Friday 4 July 2008

"George Harrison" (1979) (Revised Review 2015) ('Originally 'Core' Album #72')

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

On which all of George’s business and musical problems in the 1970s suddenly blow away…

"George Harrison" (1979)

Track Listing: Love Comes To Everyone/ Not Guilty/ Here Comes The Moon/ Soft Hearted-Hana/ Blow Away// Faster/ Dark Sweet Lady/ Your Love Is Forever/ Soft Touch/ If You Believe 

"No one knows quite how he does it but it's true they say, this album's not a master at going faster but a grower as the tempos get slower"

Many of George Harrison’s solo albums are forgotten mini-masterpieces, full of cracking melodies and some of the greatest philosophical questioning this side of the Ancient Greeks. However, out of all of his albums, none seem to be more forgotten or neglected than this self-titled record, an album that might not try to save our souls or steer a life-path for the whole human race like many of George’s records aim to do but one that is, simply, chock-full of some of the most gorgeous songs Harrison ever wrote. Recorded at a time when George had fallen in love for the second time – with Dark Horse label secretary Olivia Trinidad – this album finds George becoming a proud parent at the comparatively late age (for AAA musicians anyway it seems) of 35 (George’s son Dhani was in fact born just a few short months before this album’s release). At last, after a solo career that had mainly been founded on worry, religious devotion and feeling undervalued, George is in a happy place. Just as the madness of the 'All Things Must Pass' period and the sadness of the 'Material World' and 'Dark Horse' eras somehow found their way onto record - even when the record wasn't particular writing about subjects relevant to either - so this album's lazy summer sunshine surrounds everything in a warm cocoon of love and peace.

The compositions for this record, written on and off between the lengthy stretch between 1976 and 1979, came at a time in George’s life when everything seemed at last to be working itself out. Indeed, one might go so far as to say this is the first time in George’s life since All Things Must Pass when he wasn’t forced into making a record for financial or contractual reasons before he was ready (when the pressures from Apple to keep money coming in and then the pressures from new label Warner Brothers overseeing 'Dark Horse Records' meant that at least the last three records came out before Harrison was ready). Ironically - and what record executives rarely understand - is that the best way to right to speed and order is to shut a creative person off from stress and work and instead give them extended periods of what they love doing. Though he was officially tending weeds at Friar Park, hanging round with F1 racing legends, enjoying new found love with Olivia and merely pottering about, what George was really doing was re-charging his batteries and stoking the flames of creativity that had at one time all but died out on 'Extra Texture' and were only faintly rekindled on '33 and 1/3rd.

This is a very ‘up’ record, a fact that will surprise many of you who have ever had to sit through the head-hanging of Dark Horse, the life-is-grim-but-it-shouldn’t be debate of Extra Texture  or the torture of 'Material World's lesser moments. The Beatle power struggles and Apple court-cases of the early 70s now seem like a distant memory (in fact they're something to be joked about in the so-different-it-sounds-like-a-new-song arrangement of 'White Album' outtake 'Not Guilty'), the trials and tribulations of George’s new record label Dark Horse were quietly being fixed and compared to most of the troubled years in George’s solo life the pressure to perform, either in sales terms or on the stage, was decidedly off. George himself, nattering to his old friends at Beatle Book magazine on the eve of this album’s release (the only publicity he gave, barring one decidedly odd Midlands radio interview where he spends most of his time discussing his friends rather than his music) claimed that his inspiration for the bulk of this album’s songs came after a spell of great depression over the Winter of 1977-78. Enjoying the chance to be out in the sunshine of his luxurious garden once more without any pressing business meetings to attend, George suddenly realized that all of his reasons for being depressed over the past eight years of non-stop difficulties were slowly coming to an end and – like his garden – he suddenly found himself enjoying the sunshine, with his creative talents ready to flower once more whether an audience was listening to them or not. It's taken a long time, but George has finally made good on the promise on 'Here Comes The Sun' that the long cold lonely winter is nearly over - and the fact that this album comes with a 'companion pieces' in the form of 'Here Comes The Moon' is no coincidence. George always wore his heart on his musical sleeves (and even this album sleeves: this is his one record where he faces the camera smiling, which is a lot better than the orange blobs of 'Extra Texture' or the big pasta-covered hand of 'Material World') and 'George Harrison' comes complete with summer sunshine and a healthy breeze of optimism.

