from the late 1980s, with only his overseen 'All Things Must Pass' back out just before his death in the year 2000, with 'Living In The Material World' worked on but held back until 2003).

'The Dark Horse Years' is the first of these post-George releases and is an epic box set containing everything George recorded and released on Dark Horse between 1976 and 1992 (with only the posthumous 'Brainwashed' missing), all of which had become increasingly rare with the exception of the ever-selling 'Cloud Nine'. The choice might perhaps be a telling one: while George's Apple albums sold better, his move to Warner Brothers and his own record label more or less coincided with him meeting Olivia, with this set including all the songs he wrote for her, although you could argue too that they also happened to be the rarer albums fans wanted to hear again. All the albums were re-mastered with generally superior sound (if never quite as full as on the 2000 re-issue of 'All Things Must Pass') and with some sumptuous packaging. There were even a few bonus tracks for collectors, sweet sparse demos for 'Here Comes The Moon' (lovely!) 'Save The World' (odd!) and 'Mystical One' (nice!), plus one rogue track booted off the original 'Somewhere In England' ('Tears Of The World', oddly added to the anachronistic '33 and 1/3rd) and two forgettable tracks written for the soundtrack of Handmade Film 'Shanghai Surprise'. All are nice to have and are certainly far more interesting than simply re-issuing the albums straight, although it has to be said that there's a lot more of interest in the vaults than this (the three other songs intended for 'Somewhere In England' alone would have turned a so-so album into a really strong disc, while there are a handful of other Handmade Film scores that deserve to be here more than 'Shanghai', never mind additional demos and outtakes - though not quite as prolific as Lennon or McCartney when it came to this sort of thing there's quite a bit that could be added to all the studio discs). The same story goes for the DVD: the documentary is excellent, especially the shots of George at home in Friar Park, but it's terribly short and while the music videos are nice to have they're far from complete ('Blow Away' shot in Friar Park's massive garden and Lennon tribute 'All Those Years Ago' are all missing, though the videos used here are great: the madcap 'Crackerbox Palace' also shot in Friar Park, the hilarious courtroom banter of 'This Song' written in response to the 'My Sweet Lord' 'plagiarism' case, 'Faster' with George using F1 champion Jackie Stewart as his chauffeur for the day and the mind-numbing computer graphics of fellow AAA star 10cc's Kevin Godley's video for 'When We Was Fab'!) Overall then: very very good, with some old friends much easier to find and a few new additions to fall in love with all over again - but it could have been better still.

 "The Traveling Wilburys Collection"

(**, 2007)

CD One: Volume One plus Maxine/Like A Ship

CD Two: A DVD featuring music videos and documentary featuring home footage

CD Three: Volume Three plus Nobody's Child/Runaway

You always said that you'd be back again"

Record company hang-ups meant that the collaborations between The Traveling Wilburys could never be re-issued and despite released o George's own Dark Horse label his hands were largely tied in his own lifetime - how sad that a project born of true democracy and partnership should stumble over the old problems of money and percentages. However in the years since George's death positions have altered to the extent where everyone's favourite archive re-issue experts Rhino could finally secure the rights and finally, some seventeen years after the release of 'Volume Three' fans could hear both records again. Overseen by Olivia, with input from most of the surviving members of the band (though Dylan once again kept his distance), the records were nicely packaged and came with a couple of bonus tracks apiece. Sadly all of them had been previously released on B-sides or in the case of 'Nobody's Child' on a Various Artists set made to raise money for the homeless, but all of them were hard to find by 2007 and more than welcome inclusions here (the most interesting for Harrison fans is 'Maxine', a sweet sea shanty-come-folk song with a great vocal from George and less overdubs than most of the Wilbury's work'; each of these four songs are reviewed more fully elsewhere in this book). Olivia also built up a DVD featuring modern reminisces by Lynne and Petty alongside fascinating home movie footage she and George shot of the quintet at work writing and recording, none of which had ever been seen before or leaked on bootleg and was worth the price of admission alone (this disc also became the missing 'Volume Two', as if George had always planned it that way!) Like the other Harrison box sets it's a shame that more couldn't be found in the vaults (there are some fascinating Wilburys works-in-progress that exist on bootleg and George was taping everything by the 1980s so Olivia had access to a whole lot more), but what is here is very good indeed and finally filled a space on our Beatles shelves we feared might never be complete.

"Let It Roll - The Songs Of George Harrison"

(Apple/Dark Horse/Parlophone/Warner Brothers, June 2009)
Got My Mind Set On You/Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)/The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)/My Sweet Lord/While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Live Bangladesh Version)/All Things Must Pass/Any Road/This Is Love/All Those Years Ago/Marwa Blues/What Is Life?/Rising Sun/When We Was Fab/Something (Live Bangla Desh Version)/Blow Away/Cheer Down/Here Comes The Sun (Live Bangla Desh Version)/I Don't Want To Do It/Isn't It A Pity?

