Saturday, 10 April 2021

Clarence Carter














This Is Clarence Carter (1968)



Do What You Gotta Do/Looking For A Fox/Slippin' Around/I'm Qualified/I Can't See Myself/Wind It Up/Part Time Love/Thread The Needle/Slip Away/Funky Fever/She Ain't Gonna Do Right/Set Me Free


What a great underrated treat of an album this is. I previously only knew Clarence Carter from his backwoods-inspired hit, Patches (also covered by Chairmen Of The Board). As it was 1968, many soul singers were influenced by Otis Redding and Carter is no different, utilising many Redding-isms in his delivery. He has enough of his own character, however, to make the album special in its own right, including a huge, braying, deep laugh that reminds me of Frank Bruno. Carter has a fine line is humour too and many of the lyrics show that. 


The songs are a mix of she's left me heartbroken lovelorn songs such as Do What You Gotta Do (covered later, successfully, by The Four Tops), Set Me Free, Part Time Love and I Can't See Myself and dance craze-inspired thumpers like Thread The Needle, Wind It Up and Funky Fever, all sung over a peerless, Stax backing that carries with it a simply superb sound quality for 1968. 


It is a fine collection of failed romance and no-holds-barred fun that doesn't fail to grab one's attention in the album's thirty-one minutes. Great stuff indeed.





Thursday, 8 April 2021

Current reviews/listening










These are the artists whose work I have been reviewing or adding to recently. The latest album reviewed is in brackets. Click on the artist's name to read the reviews:-


REGGAE


Steel Pulse (Tribute To The Martyrs)

Linton Kwesi Johnson (Bass Culture)

Buju Banton ('Til Shiloh)

Dr. Alimantado (Best Dressed Chicken In Town)

Dillinger (Marijuana In My Brain)

Ken Boothe (Everything I Own)

Toots & The Maytals (Knockout)

Bunny Wailer (Bunny Wailer Sings the Wailers)


SOUL-FUNK


The Brothers Johnson (Look Out For #1)

Kool & The Gang (Wild And Peaceful)

Rose Royce (Car Wash)

Chairmen Of The Board (Skin I'm In)

Lionel Richie (Can't Slow Down)

Jermaine Jackson (Let's Get Serious)

Minnie Riperton (Perfect Angel)

The 5th Dimension (Stoned Soul Picnic)

The Detroit Emeralds (You Want It You Got It)

Grace Jones (Fame)

Ike & Tina Turner (River Deep - Mountain High)

Randy Crawford (Secret Combination)

Odyssey (I Got The Melody)

Archie Bell & The Drells (There's Gonna Be A Showdown)

Shalamar (Friends)

Etta James (Best Of)

The Commodores (Natural High)

The Pointer Sisters (Break Out)

Herbie Hancock (Head Hunters)

Stevie Wonder (A Journey Into The Secret Life Of Plants)

Clarence Carter (This Is Clarence Carter)

KC & the Sunshine Band (Part 3)


PUNK-NEW WAVE


Squeeze (Cool For Cats)

Altered Images (Happy Birthday)

Wire (Pink Flag)

The Cure (Three Imaginary Boys)

Adam & The Ants (Kings Of The Wild Frontier)

XTC (Drums And Wires)

The Modern Lovers (The Modern Lovers)

999 (999)

Blondie (No Exit)

Elvis Costello (Hey Clockface)

The Skids (Scared To Dance)

Depeche Mode (Speak And Spell)

Green Day (Dookie)

The Adverts (Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts)

Patti Smith (Radio Ethiopia)

Joe Jackson (Body And Soul)

The Ramones (Mondo Bizarro)

Madness (Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da)


PROG ROCK


Jethro Tull (Aqualung)

King Crimson (In The Court Of The Crimson King)

Camel (The Snow Goose)

Yes (Close To The Edge)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Tarkus)

Atomic Rooster (Death Walks Behind You) 

Jean Michel Jarre (Oxygene)

Ambrosia (Ambrosia)

Kate Bush (50 Words For Snow) *ok I know it's not really prog rock, but where else do I put her?

