1979 – George Harrison (Dark Horse)
George Harrison (1979) is a really nice album that I'll recommend to anyone. Great musicians, great music, great tunes. It's not however, what I would call "vital" music. It's laid-back in a very approaching-middle-age way. You're not even chugging beers to George Harrison – you're drinking, maybe, a long-island iced tea while relaxing on the sofa after a day at the office, before watching reruns of The Love Boat.
It's the first George album where he is just not in the music-biz rat race at all – the first of a handful of albums made with no attention paid whatsoever to what was fashionable or likely to chart at the time (the "anti-McCartney", if you will). It also appeared, in early 1979, after the longest break between long-players at any time in George's career to date (two years and three months since Thirty Three & 1/3, to be exact), during which time his father had died and his son had been born. In the then-current musical climate – particularly in punk/new wave and heavy-metal besotted England – George was suddenly hopelessly unfashionable. Perhaps understandably, then, the record feels mature and a bit self-consciously relaxed, as if its author is reaffirming his identity by expressing himself very purely in music. In short, he's just being himself and making the music he wants to... in fact, he was making the music in his Friar Park home!
Let's discuss the songs in brief, shall we?
Love Comes To Everyone
Solid opener, which aptly foreshadows the LP to follow. This kind of recording is like an approaching-middle-age middle finger to the heavy-metal types. George wanted this one to be the single, but the label went for "Blow Away" instead. The song has a great hook and strong melody, though it's a little wimpy. But George had more than earned the right to be wimpy if he wanted to!
The song is really well done here, and is probably preferable to the grungy Beatles' cut that never saw the light of day on The White Album. One might ask why George suddenly excavated a tune that was 11 years old by then, but it was a good tune, so fair enough.
Here Comes The Moon
It's cool that he had the knackers to use this title. As lush pop songs go, it's all right. Vocals sound great. This song comes across as really romantic, which isn't a word I'd use often to describe Harrisongs. File this one under "functional verse, lovely chorus". Very lush.
Good song overall, if not one of the better ones. Lyrically, it's a drug song, but it seems harmless in the way the whole album feels a decade removed from "the sixties" (which, chronologically, it was). Instead of the rebellious pot-smoker of 1965, George comes across here as an older, wiser ex-hippy looking back with a smile on the high ol' days...
The highlight of the record, and George's best single since 1974. This melody and chorus are incredibly great, and it can only be a sign of the 1979-times (and George's declined commercial appeal) that the single failed to hit #1 on the world's charts. (It did go top-10 in my sweet Canada, but nowhere else.) Had The Beatles released this in 1969 or whenever, it would have been an international chart-topper and would today be remembered as an all-time classic. One cool aspect of the song is how the lyrics reference a "cloud burst", as in "All Things Must Pass", 10 years earlier. It's very commercial, to be sure, but also very George.
Inspired by Formula 1 and race-car drivers, it's nice that this track has a lot of energy and even some electric guitar leads. The chorus is quite good. I dunno, it's almost over-produced, I think, and his voice is mixed too low. But a good track.
Dark Sweet Lady
Nice song, and (shock!) another romantic tune. I will assume this was directed to Olivia, George's (second) wife. She is a bit dark, and seems kind of sweet.
Your Love Is Forever
Holy masterpiece, Batman! Simon Leng describes this as "George Harrison's musical image of heaven". What an incredibly beautiful tune – pure melody. His voice is just perfect, too. Fantastic guitar solo. There is an emotional depth here that Paul McCartney could simply never reach in his contemporary songs. This is really one of George's greatest-ever songs, and needs to be rediscovered, like now, if you've forgotten it. One of the truly most essential Harrison tunes.
Not one of my favorites, but it's okay. George's musical signature (besides, of course, slide guitar) is always melody, and the melody here is a bit sub-par.
If You Believe
Gary Wright co-wrote this with George (they shared a similar faith). It's pretty good, but does sound a little forced, like a really poor attempt at a hit single. I'd say George did the right thing putting the two relatively weaker tracks at the end of the track-listing.
A notable aspect of this record, as compared to George's earlier albums in the 70s, is that this one features mainly English musicians, and has more of a "British" sound. Eric Clapton, who plays the guitar intro to "Love Comes To Everyone", was doing much the same thing around this time – dropping the American players. However, George's American rhythm section of Andy Newmark (drums) and Willie Weeks (bass) are maintained from the mid-70s, and do their usual quality work. Another familiar thing that's sparse on George Harrison is the Indian aspect. I think that's a tabla for a few seconds off the top of "Here Comes The Moon", but mainly this record is safely in the area of acoustic guitar, slide-guitar leads, bass, drums, and prominent keyboard parts.
A very fine album, despite a couple of average tracks at the end, which is aging extremely well.
(My only beef with this fine LP is the front cover, in which George looks like a porn-star. But at least we can't see much of his bouffant disco-perm... until we turn the album over to see the back-sleeve photo.)