Thirty-five years after The Beatles broke up we can say for sure that none of the music made by any Beatle alone can be compared to the quality of what they did together. The Beatles were the sum of four very talented musicians, and, had they continued recording, they would have surely recorded 3-4 more masterpieces. In the extensive liner notes added to some of these new re-releases, George Harrison tells us how the song Something was written while he had a break in the recording sessions of the White Album, "I had a break while Paul was doing some overdubbing so I went into a studio and began to write..." and how he had the song almost finished in a matter of hours. This note is a great testimony of the incredible creativity that surrounded these musicians while in the 1960's.
George Harrison created tons of expectations when he released All Things Must Pass in 1970. It was an ambitious triple LP which included songs he had written while still being a Beatle, and that probably were not included in the Beatles albums because Paul and John were the strongest forces working on the Band. However, this will soon become his best recording ever and all that he did afterward never compared to what he wrote while he was part of the band. By the time Dark Horse, George's record label, started releasing his records, all the critics were comparing any solo Beatle release to their last albums together, and writing about the next expected possible reunion that never happened. Maybe it was an act too hard to follow and which all the Beatles into an impossible position.
In 1976, Harrison tried to settle for a more commercial musical life and tried to write 3-4 minutes pop songs. Some of these are good songs, and were minor hits, like Crackerbox Palace, All Those Years Ago, and Here comes The Moon (great demo bonus track in this collection!), and are songs that can be heard repeatedly and enjoyed. But, not only are they inferior to any songs Harrison recorded with the Beatles, they are also not in par with his best songs from All Things Must Pass. All the songs in these records are well-written, but most of them are not more than a documentation of the pop songs of their time.
Capitol Records has now released these records with bonus tracks, making them available again to the public, after they had reached very high prices and being unavailable for a few years now. The new releases include liner notes about each individual song by Harrison himself, in some cases. In the others, the CDs include the lyrics. I don't understand why aren't all the lyrics included in all the them, although maybe Harrison could not write about all the records and songs. The Harrison notes are informative and interesting.
It is no wonder then that the most enjoyable album of the whole series is the double Live in Japan, where Harrison plays songs from all the periods in his career, and chooses the best songs from the Dark Horse years. This set is a SACD album and I played it a friend's SACD player and found it has a great sound. It is also a mystery why the rest of these records were not released in SACD. I guess we will have reissue in a few years with this better sounding format.
I received for review the separate releases and not the "Box Set," so I have not seen the DVD. The additional tracks are too few, only one in most CDs and two in Cloud Nine. I am sure there are many live tracks and demos in the vaults that could have made it to these reissues. There are just too many digital minutes left blank in all these CDs. I have listed the playing time of each CD below and if you look well, all this music could easily fit into 4 CD's instead of seven and still there would be left some minutes to add more rare tracks.
Conclusion: If you are Beatles collector, you probably don't need this review to know what to do. You'll buy the boxed set, which includes a DVD, not available separately. For the others, I can only really recommend the live double CD, rarely heard versions of loved songs. I also prefer "Somewhere In England" slightly over the others. Then there was a one CD "Dark Horse Years" compilation that is now unavailable. I think that Capitol should release a one CD compilation in SACD with 20 songs taken form these albums, a compilation that could fit almost everybody interested in George Harrison.
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