Van Der Graaf Generator (H To He, Who Am The Only One)

Todd Rundgren's Utopia (Utopia)

East Of Eden (New Leaf)

Hawkwind (In Search Of Space)

Caravan (If I Could Do It Again, I'd Do It All Over You)

Colosseum (Valentyne Suite)

Genesis (Foxtrot)

Renaissance (Scheherazade And Other Stories)

Rick Wakeman (The Six Wives Of Henry VIII)

Steve Hillage (Motivation Radio)

Gentle Giant (Gentle Giant)

Rush (A Retrospective 1974-80)

Pink Floyd (Piper At The Gates Of Dawn)

Aphrodite's Child (End Of The World)

Mike Oldfield (Ommadawn)


ROCK


Deep Purple (Who Do We Think we Are?)

Black Sabbath (Paranoid)

Badfinger (No Dice)

Blue Öyster Cult (Agents Of Fortune)

Bruce Springsteen (Letter To You)

Paul McCartney (McCartney III)

Sting (Mercury Rising)

ZZ Top (Rio Grande Mud)

The Byrds (Turn! Turn! Turn!)

Vanilla Fudge (Vanilla Fudge)

Sagittarius (Present Tense)

Queen (Made In Heaven)

Alice Cooper (Easy Action)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Into The Great Wide Open)

Bruce Hornsby & The Range (A Night On the Town)

The Allman Brothers Band (Brothers And Sisters)

Tom Jones (Long Lost Suitcase)

George Harrison (Living In The Material World)

Wings (London Town)

Ringo Starr (Liverpool 8)


COUNTRY ROCK


Firefall (Firefall)

Gerry Rafferty (City To City) * difficult to categorise


JAZZ


Wayne Shorter (Speak No Evil)

Charles Mingus (Mingus Ah Um)

Kenny Burrell (Midnight Blue)

John Coltrane (A Love Supreme)

Lee Morgan (The Sidewinder)

Dave Brubeck Quartet (Time Out)

Donald Byrd (Best Of/Blackbyrd)

Art Blakey (Moanin')

Abdullah Ibrahim (The Mountain)

Miles Davis (Bitches' Brew)


WORLD MUSIC


Brazilian Music (Seleção de compilações)

Rough Guides (World Music Network)

Fela Kuti (Sorrow Tears And Blood)


POP


The Four Seasons (Who Loves You)



Thursday, 1 April 2021

Herbie Hancock




Sextant (1973)



Rain Dance/Hidden Shadows/Hornets


Before going full on jazz-funk fusion with his critically-acclaimed next album, Herbie Hancock released this improvised art jazz-spacey, experimental Miles Davis-influenced album. Containing only three tracks it builds on the foundations laid by Miles Davis’s ground-breaking Bitches’ Brew, but, for me, is the better album as it is not as ad hoc and improvised as that one, and is driven by Hancock’s instinctive rhythm and willingness to employ a funky drum sound. I saw it described as “avant funk”. 


Rain Dance is spacey, weird and funky all at once and remains just the right side of indulgent as far as I am concerned. 


Hidden Shadows is pretty funky, despite the improvised Davis-esque saxophone groove. It is here that you really hear the funky sounds that would be given free rein on the next album begin to take shape. It is a really good track, the best if the three on offer.


The nearly twenty minute Hornets is the most experimental and tries the patience a little, despite its fine rumbling bass line and funky percussion. Its squeaking saxophones and general discordance are a bit grating at times but there is still an appealing weirdness to it. Edit it down by ten minutes, though, and it may be more cohesive. The bassy bit near the end is great, however.


The album was a commercial flop, which was the opposite to this one coming up.....


Headhunters (1973)



Chameleon/Watermelon Man/Sly/Vein Melter


This is often classified as a jazz album, which, of course, it is, due to its keyboard virtuosity by Hancock on Fender Rhodes piano, ARP synthesiser and clavinet but, these are also extremely funky instruments, and he duly plays them so. The drums, the brass and the bass are pure, copper-bottomed funk. For me, it is one of the funkiest instrumental albums in existence  and, along with James Brown’s funk material from the same period, has been supremely influential. 


