Georges new album, track-by-track
Giles Martin takes us though the new George Harrison album, track-by-track, courtesy of musicradar:
My Sweet Lord: “This was one of the biggest surprises, I think, because I had no idea it existed. It’s George with Klaus [Voorman] on bass and Ringo, just sketching out an idea for the song, trying to work out the best vibe.
“As far as we know, it’s the very first recording he did of it. Whereas Paul, in particular, liked to work up a song on his own before presenting it to other musicians, George tended to be more collaborative.
“What’s cool about this is that it shows the roots of the song, and it’s got a great feel to it, the drums sound great. It was recorded on an eight-track desk, but only using four of the tracks, and it’s a purely live performance. I think it’s a good counter-point to the finished version that everyone knows so well, there’s a noticeably different groove to it.”
Run of the Mill: “Again, it’s a very early demo of the song, with George trying to work out what he wanted to do with it.
“Both my dad and Phil Spector have spoken about George’s attention detail, how he’d sit and work out guitar parts in triplicate. While that’s a very valid practice, I think it can sometimes inhibit the spirit of the recording, but the appeal of this version to me is that it’s very rough and edgy.”
I’d Have You Anytime: “This is a track he wrote with Bob Dylan, and we wanted to show the Dylan influence on George’s writing. It’s very organic, I think; with advances in studio techniques there’s always the danger of the artist moving farther away from the listener, but this version really brings the listener closer to George. It’s a very fragile version of the song.”
Mama You’ve Been On My Mind: “We thought it would be good to follow the Dylan co-write with a cover of a Dylan song. I like the vibe of this. He recorded it at home in Friar Park at some point during the ‘80s, and it originally had programmed drums and loads of keyboards on it, and George had overdubbed himself for a three-part vocal harmony.
“I asked Olivia if it would be OK to break it down a bit, I thought it sounded a lot better stripped to its bones. You can still hear a bit of the drum sound in the background, because there was bleed on the tape – probably coming through from George’s headphones.”
Let It Be Me: “The Beatles were always big Everly Brothers fans, but I’m not sure if they ever played this one in the early days. However, George did go to see them at the Royal Albert Hall on their reunion tour in 1983, and I think he went home afterwards and recorded this the same night.
“We first came across him singing this on one of the demo reels, but then we found this multi-track version a bit later. On first listen I thought it might have been George harmonising with Jeff Lynne, I didn’t realise it was two Georges, but Olivia put me straight.
“I tried mixing this a few times, because it sort of sounded wrong – but at the same time it sounded right, if you know what I mean. There’s a claustrophobic quality to it that I wanted to keep, so it’s the track I worked on the most, to make sure it sounded bad, but good! It’s kind of creepy, in a way.”
Woman Don’t You Cry For Me: “For me, this is a great example of rootsy George, and it shows him playing acoustic guitar in way that you don’t normally hear him play.
“You can see why people like Alvin Lee and Eric Clapton loved him so much; George was never really considered a guitar god, he was always incredibly economical, and it’s perhaps surprising that all these virtuosos were such big fans of his style. I like the fact that you can actually hear him dig in and play.
“This is one of the earliest recordings on the album, and we’ve been trying to figure out who else plays on it. Working from the recording date and who George would have been with at the time, we think it might be a guy who worked for Apple called Jonathan Clyde playing Jew’s harp.”
Awaiting On You All: “In much the same way as we were reluctant to manipulate anything so that it was more in time or in tune, because the point of the record was to keep the personality, to make the listener think they’re sitting with George in Friar Park, we wanted to keep the spoken intro to a track wherever there was one.
“He actually gets the title wrong here, he calls it Awaiting ‘For’ You All. I think this is really cool, it’s got a good basic band groove, I think of it as George breaking down a wall of sound. George used to say he hated what Phil Spector did to the song Wah Wah, in that he took a good band recording in the studio and spoiled it with a lot of reverb.”
Behind That Locked Door: “George is an interesting singer, in that he often doesn’t sound like he’s singing. His pitch is great, the harmony he brought to The Beatles was extraordinary, but there’s a kind of conversational intimacy that he brings to a song. This is a great example of that kind of folk-tinged spoken word quality he had. You or I probably couldn’t get away with it without sounding like William Shatner.”
All Things Must Pass: “It’s such a big song on the album of the same name, but this particular version kind of takes you back into the lyrics again.
“George liked to write about things that were happening to him at that moment in time, and this was obviously written while he was going through the ending of The Beatles, so to hear him doing it pretty much on his own transports you to where his head was on the day he laid it down.”
The Light That Has Lighted The World: “I honestly wasn’t sure about this recording, because it’s a bit rough at the end, but there’s something about it that appeals. It sounds like he’s playing it to just one person late one evening, which is very George, it’s what he would do, Olivia tells me.
“It’s a little bit special; it shows how George could make something simple sound very spiritual, almost dreamy in a way. Even though the sequencing of album tracks in a specific order is becoming more irrelevant in these download days, I think this works beautifully as a closer.”
What’s next? How soon can we expect to hear Early Takes Volume 2?
“There’s a lot of material. In my toothcomb kind of way, I got as far as going through the songs that were first released on Living In The Material World, so there’s still an awful lot of stuff that we’ve yet to look at. We’re not working on a schedule of having to deliver the next record by a certain date, and I think it’s important we take our time and do the music justice. George was very prolific at home, it’s quite a formidable output, so who know what treasures lie ahead?”