The meteorological metaphors are intended, not just because of 'Here Comes The Moon' because the album's most famous song 'Blow Away' is really the theme of this record: that whatever gets you down will fade eventually. I's a happier take on the theme of 'All Things Must Pass' in fact, although rather than concentrate on the importance of dying the right way, this George is more convinced with living the right way in the here and now. For the first time since 'Abbey Road' George's contributions to an album are mainly love songs. The years between about 1972 and 1976 had been a horrendous, difficult time of upheaval, with George and first wife Patti growing more and more distant and entering a peculiar love triangle with mutual friend Eric Clapton (who felt that Patti was being neglected, although he was too close to George to do much about it at first). Harrison's public face and indeed the face he worse in the presence of his ex and best friend was one of bemused joviality: 'I'd much rather she end up with him than some dope!' George is meant to have said to of of the few reporters brave enough to withstand his grown and ask him face to face. However his songs tell a different story: from the heart-breaking 'So Sad' to the sarcastic cover of The Everly Brothers' 'Bye Bye Love' (on which Eric and Patti are lured into guesting) to the depressed lyrics about worlds of stone that had littered 'Extra Texture', George was clearly devastated. Having so recently felt he had finally understood God's message (see 'Material World') he couldn't understand why someone so important to him should be taken away and even began to doubt his own beliefs. However all its got to take to push away those blues is someone to make them blow away blow away blow away...and into the story walks Olivia Trinidad.

Despite the name she was a Greek secretary hired by Warner Brothers to work as the secretary for Dark Horse records and thus spent a lot of time in close contact with George (he may even have been on the board that hired her, given that he'd become something of an expert at business meetings down the years for the likes of Apple and later Handmade Films). Given that both George and Olivia are deeply private the true timeline of events is sketchy (much more so than for the public romance with Patti), but their romance seems to have blossomed slowly, George finding that he wasn't head over heels in lust as he was for Patti but finding himself acting out of character and making excuses to head back to the office so he could talk to the young girl whose kind words and blunt opinions so matched his own outlook. Whereas Patti was generally locked out of his last great spiritual quest, George found that the second time around he was more interested in sharing it - every detail. And then sharing it with us, a nice turn back of the circle to 'My Sweet Lord' when George wanted to engage with fans rather than 'The Lord Loves The One That Loves The Lord' that blamed 'us' for not keeping up. This is an often beautiful, always peaceful record that takes delight in seeing the world afresh and vowing not to make the same mistakes that occurred before. A third song using metaphorical imagery, 'Your Love Is Forever' promises that, unlike the 'illusion' of winter and depression that was only passing through, this time love is here forever. It's his greatest love song since 'Something', closely followed by 'My Dark Sweet Lady' and 'Soft Touch', both also included on this album and all three written very much for Olivia.