Chameleon is a fifteen minute festival of funk - overflowing with funky guitars, big fatback James Brown-style drums, regular cookin’, punchy brass interjections and beautifully deep, rumbling bass lines. The bits where the music briefly halts, leaving only the drums and then the bass and the funky, spacey organ come back in are breathtakingly good. The sound quality is stunningly good too, warm, bassy and in perfect stereo.


Watermelon Man is a funky re-recording of a previous jazz classic, this time powered by James Brown funky drums and blowing into beer bottles to approximate the hindewhu whistle sound so common in Brazilian samba music, a sound that brings to mind tropical jungle bird sounds.  Once again, it is a thumping track that simply drips with instinctive funk.


Sly is a sensual tribute to Sly Stone that features some sumptuous bass and drums. The interplay around six minutes in is just funky as fuck, as they say (“they” can get away with saying anything, can’t they?). 


Vein Melter is probably the jazziest thing in the album, but it is still deliciously funky and also features some sweeping strings and chilled-out Miles Davis-influenced freeform saxophone.  Its weird sounds hark back to its predecessor. 


Overall, this is a fine album that never fails to satisfy.





Future Shock (1983)



Rockit/Future Shock/TFS/Earth Beat/Autodrive/Rough


This was Herbie Hancock's first electro-funk album and the first of his to delve into instrumental hip hip sounds. It was a big commercial success and is very representative of some of the sounds of the mid-eighties. 


Rockit is superb - full of infectious beats, chunky riffs and that iconic organ line. It is one of the great instrumental hits. It was the perfect merging of contemporary hip hop sounds, accessible dance grooves and rock riffs. It was, unsurprisingly, a massive hit. 


Unusually for a Hancock album, we get female-sounding vocals (actually from Dwight Jackson Jr.) on the funky grind of Future Shock. The vocals are sung in a style that reminds me of Curtis Mayfield's Superfly which is not surprising as it is a cover of Mayfield's Future Shock song from ten years earlier. 


TFS has an upbeat dance groove to it and is powered along by synthesisers, clavinet and wah-wah funky guitar. 


Earth Beat is both spacey and hip hop-y, featuring great synth parts and a huge, deep bass as well as some captivating percussion. Oh, and there are the ubiquitous (for 1983) scratching noises too. 


Autodrive utilises that synth-drum sound so popular in dance material of the time as well as some jazzy piano breaks.


Rough also features occasional vocals over its thumping, insistent beat and finishes this excellent, ground-breaking album that is just so evocative of its era. It just reminds me of being in music venues at the time, they were full of this sort of thing. 





Wednesday, 31 March 2021

George Harrison

All Things Must Pass (1971)


I'd Have You Anytime/My Sweet Lord/Wah-Wah/Isn't It A Pity/What Is Life/If Not For You/Behind That Locked Door/Let It Down/Run Of The Mill/Beware Of Darkness/Apple Scruffs/The Ballad Of Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)/Awaiting You All/All Things Must Pass/I Dig Love/Art Of Dying/Isn't It A Pity (Version Two)/Hear Me Lord/Out Of The Blue/It's Johnny's Birthday/Plug In/I Remember (Jeep)/Thanks For The Pepperoni

George Harrison’s bloated triple album, from late 1970, certainly out-did McCartney or The Plastic Ono Band. It was a huge achievement in many ways, as Harrison managed to blend his increasing spiritual devotion and motivation with some good, accessible rock music. Personally, though, I have always found the album to be a half-good, half-bad frustrating one. I have problems with the sound and production, which I will refer to as the review progresses.

The opener is a laid-back, somewhat sleepy and solemn collaboration between Harrison and Bob Dylan in I'd Have You Anytime. It has beautiful parts, though, and a beguiling vocal from Harrison. Then came My Sweet Lord, known all around the world now. Its iconic acoustic and slide guitar intro is just so nostalgic. It is the dark afternoons of late 1970 again. Lyrically, of course it tapped in to the zeitgeist of religious experimentation and searches for spiritual peace that pervaded the beginning of the seventies. I loved it then and still do, however. So evocative.

