Monday, March 21, 2011

Thirty-Three & 1/3 - George Harrison

Thirty-Three & 1/3
George Harrison
Dark Horse  DH 3005

If you have read any of my previous entries you probably have figured out that I'm kind of a Beatles fan.  I'm not much of a George fan though.  I've largely ignored his solo work.  There are those who believe that the Beatles held Harrison back, but I think they were in fact the ideal venue for his limited talents.  He's really only good for two or three decent songs an album anyway and sandwiching his dour ditties among John and Paul songs makes them sound better than they would sound surrounded by more dour ditties, like on the solo albums.  Same with his work in the Traveling Wilburys.  The man is a natural supporting player.  I basically wrote Harrison off after I wasted my allowance money on "Living In the Material World" which I hated.  A couple of years later, I saw Harrison on "Saturday Night Live" and saw the Monty Pythonesque videos for "This Song" and "Crackerbox Palace" which I found very amusing and engaging.  I decided to give him one more chance and I bought this album.  It didn't convince me that I was wrong about Harrison but I had no regrets about having it either.  True to form there are only two memorable songs on the record, the aforementioned "This Song" and "Crackerbox Palace."  As a master of whiny self-pity, Harrison's "This Song" is characteristic of his oeuvre as he sarcastically responds to his plagiarism problems, but at least it is humorous like "Taxman."  Harrison once made his living as a lead guitarist but the song is driven by keyboards and the sax solo blows his own pedestrian solo away.  As a teen I thought "Crackerbox Palace" was some kind of religious allegory, but I later found out that the Lord in this case was actually Lord Buckley.  I liked it better after that.  Harrison's lyrics as a solo artist have always been a problem for me.  In "Woman Don't Cry for Me" he deserts his woman to follow his god which sums up his career pretty nicely.  Judging from "Beautiful Girl" his paramour is probably better off without him since part of his ode to beauty features him praising the girl as "not the kind you go handing around" - yikes, that's almost worthy of Mick Jagger.  There is lots of religion on this record which does not sit so well with me, but it is not as preachy as some of his earlier records.  At least this time around he is thanking his god for Smokey Robinson (something I can actually agree with) rather than for making him smarter and more clear-minded than the rest of us (there is still some of that on the record though.)  My other problem with Harrison is his lack of singing ability.  You need only hear his woeful cover of Cole Porter's "True Love" to realize that he should stick to guitar playing.  I find his weak whiny voice tolerable in small doses but over an entire album it is pretty wearying.  On the plus side Harrison comes up with more sprightly tunes than is typical with him and some of his best guitar playing since "All Things Must Pass."  If I don't pay attention to the words, I enjoy much of this record.  Recommended for pop-minded Hare Krishnas and undiscriminating Beatles fans.


  1. I'm totally with you on George -- and if you've read Geoff Emerick's book, "Here, There, and Everywhere," you'll see that we're not alone. He basically paints a picture of George as not even being all that talented on guitar -- Paul was a much better natural guitarist. That said, I love a good number of George's songs with The Beatles...

  2. I love a lot of his Beatles songs too, even the Indian ones. Also his solo scene in "A Hard Day's Night" is one of my favorite scenes in the film. I'm critical of his solo career mostly because it is so disappointing in comparison to his work with the Beatles, which I don't think is true of the other three.