No wonder, after all that confusion and personal angst, that the now re-married guitarist felt able to name his new album George Harrison. For the first time since the mid-sixties he finally feels at peace with who he is. For once George isn't becoming who his public want him to be or what his record label expected him to be (hence the very very little promotion done for this album): he doesn't need the money (The Beatles trouble are over), he doesn't need the adulation (not now he's in love again) and he doesn't need the success, because success is only temporary - what he has in 1979 is 'forever'. This means too that George has come to terms to some extent with all he's seen (which is more than most  given the unrelenting pace of the entire Beatles story) and while this album looks forward to a rosy future there's an awful lot of joking about the past too. The angry snarl of 'Not Guilty', a song all about not wanting to be defined thanks to other's opinions, now seems like a century ago - not just the ten years ago that George first wrote it and the track is given such a muted arrangement and sung in such an off-hand manner that its clear those days are past; this song is included as a bonus for the fans loyal enough to stick around for an album nobody knew was out as opposed to a statement of identity (George will do a similar thing with fellow White Album outtake 'Circles' on 'Gone Troppo'). 'Soft Hearted Hana' meanwhile looks at the 'illusion' of the now revered 1960s, treated with typical Harrison cynicism, where a 'special' time when drugs and love were plentiful is revealed as a typical 'maya/illusion' where the drugs made people think they were in love and in which their realms of experience are distorted (hence the track running faster and slower across the fade). George knows it was an illusion - because it was nothing like the love he feels in 1979. Only 'Here Comes The Moon' reflects on the past with a little pride and even then it's a song about finding beauty in all things - even those that 'reflect' light rather than create it (as per 'Sun'), though legend has it the track was actually inspired by a romantic evening on a holiday in Hawaii that went perfectly, George taking the sudden arrival of a beautiful looking moon in the sky as a sign he was doing the right thing ('All this and then the moon too? It was just all too much!' runs the actual quote, taking in another Beatles song as it goes).

Given its creator’s new lease of life and the much-delayed but seemingly fulfilled promise of better times around the corner laid out in All Things Must Pass, this album could also be considered George’s most spiritual album, the one where he once again believes in the Hare Krishna messages he’s been worrying about spreading for much of the past few years – but in a far subtler way than 'Pass' or 'Material World'. Bouncing to the other extreme George Harrison is easily its creator's least religious record, without a single mention of God throughout.  While 'Pass' especially had a point to make about life, which couldn't have been made without reference to the religion that was now at the core of George's life, 'George Harrison' believes more in the idea of promoting self-belief and nature as a way to 'finding' spiritual answers. Happy, carefree and at peace with the world and somehow this album’s gentle hidden religious connotations are as it happens far better ways of these points  finding their mark than being told to love the Lord back or else. For instance, we are shown several times how being alive is a ‘gift’ we ought to treasure and use in the right way. We are told that if we behave in an upstanding, charitable way that ‘love comes to everyone’, that if we love someone and devote our lives to them our problems have a good chance of ‘blowing away’ by paling into insignificance and finally that ‘everything is possible’ if you ignore temptations trying to steer you from your life’s path and believe in yourself and your purpose in life.

George is still largely making the same point as on 'Material World', just in a better and brighter way: most of these songs are about the wonder of everything and the magical ‘source’ that governs the universe oblivious to mankind's actions. On this album, seasons come and go oblivious of mankind’s actions in Here Comes The Moon or the individual’s actions in Blow Away, working away quietly behind the scenes to make sure everything comes out right in the end as a balance is maintained (or ‘the yin to the yang’ as that songs puts it, a concept strangely common to albums on this list – even the most unlikely ones by people like Pink Floyd and Dire Straits). There are also several songs about having faith on this album, from urging us to believe in ourselves because all things will work out if our hearts are in the right place (the two songs that bookend this album practically have the same DNA, so intent is George on giving us that message) to the is-this-song-about-Olivia-or-God warm fuzzy feeling of Your Love Is Forever. Even George’s attempts to find hallucinogenic stimulation in Soft Hearted Hana and his novelty formula one song Faster are songs about trying to understand how the world works, from studying new states of consciousness to studying valued friends and comrades and working out what makes them tick and its the bravery that drives heroes like Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda on against ridiculous odds and risks that George admires and wonders where that courageousness comes from (particularly in this era, when Lauda nearly died in a fireball and yet still came within a point of winning the 1976 world championship he'd been forced to miss a third of through his wounds; notably neither man is that religious or has that angle of connection with George, unlike many F1 drivers) or strips away man-made illusions from the world in 'Soft-Hearted Hana'.

