Essential New Music: George Harrison’s “The Vinyl Collection”

Growing up Beatles-ish came with a dilemma when post-breakup solo excursions came to call: Which Mop Top would you most cling to? You never worried about Ringo because neither you nor he took what he did seriously. The psychic battle between the soft-pop Paul and the edgy-rock John became your main problem, as much of George’s work—beyond his holy, epic All Things Must Pass—seemed thin. Harrison made impressive but often watery rock tunes, sung in nasal Scouse accent, in dribs and drabs and always with too much top-tier assistance from guys like Eric Clapton, a relationship as fraught with weirdness as George’s ties to the Fab Four. Director Martin Scorsese’s 2011 Living In The Material World documentary somehow emboldened Harrison with new (even pragmatic) light shed onto the singer/guitarist/composer’s 13 albums released between 1968 and 2002.

As revealed through this crackling, crisp Vinyl Collection—one whose improved sonic depths provide richly enhanced nuances and a bass mix deep and melodic—a new Harrison emerges: one elegantly poetic and (of course) soulfully searching for his spiritual space real estate (Living In The Material World, All Things) as well as an eerie experimentalist with a nod to his later involvement in film work (Wonderwall Music, Electronic Sound). Pore through these sleeve-replicated volumes and there are amusing takes on ’70s Hollywood jazz/funk through the horniness of Dark Horse, something tartly and sarcastically glam-poppy in the era of Bowie with Extra Texture (Read All About It) and an amusingly dry, English chamber-like tone to Thirty Three & 1/3 and Cloud Nine. Though 1990s Harrison is a bit mucky (Gone Troppo), there’s enough nervy blues and folk within his latter days to reconsider his final decade.

—A.D. Amorosi