"Oh Lord we pay the price, with a spin of the wheel, with a roll of the dice and yeah you pay you fare - though if you don't know where you're going any road will take you there!"

George was desperately in need of a full career overhaul, after two restrictive sets based around the Apple and Dark Horse years and Olivia was once again in charge of this compilation. However what should have been a welcome chance to re-issue the true best of George's work that fans wouldn't automatically know alongside the hits ('Beware Of Darkness' 'Dark Horse' 'Here Comes The Moon' 'Your Love Is Forever' 'Wake Up My Love' 'That's The Way It Goes' and 'Just For Today') fell down thanks to a highly uninteresting track selection. True, 'All Things Must Pass' is fleshed out by more than just the hit singles which is highly welcome ('Let It Roll' 'All Things Must Pass' and 'Isn't It A Pity?') with bonus points for choosing two of the four best songs from the posthumous 'Brainwashed' ('Any Road' and 'Marwa Blues', although its a shame there wasn't space for 'Stuck Inside A Cloud' and 'Brainwashed' itself). However the rest of the CD is something of a waste: 'Blow Away' and 'All Those Years Ago' are the only songs here from the unfairly 'forgotten' years of 1976-1983 which is a tragedy and equally there's nothing here from Apple past 'Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth). Hit singles like 'Bangla Desh' (still fairly rare on CD), 'You' 'This Guitar Can't Keep From Crying' 'This Song' and 'Faster' are all missing too.

That wouldn't matter if the CD was full to bursting with other decent songs - but it isn't, even taking the unnecessary approach of 'The Best Of George Harrison' by including recordings of three Beatles songs (albeit in live performances from 'Bangla Desh'. There's even the mean-to-collectors approach of including just one unreleased rarity - a deeply uninteresting cover of a Dylan song named 'I Don't Want To Do It', which might be the single most interesting previously-unreleased Harrison outtake then doing the rounds on bootleg. Even the packaging isn't as good as it ought to be - while the booklet is nice and big and glossy there aren't too many of the 'unseen photographs' promised on the front cover and the wordy essay (yes I know, talk about pot calling kettle black!) By Warren Zines doesn't tell you much except how great George was (which we fans kind of knew already - and any fans coming to this set will have learnt as soon as they played the disc!) I hope that in years to come perhaps when George's albums (all re-issued now over the past fifteen years or so) become a bit rarer, there'll be a fourth go at a George Harrison best-of which will finally gets things right, perhaps a two-disc set split between the Apple and Dark Horse years (perhaps with a bit of Traveling Wilburys thrown in). All that said, though, this disc does at least give some insight into the wonderful world of George Harrison and is already a popular set with many a fan converted to The Beatles by the release of the contemporary 'Rock Band' game and who don't perhaps understand that this isn't quite the cream of his solo collection, more like the yoghurt. Which just goes to show that if you have a talent as strong as George's and want to discover him, then any road and any compilation will take you there.

 "Early Takes"

(**, **2012)

My Sweet Lord/Run Of The Mill/I'd Have You Any Time/Mama You've Been On My Mind/Let It Be Me/Woman Don't You Cry For Me/Awaiting On You All/Behind That Locked Door/All Things Must Pass/The Light That Has Lighted The World

"I've heard how some people have said that I've changed, that I'm not what I was, how it really is a shame"

Originally planned with great fanfare, as the first part of a Lennon-style re-issue series that sadly seems to have stalled after the first release, to tie in with the Martin Scorcese film of the same name, both products suffer from the same problem. Both assume that George is a household name as a solo figure as well as a member of The Beatles which isn't strictly true. They've also assumed that fans will be keen enough on the realms and realms of unreleased footage (musical and video) that they'll put up with the fact that both projects need a good editor and trimming back to half their lengths - which is partly true, given the mixed review for both. However whereas the film version of 'Living In The Material World' is an epic, made with a lot of love and an awful lot of detail, this 'soundtrack' set merely has the detail. There are some stunning outtakes in the Harrison collection - like this album mainly from the 'All Things Must Pass' sessions - but not many of them are here on this short-running thirty-minute collection, perhaps because so many were being kept back for 'Volume Two' et sequence.