In all, George Harrison is a thoughtful album, sumptuous and pretty. It's got nothing like the depth to 'All Things Must Pass' or even 'Material World', there are no attempts to change the world (instead there's very much a sense of ignoring the world instead) and anyone looking just for powerful rockers should stay away: the fastest pace this album manages is the walking trot of the two songs that bookend it and even 'Faster' isn't that 'fast', merely a slow song 'driven' if you excuse the pun by an urgency that won't let it become the ballad it longs to be. No, George isn't a master of going faster on this album - but it's a grower this record, being slower. 'You came and helped me through when I'd let go - never have known what I'd have done without you' is the message of 'Dark Sweet Lady' and that's the theme of this album all round, offering up the answer of 'is there anything to stay in this world for?' raised in the last few albums with a big fat 'YES!' Lyrically this album is rich, containing the most consistent batch of words since 'All Things Must Pass' and even if they're lless instantly deep there's still a lot of thinking going on. The melodies throughout this album are uniformly excellent too, with most of these songs sounding like natural siblings to the late-period Beatles. Throughout George plays some gorgeous guitar and after a few half-tries on the last album this is the record where his distinctive slide playing comes together, surprisingly late in the day. Hopeful, beautiful and accessible, this might not be as deep or as rounded as other Harrison albums in the collection but not everything can be an album about saving the universe all the time - this is instead an album about the universe saving George and may well be the most under-rated record in George's canon.

The Songs:

‘Got to do it, got to go through that door’ opens [86]  Love Comes To Everyone and that’s the theme of the album really – we should keep going through the hard times because in George’s view there will come a period when we can reap the rewards of our lonely struggles and enjoy some sanctuary when our friends come to appreciate what we’re doing was right. Having had more than his fair share of sorrows lately you know just where George is coming from with this track and after several rather moody and uncomfortable sounding albums it’s a pleasure to hear the guitarist say that all his problems were worthwhile for the love he seems to have found in the (then) present day. However, given the presence of Eric Clapton on the opening of this song, is this track perhaps a veiled gesture of peace to Harrison’s old friend, telling him that ‘love comes to everyone so don’t worry about the past?’ (If so, George must have been a mighty good and forgiving friend to have, despite his one-off sneering vocal delivered to an audibly bewildered-sounding Clapton on the afore-mentioned Bye Bye Love).  This song is basically a variation on the‘don’t worry about your troubles’ scenario so loved by writers of all ages but the solo 70s George in particular (that must be the singer’s carefree George Formby leanings coming out there!) In common with its main theme, this song’s tune is just as laid-back and un-hurried as the message of the song, seemingly sleep-walking its way into choruses and verses at random, completely sure in fate’s ability to bring it back to the right path in time for the song’s repeating chorus. The bubbling bass line running through the song is also a lovely touch, as if the narrator’s enthusiasm is only just being contained by this lazy and comfortable song. The full chorus harmony of multi-tracked Georges is also the icing on the cake. A nifty start to a nifty album.

[87] Not Guilty is the odd-one-out on this record, the only track that fleetingly swaps blissful hopeful slumber for a mild rant about the irritating pressures of life, a subject that George so often told us to ignore – and then dedicated about half a dozen tracks to per album in the early-to-mid 70s. Most of this song’s listeners probably won’t identify with this song’s complaints either, so personal are they to ex-Beatles and the pressures that happen when the whole world wants you to go along with three other people who no longer think the same way as you do. For those who don’t know, this song was first recorded by The Beatles during sessions for the White Album and reached a grand total of 103 takes before being shelved (the only officially released recording on Anthology Three is take 99). In many ways it’s a mystery why the song ever got that far – the others can’t have been too thrilled at George’s attempts to distance himself from the mess of Apple (‘I’m not trying to upset the apple cart…’), his defensive rebuttal of luring The Beatles to their ultimately doomed stay with the Maharshi (‘Leading you astray on the road to Mandalay’) and lashing out at his unfair public image circa 1968 (‘looking like a freak, making friends with every Sikh’), especially when the others seem as much a target for the narrator’s scorn as the general public does. But in other ways, how on earth could a song of this quality have been passed over for cute but inferior songs like Savoy Truffle and Piggies? (for that matter, why didn’t the solo George return to it sooner?) Amazingly, that original Beatles version managed to keep it’s electric snarl and swagger right up until the very end of the 103 takes, although in keeping with the rest of the George Harrison album this second later recording has a much mellower, acoustic kind of vibe and sounds closer to George’s original 1968 acoustic demo. Even though this second version is undoubtedly inferior (George no longer seems to care anything about these lyrics given his throwaway vocal and band arrangement; perhaps in the context of the other songs on this album of finding the bigger picture rather than being hung up on the smaller ones that’s the whole point of this re-recording), George was still right to revive the song. It’s far too good to have languished in a studio vault for 28 years and even now that we all have easy access to the original this later version is somehow more than a curio, more a form of evidence of how drastically someone’s priorities in life can change in just 11 short years. More than anything else, this song is brilliantly funny too - not a word often associated with George despite his famous friendships and the support he gave to several famous comedians – and George’s attempts to lampoon the whole Beatles phenomenon and treat the whole period as if its some kind of cosmic joke he can’t take too seriously is in retrospect one of the most touching moments of his career. For all his ‘anti-Beatle’ talk, this track and its later close cousins All Those Years Ago (originally written for Ringo to sing, don’t forget) and When We Was Fab show George had a far greater fondness and ear for what made the Beatles so special than either Lennon’s snarling denials or McCartney’s nostalgic reminisces. Ultimately, though, Not Guilty is an orphan left to make a home for itself on an album where it really doesn’t belong and in the context of this album’s other positively glowing arrangements it sounds far more out of place than it would do on most of George’s records. 