  

Wah-Wah has some excellent guitar, but the mushy drum sound and generally crashing backing spoils it. There is a horn riff in there somewhere, but even on this supposedly remastered version it is difficult to hear properly, which is such a shame. The production has, in my opinion, always been awful on this track. Harrison was searching for a Spector-esque Wall Of Sound, indeed, using Spector himself to help him out on the production, but in many respects it just ended up as a muffled, trebly wall of frustration. For me, anyway. It is nigh on unlistenable. In many respects it is the worst track on the album. Many others are sonically much better.

The next track, though, the impressive and lengthy Isn't It A Pity (rejected as a Beatles track as far back as the Revolver sessions, incidentally), restores the quality. It has a rich, warm bassy sound, particularly when the drums kick in. Harrison’s vocal is haunting and plaintive and overall, the track is very atmospheric. Lovely strings merge with Harrison’s guitar half way through. It should have ended at around five minutes though. Oasis surely took bits of this to influence their Be Here Now album.

What Is Life is excellent. Vibrant and lively, with airs of mid-sixties Beatles and a catchy hook. It suffers a little from the Wah-Wah production gremlins, however, (the horns are buried under the wall of sound) but I still enjoy it a lot more than Wah-Wah. It would have made a good single. Great guitar riff on it, particularly in the intro.

Dylan’s If Not For You is delivered in a beautiful, steel guitar country rock style. Harrison’s voice suits it down to the ground. He even seems to be trying to imitate Dylan at some points. 

The country rock groove continues with the melodious, once again steel guitar dominated country-ish vibe of Behind That Locked Door. There is some good sound quality on this one. No wall of sound = great sound - on this album at least (and I am a sixties Spector fan). 

Let It Down again starts with some cacophonous noise, but settles down into a reasonable track. Harrison sounds almost like Lennon in places and the drums are very Starr-like. It is a track that I enjoy for half of it while the other half irritates me, I’m afraid. It ends raucously. For that reason, so much of this album is, for me, unrealised potential.

The next track, Run Of The Mill, sees a great improvement, however. It sounds clear, Beatles-ish and is much more of a pleasure to listen to. Excellent clear drum and guitar sounds on it with a warm, vibrant bass too and a stronger vocal from Harrison. Beware Of Darkness starts the old “side three” and is a nice one. Great sound on it again, a mysterious vocal and a generally beguiling, Dylanesque ambience. Harrison’s strange accent “take curr, bewurr” is odd, though, listening to it now. Scousers don’t talk like that anymore. It is more "take caiiir” now. 

Apple Scruffs is a light but appealing throwaway, with some Lindisfarne-style harmonica. Enjoyable but dispensable. Ballad Of Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) is interesting. Chugging and powerful in its pounding drum and funky piano sound. Harrison’s vocalists somewhat distant, however. The track never quite gets there, in my opinion. 

Awaiting You All sees a return to an unclear muffled sound. Somewhere beneath that murk lies a fetching, lively song. Spoilt again, unfortunately.



All Things Must Pass (another one rejected for The Beatles) is an improvement. It is a little bit murky in the production, with Harrison’s voice too far down in the mix, though. Maybe it just revealed weaknesses in his voice, thinking about it. The “big’ sound tended to drown him out. 

The extremely Lennonesque I Dig Love is one of my favourites, however. I like the catchy and potent drum and piano “riff” bit that underpins it. It reminds of me of David Bowie's "Heroes" album in places (the piano).

Art Of Dying suffers from the sound thing again, but it sort of works on this one. Not quite sure why. At the same time, I still can’t hear those horns properly. Nice bit of guitar work half way through though. The second version of Isn't It A Pity is actually my preferred version, shorter and more nuanced. 

Hear Me Lord is another good track in a late sixties Beatles slowed-down bluesy rock stye. There are hints of Pink Floyd on here, for me. Maybe they listened to this while writing Dark Side Of The Moon. It certainly sounds like it in places.

** The plaintive bonus track I Live For You is similarly appealing and, again, very, very Beatles in its sound and ambience. Harrison’s slide guitar comes into its own on here. A pity it wasn’t on the original album.

