Thursday, August 2, 2012
"Early Takes: Volume 1"
Over the past week, I've been listening to Early Takes: Volume 1, the George Harrison compilation album that was released in tandem with Martin Scorsese's recent documentary about the Quiet Beatle. If, like me, you're not naturally drawn to George's solo catalog and, in particular, often feel overwhelmed by Phil Spector's lavish, echo-smothered, Big Pop production job on All Things Must Pass, the modest, stripped-down Early Takes may be in your wheelhouse. I mention George's first solo release because six of the comp's ten tracks are demos or early versions of songs from that album. With Spector out of the way, the difference in the texture and atmosphere of the two sets is like going from an opulent mega-church to an open-air country service. The songs here - most of them acoustic - are looser, folkier, more intimate. Unburdened of the Wall of Sound's padded lushness, notable cuts like "My Sweet Lord," "Awaiting on You All" and "All Things Must Pass" are able to stretch out and breathe freely, their spiritual themes losing no potency. The added space also benefits George's voice, which sounds more soulful, delicate and expressive than ever. (See the achingly beautiful cover of "Let It Be Me.") All told, I prefer this George Harrison to the one on All Things Must Pass. I suspect George himself did as well. "Awaiting on You All" (If the video is removed, go here.)