[88] Here Comes The Moon is an even fonder reminder of the Beatles days, from its sitar-filled opening to its subject matter, and this song adds greatly to the throwback hippie charm of the album’s first-half. A lovely ballad about the Earth’s only natural satellite, Moon sounds suitably spacey and majestic, complete with a lovely chiming guitar and some particularly gorgeous production ‘fiddly bits’ on the song’s verses. The lyrics are interesting too, although undeveloped: George tells us that the moon is a ‘mirror in the sky, reflecting our light’, one that acts as a ‘brother’ to the sun and a ‘mother’ to the stars, but the moon’s importance as an astrological presence seems to be left at that. George has half-a-go at explaining just why the moon is a metaphor so beloved of writers throughout the ages (‘impulse always quickens when it’s full’), but in reality was always going to struggle to get his real genuine reasons for writing this track down on paper without a box of paints to hand (according to I Me Mine he was holidaying in Hawaii with Olivia early in their court-ship and – in the context of his new-found eyes for love and nature – was overwhelmed to see the moon rising as the sun was setting in a cloudless paradise where the moon simply looked HUGE compared to normal). The song makes no secret about being a re-write of Here Comes The Sun, as the songs both share a similar ‘up’ vibe, a stop-start verse-chorus structure and a largely acoustic backing track. However, many commentators miss how close the two songs are in their spiritual message too: both songs are about throwing off earthly shackles and celebrating all the natural gifts of life, encouraging us to see the world around us as if for the first time rather than taking it for granted. This second song badly misses the Beatles harmonies that brought so much life to Sun but, even so, this sumptuous bits-of-everything arrangement is a fair substitute and hearing the two songs back to back I’m even tempted to say that Moon sports an even more beautiful tune than it’s ‘bigger brother’ (the verses that is – the repetitive choruses somehow jar a bit in this song, as if they’re coming from a different solar system all together, but, hey, when everything’s dressed up as well as this its all good).