Of course, there are also the Apple Jams which took up the old sides five and six. Did anyone play them much at the time, I wonder? Or indeed, do they now? Actually, Out Of The Blue is quite enjoyable, as are most of them. Certainly the sound quality is much more tolerable on Out Of The Blue - a really clear guitar sound. The piano/guitar bit at six minutes sounds very Rolling Stones on 1974’s Fingerprint File - the link being Billy Preston. Eight minutes in and I’m still enjoying it. Plug Me In is a rocker, and most enjoyable. Big, punchy and bassy.

So, in conclusion (my review has been as sprawling as the album itself!) this is an album which contains around four tracks that were, in my view, produced to death and suffer for it. The wonders of digital technology means I can select the others at times. When I do so, I have a more enjoyable album. The sad thing is, due to these production gripes and its bloated size I find I listen to McCartney more than I listen to this, which is a shame. Isn’t it a pity.




Living In The Material World (1973)



Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)/Sue Me, Sue You Blues/The Light That Has Lighted The World/Don't Let Me Wait Too Long/Who Can See It/Living In The Material World/The Lord Loves The One (That Loves The Lord)/Be Here Now/Try Some Buy Some/The Day The World Gets 'Round/That Is All


Over two years since his previous gargantuan triple album, some people had sort of forgotten about George Harrison and his return here was something of a surprise (to my fourteen year-old self, anyway, if not to the music media, who were clamouring for it). I already perceived Harrison as a washed-out old hippy. The album sort of confirms that, but it is a sensitive creation all the same. With all that vibrant glam rock around it was not really surprising that I felt that way.


On to this now critically-acclaimed (retrospectively) album. Without the tinny, over-the-top, indulgent Phil Spector production of its predecessor, however, we get a much warmer, more accessible and chunky sound that is far more to my taste. The album has many hippy themes and it shows that Harrison was the one Beatle who really continued burning that White Album candle long after it had extinguished for the others.


Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) is a nice throwback to the last album, but without the bombast, having a winning, gentle acoustic melody and some of that trademark Harrison guitar sound such as used on My Sweet Lord. I liked it a lot back in 1973 for its understated feel, and I still do. 


Sue Me, Sue You Blues is a robust, bluesy, late Beatles-style chugger in that Old Brown Shoe style, featuring some fine slide guitar and piano and Harrison's typically cynical lyrics. The Light That Has Lighted The World is a sad and sombre number expressing Harrison's hope for the future, albeit in a most quiet, hangdog way, as he regrets that people can't accept that he has changed. It is most moving song. The tempo raises on the archetypal Harrison gentle rock of Don't Let Me Wait Too Long. There are smatterings of Lennon effect to be found all over this album, especially on this song. 


Who Can See It is a plaintive piano-driven ballad with a bit of a McCartney feel to it. Harrison's voice has a natural sadness on this song and it grows on me. Living In The Material World is a strong song  - as George tells John and Paul that they are in the material world - with a solid drum sound and an enjoyable mid-song tabla bit of percussion together with some good saxophone. Nice one. Up there with the album's best.


As everyone knows, Harrison was always a spiritual guy and he shows it here on The Lord Loves The One (That Loves The Lord), a track whose piety is hidden slightly by a lively, infectious and most enjoyable melody. The acoustic Be Here Now is extremely maudlin, however, although it has its solemn appeal. Harrison is publicly expunging old ghosts with considerable pathos. Try Some Buy Some had been written a few years earlier for Ronnie Spector and has also been covered by David Bowie on his Reality album. It is a bit of a miserable song, for me, though - not one of my favourites.


The Day The World Gets 'Round is probably the most Beatles-esque of the songs, with its bold brass sections and seeping string backing and That Is All continues in the same vein. 


Although the album was well-received, critically, Harrison's commercial star fell from here on and he kept a comparative low profile until a brief mid-eighties resurgence. Back to this one though - personally, I lose interest a little as it progresses. It is not a work of genius, but it's ok. There you go. It is one of those albums that benefits from several listens and with each listen I find myself appreciating it more. 