There are highlights of course: a rough and very early 'My Sweet Lord' that sounds more like the Billy Preston arrangement with Klaus Voormann and Ringo in tow, a great guide vocal-with-Ringo-drums version of 'All Things Must Pass' that's almost as sad and spooky as the finished version, another demo for Spector with 'Run Of The Mill' (which alas sounds more like the finished product than the similar demos added to the end of the 'All Things Must Pass' CD) and a funky acoustic guitar rendering of 'Woman Don't You Cry Fro Me' that sounds closer to country than boogie rock thanks to some overdubbed jew's harp. All are well worth releasing and should perhaps have come out on, respectively, 'All Things Must Pass' and '33 and a 1/3rd' instead of, say, 'My Sweet Lord 2000' or the out of place 'Tears Of The World'. However the rest of the set is pretty woeful: rehearsal covers of blues wail 'Mama You've Been On My Mind' and The Everly Brothers' 'Let It Be Me', both of which are clearly never made for anyone else's hearing and merely show up the cracks in George's voice. 'I'd Have You Anytime' is allegedly a different take but sounds more like a different mix to me, with the minutest of differences to the finished product. A clumsy 'Awaiting On You All' actually puts me off the song - there's less point to this track without the crunch of the horns, the arrangement now putting emphasis on George's grumpy 'Material World' style religious lyrics. A country demo for 'Behind That Locked Door' proves that George really didn't 'get' country until Pete Drake's overdubbed pedal steel helped him out on the record. And finally, 'The Light That Has Lighted The World' is different but not better, turning an overblown smug song with choirs and horns into an undercooked smug song with just a guitar. George's memory, so well catered for thanks to the Dark Horse box set, the Traveling Wilburys set and especially 'A Concert For George' is started to look tainted, with one archive re-issue too far. However I still long for a second volume - partly so it can correct the faults of the first but mainly because there's a whole heap of unreleased Harrisongs and Harrirecordings that deserve release more than this.

 "The Apple Years 1968-1975"

(Apple, ** 2014)

CD One: 'Wonderwall Music' with bonus tracks In The First Place (The Remo Four)/Almost Shankara/The Inner Light (Instrumental Alternate Take)

CD Two: 'Electronic Sound'

CDs Three and Four: 'All Things Must Pass' with bonus tracks I Live For You/Beware Of darkness (Demo)/Let It Down (Demo)/What Is Life? (Alternate Mix)/My Sweet Lord 2000

CD Five: 'Living In The Material World' with bonus tracks Deep Blue/Miss O'Dell/Bangla Desh

CD Six: 'Dark Horse' with bonus tracks I Don't Care Anymore/Dark Horse (Early Take)

CD Seven: 'Extra Texture (Read All About It)' with bonus track This Guitar Can't Keep From Crying ('Weird' Version)

DVD Eight: Features documentary, music videos and 'Concert For Bangla Desh'

"Let me say it, let me play it, let me lay it on you. let me know you, let me show you, let me grow upon you...Though I'm glad to have you in my arms, I'd have you anytime"

Box set number two is somehow less essential than the first, despite containing the better selling albums. None of these records had quite fallen off the catalogue the way that the Dark Horse records had (only 'Extra Texture', perhaps the one Harrison album that deserved to be left in limbo) and both 'All Things Must Pass' and 'Material World' had been re-issued with much fanfare not that long before. The price range too is shocking for a set that contains just five unreleased recordings (three of them featuring George and taken from the 'Wonderwall' soundtrack, with another track a remix - though the early take of 'Dark Horse' with just a better-sounding George and an acoustic guitar a real delight and a highlight of the set as a whole, oblivious of rarity value) and one shoddily made DVD (which features extracts from the 'Bangla Desh' benefit show readily available on DVD complete by 2014, another short documentary and 'retrospective' promo videos' for various re-issues of 'My Sweet Lord'). There is at least the chance to hear the increasingly rare 'Wonderwall' and 'Electronic Sound' again, now promoted to the frontline of Harrison albums once more. However, while this set does upset the Apple (shopping) cart there is still much to admire here, with some nice packaging on the CDs themselves and a better booklet than the ones that appeared with 'Let It Roll' or 'The Dark Horse Years'. and any chance to hear under-rated albums like 'Wonderwall' 'Material World' and 'Dark Horse' plus the always-a-classic 'All Things Must Pass' is always welcome. I just wish this set had been modelled more for curious newcomer Beatle fans, who can't afford to spend quite as much, rather than appealing to rich completist Beatle fans yet again.

'Extra Texture (Read All About It)' (1975)
'Thirty-Three And A Third' (1976)

'George Harrison' (1979)

‘Somewhere In England’ (1981)
‘Cloud Nine’ (1987)
'Brainwashed' (2002)
'Hidden Harrison - The Best Unreleased Recordings'
Live/Compilation/Spin-Off Albums Plus The Occasional Wilbury
Non-Album Recordings 1968-2001
Surviving TV Appearances 1971-2001

Essay: Why The Quiet Beatle Always Had So Much To Say
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Songs