|Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison
a review by John Whelan, June 27, 2009,
for the Ottawa Beatles Site
There are two types of Harrison recordings featured on the disc: studio recordings and concert performances.
Let's examine first, the concert performances. Three tracks are chosen from the "Concert For Bangladesh" for this new compilation are: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something."
All three concert tracks were given the full treatment of digitally remastered technology and the results are truly amazing. Giles Martin eliminated the echo and reverb that were found on the vinyl version that Phil Spector produced. For example, on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" the listener will get to hear a well-balanced playback where Eric Clapton and Harrison are trading their guitar licks off of each other. Another major improvement is Harrison's vocals: gone is the double-reverb (or delayed echo) that was layered over the verse heard on the vinyl version when he sings "I don't know how you were diverted, you were so perverted too. I don't know how you were inverted, no one alerted you." Take a listen to the vinyl version (if you still own a copy) and compare it to the new CD release and you will begin noting the differences that are mentioned here.
What a privilege and honour it must of been for Pete Ham (from Badfinger) to literally share the spotlight with Harrison as they do an acoustic guitar version of "Here Comes the Sun." Pete might of have been nervous on stage with Harrison but you would never know it as the two of them were such professionals. Together they "aced it" beautifully. Once again, thanks to Giles Martin, fans can now listen to a nicely cleaned-up version of this concert recording.
"Something" is the best love song ever written in all of the Beatles musical canon that was created. It was first recorded and featured on the Beatles "Abbey Road" album. The melody is gentle and the lyrics are an honest reflection of Harrison's own personal feelings. I remember when I first played "Abbey Road" on my turntable and when the second track from the first side was over, I immediately stopped the record player and picked up the LP in my hands to check and see who wrote "Something." You see, when I first heard the track, I thought it was a Lennon-McCartney tune that was given to Harrison to sing. Boy, was I wrong and so delighted to see that it was Harrison's own composition. "Something" made its appearance as the second last song on the triple vinyl set from the "Concert for Bangladesh" and Harrison was treated to a standing ovation that such a great song deserves. The inclusion of this song from the same concert strongly suggests to this listener that perhaps Giles Martin should be given the nod to digitally remaster all of the tracks for the "Concert for Bangladesh." It would be refreshing listening experience for sure!
There is an interesting juxtaposition that appears on this new compilation: the back-to-back tracks of "Something" and "Blow Away." While there is so much accolade for "Something", Harrison would write another exceptional tender ballad called "Blow Away" that received lots commercial air-play on the AM radio. The songs creation came during a period of musical unproductively. "I was feeling rotten, a bit ratty; not feeling good in myself, and it was getting next to me, " wrote Harrison in is book I ME MINE. "I thought 'I don't have to feel all this! I do love everybody', and that is really all you've got to do, manifest your love. The only thing we really have to work at in this life is how to manifest love.
"And that was Blow Away, as simple as that. I came in, found the chords to the tune that came into my head and then sometime later the verse," Harrison explained.
The studio versions (as digitally remastered) on "Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison" remain faithful to the original recordings when fans first heard them. That said, what makes this compilation a must-have in your collection, is the song selection itself. All of the 19 tracks have Harrison's famous signature guitar work on them and when you have them back-to-back as you go through each track, it's a like one huge tidal wave coming in sweeping you away in a world of blissfulness as you listen. It becomes apparent to the listener at the end of the CD that song selection was carefully chosen for this anthology.
The CD also features Harrison who was at his lyrical best with "All Things Must Pass." Harrison, in his book "I ME MINE", recounts how the song evolved: "When I wrote All Things Must Pass I was trying to do a Robbie Robertson-Band sort of tune and that is what it turned into. I think the whole idea of 'All Things Must Pass' has been written up by all kinds of mystics and ex-mystics including Timothy Leary in his psychedelic poems."
Interestingly, on a personal note, when All Things Must Pass was first released, a fellow class-mate of mine at Laurentian High School (here in Ottawa) and his English teacher examined the literary work of Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" and "Awaiting on You All" during an English class. Reading the lyrics was more like reading a fine, eloquent poem:
"Cheer Down" (from Lethal Weapon 2) and "I Don't Want To Do It" (from Porky's Revenge) are two of the more rarer tracks from Harrison found on this new release. While "Cheer Down" is an excellent inclusion, my own personal preference would have been to have elbowed out "I Don't Want To Do It" and replaced it with "Pure Smokey" which has a lovely horn arrangement on it done in the style of the "LA Sound." "Pure Smokey", from Harrison's "Thirty-Three & 1/3" LP was dedicated to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. It was Robinson who wrote "You Really Got A Hold On Me" which became a Beatle cover version. But there are so many gems from "Thirty-Three & 1/3" which could have easily been featured on this new Harrison CD. Sadly, not one them were included. It is really a minor point to what is already a very strong track listing that will carry the listener through all 19 tracks. That said, it is with pleasure that I highly recommend this new collection of classic Harrison tunes. Pick up a copy, put it into your CD player and sit back and enjoy! Or to put it in another way to his fans by phrasing his own lyrics:
"But this song could well be...
A reason to see -- that
Without you there's no point to...this song" - This Song, by George Harrison, from Thirty-Three & 1/3.
1. Got My Mind Set On You (from Cloud Nine, 1987)
Rating: ****/5 stars
Release date: June 16, 2009
Issued by: Capitol/EMI records
Produced by: Giles Martin