George Harrison: Thirty Three & 1/3 a Reissue with Staying Power
By
Ridge Hardy
11/3/2006 1:52:33 PM

Millions upon millions of Beatles elitists will attempt to convince you that the individual careers of the Fab Four produced nothing reputable, ceased to flourish the musical talents of the group as a creative whole. They will remark that Lennon had too much cultural impact upon the youth for his own decency. They will remark that McCartney became a sell-out putting out cheaply produced, insanely unlistenable noise. They will remark that Harrison gave nothing to his music and remained as much in the shadows of the musical public as he often did under the prowess of Lennon and McCartney during their intimidating reign in the height of the Sixties. They will remark that Starr, well, he was just Ringo, but that’s not the point.

While they may be dead-on on the group’s remarkable talents as a whole, the point is true for any band of any musical genre that each member contributes to the overall sound. To remark that they were only talented together is by far a gross generilization of each member’s personal talents and, in laymen’s terms, is quite unfair.

A few years ago, Capitol began to reissue some of Lennon’s out of print albums along with the usual catch: previously unreleased demos and alternate versions from the Lennon estate. That idea seemed to ride the waves of musical consumer glory all the way to the bank morphing into a blue boxed set of once again, alternate versions, home recordings, and demos, which was crass and poorly constructed (Who wants to hear a drunken Lennon arguing with an even drunker Phil Spector? Count me out). Apparently this turned into such a profitable venture that two years ago, Capitol decided to re-release George Harrison’s long out-of-print albums made for his personal Dark Horse label, spanning the years 1976-1992, comprised of six albums (Thirty Three & 1/3, George Harrison, Somewhere In England, Gone Troppo, Cloud Nine, and Live in Japan). It came packaged in an attractive dark green box with the Dark Horse logo plastered on the front, selling for $124.99 at Barnes & Noble (to which I said “No way am I shelling out this much money!”). Fortunately for me and others who don’t have that much loose change gathering dusty neighbors in their pockets, Capitol reissued the albums separately as well.

Thirty Three & 1/3 is one of the strongest of his musical efforts and certainly one of his most popular, going platinum, and a very strange record indeed, with Harrison going in directions previously unfathomable to fans of his work with the Beatles.

The album opener, the rollicking “Woman Don’t You Cry For Me” begins with a solid bass and drum groove handled perfectly by the rhythm section of Willie Weeks and Alvin Taylor, with George playing some signature Harrison slide guitar, the melodic lines interweaving precisely into the mix.

The second track “Dear One” dedicated to Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, finds Harrison placed rather comfortably in a quest for truth, self-realization, and enlightenment, with a playful melody that will hook you and hold you until the song has reached the end. The third track “Beautiful Girl” is a scrapped Harrison project from 1969 that could’ve easily fit on Abbey Road, and exposing how much of a bad deal he received during that time period creatively and artistically.

The fourth track “This Song” is a parodic treatment of Harrison’s nightmarish ordeal in court for supposedly “subconsciously plagiarizing” the Chiffon’s hit “He’s So Fine” in another Harrison classic “My Sweet Lord”, oddly though, Harrison would own both songs by the end of his life. The fifth track and my personal favorite “See Yourself” features one of Harrison’s most introspective lyrics with glistening, weepy slide lines reminiscent of early morning rain, the only complaint being Harrison’s voice gets lost amongst the other instruments.

The sixth track “It’s What You Value” is a piano and horn driven rocker, penned after Harrison bought drummer Jim Keltner a Mercedes 450SL in place of payment, and alas, one of the album’s most solid tracks. The seventh track, a cover of Gershwin’s “True Love” isn’t that great, this is the first break in consistency of the overall album, Harrison’s voice cracks and doesn’t quite fit in with the tempo of the song, and he sounds unsure of himself, luckily the slide playing makes up for what would be a rather atrocious cover of a classic Standard.

The eighth track “Pure Smokey” finds Harrison paying homage to one of his heroes, the great Smokey Robison, in a a gradual build turning into a pleasant keyboard driven slow jam, and a surprisingly pretty vocal from Harrison. The ninth track and the single from this album “Crackerbox Palace” is a quirky rocker again with matching slide/horn lines, and a gentle acoustic guitar, making it a pleasant song.

The tenth and final song “Learning How To Love You” again finds Harrison contemplating his vocal abilities, getting lost up in the final mix, though Willie Weeks plays some interesting Jazz Fusion bass lines reminiscent of another great, the late, inintimable Jaco Pastorius. Don’t worry about “Tears Of The World”, it’s a bonus track, and isn’t very necessary to finish off the album. This is a great album, despite the uneven tracks and rehashed material, but if you give it time and listen with an open mind, it will undoubtedly endure and seep into your veins, thus proving Harrison had both talent and staying power, whether he was aware of it or not.



 

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