If Paul McCartney’s 1967 soundtrack for The Family Way is discounted as a solo album on the grounds that it was a collaboration with George Martin, then George Harrison was first Beatle out of the traps. His Wonderwall Music (1968) coincided with a passion for Indian classical and experimental rock, though Harrison later dismissed much of it as “loads of horrible mellotron stuff and a police siren”. It’s not that bad though – parts of it resemble the more esoteric side of psychedelia.
Electronic Sound swaps the raga for the Moog The Beatles used on Abbey Road, but bears no resemblance to anything else in their catalogue. White noise abounds, especially on the Bernie Krause-assisted No Time Or Space. The other side, Under The Mersey Wall, is more coherent but sounds like a demonstration disc
All Things Must Pass remains Harrison’s best work. His stockpile of great songs was released from the clutches of Lennon and McCartney, who’d turned down Isn’t It A Pity on the grounds that it aired their dirty laundry. But that tune, Beware Of Darkness and the karmic Awaiting On You All nail Harrison’s spiritual quest and still exert a visceral thrill. The Apple Jam sides, not so much.
Living In The Material World was also of a high standard, albeit preachy on occasion. The highlight, Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long, is more earthbound and works over some pure pop, with a nod to Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound. Dark Horse and Extra Texture (Read All About It) were largely recorded in Harrison’s home studio and featured a cast of soul, funk and rock worthies, with This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying) tossing back some brickbats with relish.
The pun-tastic Thirty Three & ¹/ ³ and Harrison’s self-titled eighth album are an artistic cut-off point, with the tribute track Pure Smokey and the reworked Not Guilty – more Fabs swiping – passing the audition.
After that it gets a bit murky, even if All Those Years Ago buries the hatchet in paying tribute to the recently murdered John Lennon. Somewhere In England and Gone Troppo are highly forgettable, despite the inclusion of the Terry Gilliam-bashing Dream Away on the latter.
Cloud Nine was a resurrection, thanks to Got My Mind Set On You and When We Was Fab, and the final Brainwashed includes Any Road, which is a fine Northern song.
An agreeable box set then, but it’s a fair bet that most listeners will return to All Things Must Pass and save the rest for a rainy day.