[89] Soft-Hearted Hana is another very ‘summer of love’ song  – a sudden 60s flashback with lyrics about the disorientating effect of drug-taking and a lot of party sound effects going on in the background. I hope George never did really have an ‘acid trip’ involving a tack-piano arrangement this ugly though - and if so, then its easy to see why he largely gave up drugs when the Beatles folded. Having said that, even though this song does its best to be irritating – with a repetitive tune and George’s vocal at the highest point of his register – it still ends up as quite a charming take on the surreal. With an uncharacteristic sing-songy melody to go with it, George takes us on a lyrical journey where things aren’t quite right and he sounds like he’s letting us in on a private intimate conversation, telling us about the weird images he saw while under the influence without attempting to explain what they mean. For instance, we never find out who Hana is (apparently ‘she’ is one of the Islands of Maui, but don’t feel too bad if you never knew that because I’ve only just found out too) or why she’s soft-hearted (sounds like George had a good time with her though, whether he could remember it the next day or not – is this track linked to the forthcoming Soft Touch maybe?) Even the song’s atmospheric return to the roaring 20s is well handled here, unlike George’s all-too-similar imitation Hoagy Carmichael covers and his all-too-different work for the Shanghai Surprise film (both projects rank as some of the weakest material he ever had a hand in; by contrast this track’s thin line between genuine respect and tongue-in-cheekness sounds pretty darn good ). Again the song’s production is spot on, making the most out of what in other hands could have been a rather weak little track, especially the speeded up and slowed-down ending which is George’s little joke about what he thought it felt like to be on drugs (answer = it seems to make you feel a bit ill). The sound effects and background chit-chat were recorded at The Row Barge by the way, a pub in Henley-On-Thames that was George’s local from the late 60s right up until his death.

The side ends with one of George’s most catchy, lovely songs: [90] Blow Away. Even with its singer on seemingly permanent hibernation, adamant that he would do no publicity for it whatsoever, I’m amazed this single didn’t sell better because once you hear it it’s one of those magical songs that you just have to own and is a very special song for almost all of the small handful of Harrison-heads who know of it. This song is the closest George ever came to getting that hard-to-define Beatlesy magic on one of his own albums (25 years of listening plus 10 Beatles-related reviews on this list and I’m still trying to figure out what the heck that sound is) and it even sounds like Ringo’s characteristic left-handed drum rolls on this track (although he isn’t credited if it really is him playing – chances are it’s Nils Lofgren’s long-term drummer Andy Newmark on a particularly good day). Like much of the album, Blow Away’s reflective downbeat verses about getting through troubles melt into a lovely catchy singalong chorus that’s sweet and breezy and upbeat yet somehow doesn’t undermine the troubles the narrator is going through – he’s just imagining the future when his troubles won’t be around anymore. Almost as charming as its creator, this song is in many ways the ultimate George Harrison song, with the singer honestly recording his troubles before reveling in his imagination and dreams of the future when someone will come along and ‘blow his troubles away’. Like an upbeat out-take from All Things Must Pass, George is back to his best on this track: trying to comfort us in our hours of need by reminding us that things change as quickly as the seasons and our problems won’t last forever. A pretty tune and a rare (and brief!) Harrison guitar solo make this track one of its composers’ best songs in years. Catchy but deep I could say, but given that I’ve said it 30 times already on this website, I won’t.

