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George Harrison
Dark Horse 3255
Released: March 1979
Chart Peak: #14
Weeks Charted: 18
Certified Gold: 5/8/79

George HarrisonTime hasn't treated the individual Beatles' solo projects kindly. Probably most of John Lennon's self-advertisements were never intended to reverberate any longer than the now-defunct media myths they once exploited. Paul McCartney carries on as a single craftsman no heavier than Elton John, and Ringo Starr cranks out stale party jokes.

But the years have been cruelest to George Harrison. Because he insisted on assuming the Fab Four's spiritual mantle long after their breakup, his solo albums, which tried so mightily for the timeless, now seem the most dated of all. Though it yielded a couple of majestic singles, the ponderous Bruckner-cum-raga sound that Phil Spector helped Harrison create on All Things Must Pass today appears lugubriously dinosaurian, while the singer's romantic-monk stance was overshadowed years ago by smarter, hipper pop psychologists.

George Harrison - George Harrison
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After several highly uneven LPs that saw the audience for his mystic musings dwindle dramatically, Harrison has come up with his finest record since All Things Must Pass. A collection of ten catchy pop songs, George Harrison reminds us that his artist was always a much better tunesmith than priest. Though not as versatile a writer as McCartney, Harrison has the most distinct melodic style of any of the Beatles. He's an old-fashioned rock & roll balladeer with a quasi-Eastern harmonic signature and a simplicity of phrasing that can be either disarmingly childlike or portentously prayerful, depending on how seriously he takes himself.

George Harrison is refreshingly lighthearted. The austere, pontifical tone is gone, and the singer sounds more like a happily eccentric gentleman/mystic than a burningly devout Krishna advocate. The new album is filled with breezy love songs to the deity and to women -- to Harrison, the two seem almost interchangeable. Though the lyrics occasionally lapse into fulsome syntax ("Breath it's always taken when its new/Enhance upon the clouds around it"), most of these numbers are relaxed and playful. "All I got to do is to love you/All I got to be is, be happy," he sings in "Blow Away," the LP's strongest track and the one that best typifies its spirit.

With coproducer Russ Titelman, Harrison has tightened up and pared down his usual voice-from-the-murk style in which chiming, sliding guitars invariably share equal weight with his singing. The arrangements are the most concise and springy to be found on any Harrison record. "Not Guilty," "Here Comes the Moon" and "Soft-Hearted Hannah" transport us back into psychedelic lotus land, but their tone is so airy and whimsical that the nostalgia is as seductive as it is anachronistic. And the prettiness of the melodies (especially "Love Comes to Everyone," "Not Guilty," "Blow Away" and "Your Love Is Forever") keeps the artist's comic-book psychobabble, which promises everything to everyone, from sounding hopelessly absurd.

Though George Harrison has nothing at all to do with the Seventies, its deft combination of the quaint and the slick makes the Sixties seem a trifle less remote.

- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 4/19/79.

Bonus Reviews!

Believe it or not, I'm a pretty nice guy. I love animals (two cats at home), I brake for Moonies (well, maybe I'm flexible on that one), and every Christmas I weep at the end of Channel Five's annual screening of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. I mean, when Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and the rest of the cast sing "Auld Lang Syne" I absolutely go to pieces. Yes, now it can be told -- I'm as sentimental a twit as anyone I know, my admiration for Elvis Costello notwithstanding.

Actually, given how sadly his stock has dropped over the years, I am almost disposed to say something nice about George Harrison's imaginatively titled new effort, George Harrison, and to be fair it is an improvement over such debacles as Dark Horse and Extra Texture. Co-producer Russ Titelman has given it a superficial gloss that is mildly appealing in a background-music sort of way, and he has apparently declared a moratorium on plugs for Sri Krishna in the lyrics. Still, though no one stuck in the material world could expect George to come up with any really new ideas at this stage of the game (yes, sports fans, he's still playing the same solo he thrilled you with in "My Sweet Lord" way back in 1970), it does seem rather strange that he hasn't made even a tentative bow in the direction of Power Pop.

Considering that the Beatles practically invented the genre cultivated by such current biggies as Cheap Trick, you'd think he'd be inclined to bring it all back home, if only as a marketing ploy to shore up his credibility. But no, except for "Faster," and then only vaguely, the stuff here is as MOR-creamy and lifeless as everything else he's done since All Things Must Pass. I guess you have to give George points for integrity to maintain his chowderheaded ignorance of or indifference to the realities of the pop climate (it's probably a weird combination of both), because he's still doing cut-and-paste games with his Beatles stuff. "Here Comes the Sun" is blatantly recycled here as -- get ready -- "Here Comes the Moon." That in itself should tell you all you need to know about the declining state of George's creative powers, but for what it's worth it should be added that the whole album is probably slick enough (in the Eric Clapton/Stephen Bishop/Toto/Top-40 sense) to revive his career commercially, and since that was doubtless the only consideration motivating anybody concerned with the project, you could say it's a success on its own terms. I won't, however.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 4/79.

Harrison's second album for the Dark Horse label comes two years and two months after the first, 33 1/3, and it continues the somewhat lighter, less serious mood he established in its hits "This Song" and "Crackerbox Palace." There's even a song inspired by the sublime atmosphere when he was recording in Hawaii titled "Here Comes The Moon," a close cousin of his Beatles classic "Here Comes The Sun." A highlight is "Love Comes To Everyone" which features Harrison's vintage guitar strumming, a guitar intro by Eric Clapton and vocal harmonies by Stevie Winwood. The topnotch session musicians also include Willie Weeks on bass and Neil Larsen on keyboards. All songs were written by Harrison (one in 1967 when he was writing material for the Beatles' "White Album"), except one cowritten with Warner labelmate Gary Wright. Best cuts: "Love Comes To Everyone," "Here Comes The Moon," "Not Guilty," "Dark Sweet Lady," "If You Believe."

- Billboard, 1979.

In which Harrison returns to good old commercial rock and roll, he says, presumably because he shared songwriting on one track with Gary "Sure Shot" Wright and let Russ Titelman produce. Well, there is a good song here -- "Faster," about a kind of stardom. He remembers! C

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Harrison's sixth solo studio album (released after a two-year hiatus) was another slight affair, boasting the Top 20 single "Blow Away," but otherwise unremarkable. "Not Guilty" was a Beatles-era song once short-listed for their "White Album." "Here Comes the Moon" was a tepid sequel to "Here Comes the Sun." * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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