George Harrison - Living in the Material World

George Harrison
Living in the Material World

(Apple/Capitol)

The Music Box's #9 reissue of 2006

First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2006, Volume 13, #11

Written by John Metzger

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After The Beatles disbanded, George Harrison remained incredibly busy. Initially, he poured his heart and soul into All Things Must Pass. Then, he turned his attention to global issues by organizing his friends to perform at a concert that benefited the refugees of Pakistan’s civil war. Understandably, Harrison was left exhausted by his efforts, and it took him two and a half years to put the finishing touches upon his sophomore set Living in the Material World. Fueled by the hit single Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth), the outing quickly topped the charts. Over the years, however, it also has become the most underrated and overlooked album of his career.

Of course, the biggest obstacle that Harrison had to overcome in making Living in the Material World was the issue of how to frame his thin voice. The Beatles, with the help of producer George Martin, had deftly concocted arrangements that turned his weakness into a strength, and while Phil Spector’s far more lush approach on All Things Must Pass was somewhat less effective, it still managed to overcome Harrison’s inherent limitations. In producing Living in the Material World, Harrison wisely adhered to the templates that Spector and Martin had fashioned — the brightly colored radiance of Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long offers a prime example of both influences. Nevertheless, Harrison also followed a slightly more restrained and organic path, and when this is combined with the singular focus of his writing, his spiritual ruminations obtain a more personal tonality.

As was the case with All Things Must Pass, it would be easy to condemn Living in the Material World on the basis of its individual components. Many of Harrison’s lyrics, for example, are ridiculously simplistic: "You serve me/And I’ll serve you/Swing your partners/All get screwed," he sings on Sue Me, Sue You Blues, which, in commenting on the spate of post-Beatles lawsuits, is perhaps, the most bilious song that he ever penned. Likewise, the surrounding music was fairly straightforward, and it never strayed far from the pop-rock sheen of his preceding work. Taken in full, however, the album coalesces around its songs — the gentle Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth); the meditative fragility of Be Here Now; and the funky, horn-driven The Lord Loves the One (That Loves the Lord), among them — and the Zen-like beauty that emanates from Harrison’s hymns to a higher power inevitably becomes subtly affecting.

Beautifully remastered, the newly minted Living in the Material World has been appended with a pair of B-sides — the loose, swinging acoustic blues of the appropriately titled Deep Blue as well as a playful, lighthearted ditty titled Miss O’Dell. The deluxe edition also includes a brief DVD that features a quartet of previously unreleased videos: Captured during Harrison’s tour of Japan in 1991, Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) is graced with a professional polish, but unfortunately, Eric Clapton, who joined the band for the journey, remains well outside the spotlight. Performing on a resonator guitar, Harrison’s demo of Sue Me, Sue You Blues stings more than its studio counterpart, and though its accompanying scenery isn’t fancy, it is effective. An animated photo sequence is employed as the visual accompaniment to an alternate version of Miss O’Dell, and, images from the original U.S./U.K. pressing of the album form the backdrop for the title track. In the end, none of the extras are essential, but they do serve to make Living in the Material World an even better value. starstarstarstar

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Of Further Interest...

Electric Light Orchestra [ELO] - A New World Record

Manassas - Pieces

Starsailor - Silence Is Easy

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Living in the Material World [CD/DVD Set] is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

Living in the Material World [CD Set] is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2006 The Music Box