In amongst this 10-track treat of changing times and seasons, George suddenly turns his attentions onto the very un-natural and decidedly man-made hobby of motor racing. Surprisingly, [91] Faster is George’s only song on the subject, despite the fact that he was a huge fan of the F1 circus and was probably spotted by crowds at more races in the 70s than he was at concerts! Rumour has it this song’s central character – who proves his bravery every race despite being scared of the dangers – is based on close friend Jackie Stewart, who single-handedly did more for safety in Formula One circles than any other driver back when this song came out and surely saved many dozens of lives with his radical suggestions in the years since then (Indeed, George mentions in his book of lyrics I Me Mine that this song was inspired by Stewart and Nikki Lauda and ‘dedicated to the entire formula one circus’. Nikki Lauda, for those who don’t know, was severely burned when his car caught fire at the Nurburgring race of 1st August 1978 – one of the most remembered horrific F1 accidents in the second half of the 20th century, beaten in the race-going consciousness only by the later ‘black weekend’ of Imola in May 1994 when Ayrton Senna, Roland Ratzenburger and a spectator all died in three separate accidents just a day apart. Thankfully, though, Lauda not only lived after his scary accident but went on to add another two driver’s championship to his tally). Harrison was obviously impressed with his friend’s abilities to fight against the tide of popular opinion, risking damage to his career in the process (many F1 drivers of the time – and certainly most drivers previously – believed that the risk was all part of the sport and with a guiding figure like Stewart sticking his neck out could so easily have done something about safety regulations several decades sooner. For all their bravery, the ‘men are men so don’t stick your neck out because you don’t want to be seem as weak’ drivers in the 1950s ultimately showed more fear of the status quo than Stewart ever showed on the race-track, which made their claims of ‘cowardice’ at the time sound slightly questionable). Faster tries hard to be a novelty song about racing (George himself claimed it was only written because so many of his F1 friends kept asking him to and he felt it was impolite not to at least try), but on those terms alone it fails. Take out one reference to an ‘engine’ and those buzzing sound effects and Faster isn’t a song about brave drivers risking their lives but brave individuals risking their reputations for the greater good. For all it’s depth and story-telling vividness (the line ‘the people were intrigued, his wife held back her fears’ is a particularly terrific punchy line, telling us so much in so few words) Faster is about heroes – any heroes – who listen to people telling them what they can and cannot do and then go out and do what they think is right anyway, not blatantly ignoring the dangers so much as realizing that one has to put up with them somewhere (in this context George’s harangues about ‘jealousy’ being ‘crazy’ isn’t about the competitors on the track – it’s the competitors off the track who quite openly told Stewart he was ‘nuts’ for caring about safety when the others did not). On one level Faster is a gloriously fun song and a welcome change in pace from this album’s mainly dreamy ballads, complete with some silly rhymes in the chorus (‘he’s a master at going faster’) and some spectacular sound effects, including those famous buzzing F1 cars that fly past your right ear at the end of  every chorus (The sound effects really were specially recorded on George’s behalf at a formula one race – the 18th July 1978 British race at Brands Hatch to be exact. Perhaps fittingly, given Harrison’s later dedication in his book, Lauda won the race for Ferrari, but only after James Hunt’s McLaren was disqualified for taking part in a re-start illegally after crashing out first time around (Hunt won the championship that year though, so don’t feel too sorry for him). But on the other, this is a song about pioneers and how bravery and new ideas are often taken for granted by successive generations. Whatever level you listen to the song on and whether you care about motor racing or not, somehow this song is more than the novelty it first appears to be; becoming more of an everyman tribute to the makers and shakers of life who risk such huge amounts but make such a big impact on the world.

After side one’s lessons about the inevitability of change, side two takes a different approach. The next two songs are very much written about George’s love for his new wife and his firm belief that their love is ‘forever’. Neither  [92] My Dark Sweet Lady or Your Love Is Forever are anything like as well known as George’s love song to first wife Patti (Something), but they obviously come from a similar part of George’s heart that in 1979 its creator hadn’t been tapping into for years. Dreamy, fragile and effortlessly romantic, with some of the most natural sounding vocals of George’s career, these two songs are also among his very best. Lady is a rather uncharacteristic Harrison song though, based around a Spanish guitar part played with lots of flamenco flourishes at the end of every other line, as if George is metaphorically shaking off his difficult past in order to embrace the present. Although the song is undeniably sugar-coated and the song is ridiculously short (one brief verse and two repeats of one chorus, in comparison to six verses and three repeated choruses of Faster), the sentiment in the lyrics still seems real enough and again it’s just great to hear George so darned happy.

[93] Your Love Is Forever is much more like a ‘Harrisong’, with its long, long, long guitar instrumental opening and gentle laidback strumming. Sporting one of the album’s better harmony lines and a classic half-speed riff to go with them, this is one of George’s best crafted songs in a long time. Perhaps not co-incidentally, this song really was intended to be an instrumental for several months before co-producer Russ Titelman inspired George to add some lyrics to it (if only George had had a producer on hand to say something similar about the promising but ultimately throwaway instrumental Greece on Gone Troppo). George comments in I Me Mine that the lyrics took a lot of work because he really liked the tune and was worried that the wrong words would capsize it. However, by expanding the theme of growing and everlasting love studied in the last track, these lyrics fit the tune like a glove. ‘Winter worries come and summer breaks will go’, says George, ‘but both don’t matter to me now I’ve got a constant in my life, someone to love through thick and thin’. As you’re probably thinking, Olivia must be one hell of a special lady to inspire songs like this and judging by the heroic and uncharacteristic way she’s come out of her comfort zone to promote all of George’s posthumous releases recently you’d be right; but then she was married to a pretty special man.

