Sunday, April 19, 2009

George Harrison - My Sweet Lord

(Apple, 1970)

It’s been a beautiful spring Sunday in New York City, so I suppose there’s no better time to hunker down inside and start reviewing George Harrison’s singles discography. Humph. Well: His first solo release, “My Sweet Lord,” had old Beardo kicking worldwide chart-ass right out of the gate, and while yes, sure, he did rip off “He’s So Fine,” let he among us who has not pinched a Chiffons’ song throw the first stone (I, for example, was recently surprised and saddened to learn that I’d unconsciously incorporated the melody of “One Fine Day” into my eight-minute charity single honoring the lives and sound legal reasoning of American greats Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury). Working with the ever over-the-top Phil Spector (friend to the ladies of this world), George’s records never sounded better than they did in these early days: his guitar playing is in top form, and the massed superstar instrumentalists backing him give these songs a fullness that I’ve never heard matched elsewhere. Seriously, this stuff sounds FANTASTIC, topping even production-colossuses like Abbey Road. It also helps that the songwriting, while a little heavy, is excellent, as Harrison uses relatively simple, repetitive lyrics to great effect on the prayer/mantra that is “My Sweet Lord,” and on the extended McCartney-esque bummer “Isn’t It a Pity.” Throw in a snazzy picture sleeve, and you’ve got yourself a double A-sided winner (yep, with two unsliced apples on the labels!). But why buy the single when the full All Things Must Pass LP, from which both songs are taken, is just as solid? Solo Beatle records rarely got much better than this material.

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