Thursday, September 13, 2012

"The Worst of George Harrison"

Last week I observed that George Harrison: Living in the Material World pays scant attention to George's career as a solo artist. Here's what Scorsese omits.
But there’s a 14-year gap that fans don’t like to discuss or even recall. In fact, the Quiet Beatle recorded six other studio albums during that epoch, each of which gives us insight into a rock ‘n’ roll legend literally at the bottom of his game. No question, there are some Harrison gems to be found here, but sadly, they’re often lost in the mire of this dreary epoch.
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As for the reason behind Harrison’s erratic output of 1974-82, you can probably trace it to the usual suspects: an excess of money, drugs, partying, and well, excess. We also have to remember that George had already been a wealthy pop star for a decade and was now being asked, contractually, for a second act, thus his decreasing enthusiasm for the task. As your own ears will tell you, recording solo albums had become a chore for the former Beatle, as he’d conquered the summits of pop stardom long before. A new studio album meant continued cash flow, which was always beneficial, but clearly, Harrison’s heart was no longer in it, especially as the ’70s rolled to an end.
You also have to wonder why George didn’t have a manager who asked him for better product, or a good producer helping him pull these songs and albums together. Again, it alludes to the fact that he was rock-star royalty and didn’t need to answer to anyone, which is regrettable. In hindsight, most of George’s best solo albums were made with a strong producer in the room, notably Phil Spector and Jeff Lynne (and earlier, George Martin), but perhaps he didn’t like to cede control during this middle period. Yet imagine what a visionary producer—an Alan Parsons, Roy Thomas Baker or Todd Rundgren—might have done for Harrison’s recordings in that era. It speaks to a lost opportunity.

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