** The two non-album bonus tracks, the acoustic Deep Blue, the more vibrant, country rock-ish fun of Miss O'Dell and the hard-hitting Bangla Desh are good ones. 












Dark Horse (1974)



Hari’s On Tour (Express)/Simply Shady/So Sad/Bye Bye Love/Maya Love/Ding, Dong, Ding, Dong/Dark Horse/Far East Man/Is It ‘He’ (Jai Sri Krishna)


Recorded during Harrison’s self-named “naughty years” (his drug-taking indulged in at the same time as John Lennon’s “lost weekend”) this was a vibrant, punchy album and one that I really like. It plays out a lot like a Lennon album too, I have to say. For me, it is considerably underrated in the canon of ex-Beatles work. What do I know, eh? It was slated by critics at the time, disappointed, no doubt, that there was not much Beatles-ish about it. So what. Harrison was ploughing his own furrow. Time has mellowed some of that criticism, however, which is pleasing. As I said, I like the album.


Hari’s On Tour (Express) is an excellent, really enjoyable saxophone-driven instrumental to start the album with, that features some great guitar riffs too. It rocks as solidly as Harrison had done for quite a while and was recorded with US group LA Express. 


Simply Shady is muscular and chunky, although Harrison’s voice is a. It overwhelmed by the strength of the dignified rock backing. It’s a good track, though.


So Sad is a typical, mournful Harrison rock ballad while Bye Bye Love is a very Lennon-esque cover of the Everly Brothers’ classic. Maya Love is a rumblingly bassy mid-pace rocker with a bluesy feel to it and a nice bass line near the end. It is my personal favourite from the album.


Ding, Dong, Ding, Ding sounds like a Eurovision entry and it is a saxophone-laden romp of a New Year’s song that I have memories of hearing some time back in my dim, distant past. It was released as a single, I believe.


Dark Horse is a beguiling, acoustically-driven shuffler of a track that features some Jethro Tull-style flute. Far East Man was written with soon to be Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. It, unsurprisingly, has a Ronnie Lane-Faces bucolic sleepiness to about it. 


Is It ‘He’ (Jai Sri Krishna) will undoubtedly have infuriated the album’s many critics. Again, I don’t mind its gentle rhythmic piety.


** The non-album ‘b’ side, I Don’t Care Anymore has George going all Lennon on his spoken intro and for the rest of the song.





Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975)



You/The Answer's At The End/This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)/Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You)/World Of Stone/A Bit More Of You/Can't Stop Thinking About You/Tired Of Midnight Blue/Grey Cloudy Lies/His Name Is Legs (Ladies And Gentlemen)


Harrison himself described this as a "grubby album" and it has been on the receiving end, like its predecessor, of much criticism, both contemporary and subsequently. Like Lennon and McCartney solo albums from the same period it got slagged off because it wasn't The Beatles. Of course we will never know, but maybe Beatles albums in that period would have sounded like this, with the Lennon and McCartney solo material on them too. I think the best thing to do is forget he was in The Beatles and treat it in isolation.


You harks back to All Things Must Pass in its relatively muffled sound, although it is an improvement on that album's murk. It is dominated, as much of Harrison's material was at this time, by a vibrant saxophone. It is a good opener, but it is a track that sits incongruously with the generally mournful tone of the rest of the album. 


The Answer's At The End is a sombre, Lennon-esque piano-powered ballad that is ok, but goes on way too long at nearly six minutes. He could have got the message over in half that time. 


A My Sweet Lord-style strummed acoustic guitar introduces the backwards look at While My Guitar Gently Weeps in This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying). This retrospective approach attracted much criticism, but it still isn't a bad song, possibly the best on the album, ironically. 


Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You) is also very Lennon-inspired in its maudlin loved-up feeling, it is like John singing to Yoko. World Of Stone is a chunky late Beatles-Lennon-sounding slow rock ballad. It could almost be early seventies Elton John in places. 