[94] Soft Touch is another family song that touches on seasons – this time about newly-born son Dhani (listen out for the wordplay of ‘a warm son/sun rises’) and is slightly more obscure but lyrically similar in the way that George casually drops hints about everlasting love (‘love so sweet as the ocean is wide’ is one hint, the ‘cool wind’ is another). Yet despite this song’s heartfelt sentiments, its poppy exterior wouldn’t have been out of place on predecessor 33 and 1/3, coming complete with a notably Cloud Nine-esque commercial intro (George’s other annoyingly slick and poppy album) and chiming shimmering guitars. George even sticks in the pun ‘you’re like a soft touch, baby’ as if he’s writing a full-blown romantic love song - like many of George’s 1980s songs, this is the guitarist trying to spoof modern commercial means and sticking in some in-joke for fans who know his real inspirations to show that he doesn’t really mean his songs at face value. This song is, unusually, dominated by a down-scaling riff, one that sounds like a sitar exercise and the Eastern equivalent of beginners’ favourite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in the way it uses all of the notes of the scale but has a distinctive and easy-to-copy tune all of its own. Now, I don’t know enough about Indian music to work this out, but the name ‘Dhani’ was chosen by George after two notes of the Eastern scale used by sitar-players and the like, the equivalent of our do-reh-mi (George is also meant to have said that ‘Dhani’ means ‘wealthy’ , but that may well have been a mis-quote attributed to him). This song of love to George’s newborn son sounds like it may too have been based around a scale, possibly while George was learning to play some Eastern instrument – maybe even using those ’dha-ni’ notes. Does anyone out there have any more info about that? Anyway, this song also has a completely separate chorus-line (the lines about having a ‘soft touch’ sound very much as if they are directed at Olivia again) and a restless, ever moving, ever-changing melody that – like the toddler Dhani would have been at the time this album came out – can never quite sit still.

The album then closes with [95] If You Believe; another upbeat, positive track from George at his most commercial, but this song was actually started by Harrison’s close friend Gary Wright. Amazingly the very Harrison-esque chorus was actually Wright’s idea, with George tickled by the way its message read ‘believe in yourself, baby’ rather than the clichéd ‘believe in me, baby’. This lyric obviously struck a chord with George’s new-found horizons – its almost a complete re-write of this album’s opening song though which came first we don’t quite know - and after more or less a decade of uncertainty about his role in life George seems to have taken a dose of his own medicine here. The lines about ‘not knowing what life can bring to you’ would surely have inspired a mournful ballad just a couple of years earlier, but here George is excited about the future now that he believes that ‘anything is possible’. It has to be said, though, that this song tries a little bit too hard to be the rousing album-closing singalong it yearns to be, especially as by now we’ve rather got the message of re-birth heard several times elsewhere and this song puts the message less colloquially than other tracks on the album. The tune comes especially close to being irritating because it doesn’t quite know what to do with itself other than go round and round again (did George ironically, stop believing in his creative powers at this point?) Still, never mind, that’s only a minor flaw and if ever a George solo album deserved to go out singing with its head held high then this album is it.

Lots of George’s solo albums are special, all of them contain at least a handful of classic tracks (even the much-maligned Gone Troppo has a good half a dozen simply brilliant songs – all at the start, curiously), but none of Harrison’s other albums ever display this collection’s unique mix of positivity and consistency again. Granted, George Harrison is not as deep, pioneering or as overall impressive as All Things Must Pass is, but then it doesn’t pretend to be – its just the sound of George having fun and if that isn’t enough of an invitation to join him for this album then I don’t know what is. After going on several, often perilous journeys with George through his music, this album is a fantastic tonic and proof that love really does come to everyone if you wait long enough.

'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

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