Sunday morning coming down

George Harrison was born in Liverpool on this date in 1943. He died on November 29, 2001, in Los Angeles. He added to the beauty of the world as a member of the Beatles and in his subsequent solo career. He also founded HandMade Films to produce Monty Python’s Life of Brian, still funny after all these years. I want to celebrate the anniversary of his birth this morning.

In an interview on the Dick Cavett Show way back when, Harrison was asked about his favorite Beatles songs. As I recall, he said he most enjoyed the Beatles songs with three-part harmonies. He would have contributed the third part on those songs. By my lights he was a talented and ingenious harmony singer. Among the songs he must have been thinking of would be “This Boy,” “Yes It Is,” “I’m Only Sleeping,” and “Because.” Check out the Galeazzo Frudua videos that break down the harmony parts on those songs. George’s contributions are something else.

I thought it might be fun to look back on George’s solo career through lesser known songs on his solo albums over the years 1970-2002. I may have let a hit or two sneak in, but I went in search of deep tracks. If you have a favorite Harrison hit, it won’t be here. My goal is to avoid the hits and see if we can enhance our enjoyment of his legacy along the way. Please accept my apologies in advance for any mistakes in my notes and for ads that may preface the videos. Keep your cursor poised to cut them off.

George’s All Things Must Pass made a huge impact when the Beatles broke up in 1970. You had to make your way over to side three to find “Apple Scruffs.” You can hear the influence of Bob Dylan wedded to the Beatles-style vocal backing that George supplied entirely by himself. This was my favorite track on the album.

George produced the Concert for Bangladesh and the released the related live album in 1971. He didn’t get around to making another solo album until Living in the Material World in 1973. Contrary to the urging of “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long,” he might have let us wait too long. For some reason or other this track wasn’t released as a single.

George always called on gifted musicians for instrumental backing on his albums. Dark Horse (1974) included work by Nicky Hopkins on piano, Willie Weeks on bass, and a guy named Ringo Starr on drums. They all back George on “So Sad.”

George wrote “Far East Man” with Ronnie Wood. “While the world wages war / It gets harder to see / Who your friends really are.” Tom Scott is on the saxophones, Billy Preston on piano, Willie Weeks on bass, and Andy Newmark on drums.

George kept the albums coming. He released Extra Texture the following year. “You” led off the album and turned into a hit single with sax solos by Jim Horn and Leon Russell on piano. However, we are avoiding the hits in search of buried treasure. “Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You)” is one of George’s tributes to Smokey Robinson.

In addition to George’s work on guitar, “Tired of Midnight Blue” has Leon Russell on piano and Jim Keltner on drums. This is a most engaging restatement of George’s warning to “beware of Maya.”

George followed up Extra Texture with Thirty Three & 1/3 Third (1975) and included a second tribute to Smokey Robinson (“Pure Smokey”). Listening to the track, I think it’s fair to say once is not enough. George’s solos make the second time around even better. Tom Scott is on the saxes again, Richard Tee on piano, and Willie Weeks on bass.

“Learning How To Love You” closed the album. That’s Richard Tee on keyboards and Willie Weeks on bass. The track was released as the b-side to “This Song.” I think this one belongs in the department of buried treasure.

The self-titled George Harrison was released in 1979. He had originally recorded “Not Guilty” during the Beatles’ sessions for the White Album, but that track remained in the can until it was released on Anthology 3 in 1996. George retrieved the song and rerecorded it for his self-titled album. Stevie Winwood is on keyboards, Willie Weeks on bass, and Andy Newmark on drums. It’s a beguilingly bitter song.

“Here Comes the Moon” is not to be confused with “Here Comes the Sun.” I think you will enjoy it if you haven’t heard it before. George is on the guitar parts, Stevie Winwood on harmonium and backing vocals, Willie Weeks on bass, and Andy Newmark on drums.

Next came Somewhere In England (1981). George covered Hoagy Carmichael’s “Hong Kong Blues.” You won’t hear it performed by anyone else any time soon.

“Lay His Head” is something of a literal buried treasure. It was one of four songs Warner Bros. rejected for the album, although it was the b-side of “Got My Mind Set On You.” The four songs were deemed insufficiently commercial.

I’m skipping over George’s uninspired Gone Troppo (1982). After a five-year break, George’s Cloud Nine (1987) represented a return to form, as in “That’s What It Takes” (written with Jeff Lynne and Gary Wright). I think that’s Eric Clapton on the guitar solo.

I love the playing on “Fish on the Sand.” That’s George on guitar, Jeff Lynne on bass, and Ringo on drums.

George was working on Brainwashed when he died in 2001. It was posthumously released in 2002. As far as his recordings were concerned, he went out on a high note. “Stuck Inside a Cloud” was released as a promotional single only. If you like George, you’ll love this.

George lovingly covered the Ted Koehler/Harold Arlen classic “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” That’s George on the uke. What a way to go.

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