A Bit More Of You briefly reprises You to open the original side two in a bit of a pointless way, because it soon morphs into another hangdog, lachrymose ballad in Can't Stop Thinking About You. I get the impression that the best of this album is behind us now, and that may be the case, but Tired Of Midnight Blue is attractive enough (although it reminds me of the sort of stuff Ringo Starr put on his own solo albums). The same applies to the somnolent Grey Cloudy Lies. Both of these tracks are growers, though.


The fun boogie of His Name Is Legs (Ladies And Gentlemen) finally livens proceedings up a bit but it is nothing to justify repeated plays. 


Listening to these seventies Harrison albums, I can't help but keep thinking that he was "the third Beatle" for a reason. They don't match the solo work of McCartney or Lennon, for me, however occasionally appealing they may be. 


The next album of his I paid any attention to, surprisingly, was in 1982.


Gone Troppo (1982)


Wake Up My Love/That's The Way It Goes/I Really Love You/Greece/Gone Troppo/Mystical One/Unknown Delight/Baby Don't Run Away/Dream Away/Circles                 
They were funny things, George Harrison albums. After the mammoth offering that was 1970's All Things Must Pass, he seemed to put out an album every three to five years, and it always seemed to me as if he did it because he thought "I was in a band once, I'm a musician, this is what I do...". In the meantime, he explored his other hobbies away from music - movies producing, car racing. mysticism. As more and more years went by since Harrison had been in the Beatles, the less I, personally, viewed him as a musician putting out regular work. Many times I found myself almost forgetting about him, even Ringo was more in my consciousness. So, when this album came out, in 1982, it was a virtual irrelevance. Punk had been and gone, post punk, new wave, two tone, new romanticism were all around. Harrison suddenly remembered he was a musician and collected some old friends - Ray Cooper, Dave Mattacks, Billy Preston, Herbie Flowers, Gary Brooker and Syreeta among others and produced a laid-back summery poppy album full of the synthesised backing that so blighted the eighties. It was a sort of contemporary Beach Boys, lazing in the sun sort of thing that attracted a lot of critical opprobrium.

So, lets listen to it and see if it was as bad as they all said.
                               
Wake Up My Love is a lively slice of synth-driven pop, with a vague appeal. Harrison's voice sounds remarkably like Traveling Wilburys mate Jeff Lynne on this. It is by far the album's most upbeat and accessible track. 

That's The Way It Goes features some typical Harrison My Sweet Lord high-pitched guitar and a mid seventies Beach Boys vibe about it. Actually it is not a bad track at all, in a light, airy sort of way. 

I Really Love You is a catchy fifties "doo-wop" pastiche that would have been fine in 1962, as opposed to 1982. Greece is a pretty throwaway, light poppy number. Material like this and the slightly feeble Gone Troppo were really quite unimpressive.

 

Mystical One is a laid-back slightly Lennon-esque easy listening slow rock song. Again, it is very much like the stuff The Beach Boys released in the mid-late seventies. Both they and Harrison had seen better days. 

Unknown Delight also has a Lennon feel to it, a nice bass line and a mournful-sounding vocal from Harrison. Baby Don't Run Away is a bit Beatles-ish but also a bit unmemorable. Oh I guess it's nice enough, I suppose. It just doesn't stick in the mind. 

Dream Away is another very singalong pop number with a few hidden Harrison-esque bits scattered around here and there. 

Circles is a typically Harrison plaintive, Beatles-style ballad. His voice, while never great, always carried a bit of a sad quality to it. Harrison would not release another album after this for another five years, popular mythology suggests it is this album that put him off, seeing him lose his muse. We'll never know now.

It is all pleasant enough, with Harrison playful and relaxed as opposed to serious and mystical, but completely culturally inessential when it was released. This album passed me by in 1982, but I can't imagine it appealing to anyone much back then. Listening to it now, it is not as pointless as it would have seemed then, though. It now stands as a bit of a curio. Thoroughly out of time, but strangely interesting, just in places. Overall, though, it has to go down as "one for completists", but, whenever I come across one of those I feel compelled to give it a chance. To be fair, there are a fair few Paul McCartney albums that were certainly no better than this and, on listening to it again, it is growing on me, in an unthreatening, harmless way.