Throughout my life, I've become an admirer of so many people, but I think George Harrison is one person that I simply love to be a fan of. He's so underrated. People think that all he was about was religion and preaching. I'm sorry, but while religion was such an important thing to him, I fully disagree with that. People who say that most likely have never heard Thirty Three & 1/3 (1976) or Cloud Nine (1987). George was about more than religion...he was about car racing, screeching slide guitar solos, Apple groupies and so much more...but the most important thing (besides religion) was just having fun. Listen to Gone Troppo (1982) and Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975). Just the titles invoke humor. Ultimately, this was all combined in George's second album Living In The Material World (1973).
Last week, Olivia and Dhani Harrison released an expanded and remastered version of the album. It was released in two versions, a version without the DVD and one with it. So, with the introduction over, on to the review!
An acoustic guitar comes on to open Living In The Material World...with such a striking (and long) title you'd think it would open with something overstated, but like Material World's predecessor, George Harrison chose a simple, basic song to open the album. However, unlike 'I'd Have You Anytime', Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) is more than a love song...it's a love song to God and "whoever likes it," George wrote in I, Me, Mine, his 1980 autobiography. Also unlike 'I'd Have You Anytime', 'Give Me Love' sets a very much lighter and simpler tone that stays for the rest of the album. The next track is a scathing, largely acoustic blues number, Sue Me, Sue You Blues, where George attacks all the lawsuits that came about when the Beatles collapsed. The chorus ('You serve me and I'll serve you/Get your partners all get screwed/Bring your lawyer and I'll bring mine/Get together and we could have a bad time') sends a much different message than the otherwise peaceful album. The next track begins a series of quiet ballads that are spread throughout the eleven song album. The Light That Has Lighted The World is not that religious (or as religious as the album would later become) and has an easy-going message. George is saying that it's a shame that people don't like it when someone changes. Changing is important for us all to do. Don't Let Me Wait Too Long, sandwiched between 'The Light...' and the second ballad: the quiet Who Can See It, is a loud, basic love song, with a good rhythm and some simple lyrics. It's a shame that this wasn't a hit.
The second half of the album begins with the title track, Living In The Material World, which tries to get the serious message that Harrison can learned to put up with the Material World, he really would rather be in "...the Spiritual Sky" and how "...I pray/That I won't get lost/Or go astray." The song is a thunderous brake from the softness of the ballads, with Ringo's and Jim Keltner's 'double drums' taking prominence. The Lord Loves The One (That Loves The Lord) has lyrics that are simply too religious, but what keeps it going is the great music that stands behind George's lyrics. Be Here Now and The Day The World Gets 'Round are the final two ballads, both which are great ('The Day...' has some a religious meaning, though not overly explicit, is still a little too much), are separated by Try Some Buy Some, a song George wrote for Phil Spector's then-wife, Ronnie Spector, back in 1971. It seems awfully out of place, but the worldly, lyrics do seem to fit in. The last track, greatly titles That Is All, is a straight-forward farewell love song, that ends the album perfectly.
Two bonus cuts, which appear on CD for the first time (legally anyway) were both B-Sides. Deep Blue was the flip-side to 'Bangla Desh' (which should have been included; it is only available on CD on The Best of George Harrison, a terrible 14-track album consisting of 7 Beatle tracks). It is a really poignant acoustic song that, while depressing, is very beautiful. Miss O'Dell is a great, funny track that was the B-Side to 'Give Me Love'. It really is great to have these on CD finally.
The DVD included has some really nifty stuff on it, including a promo film, featuring a medley of the album's songs. It also has a photo gallery, backed by the alternate take of 'Miss O'Dell', a version that is much less humorous, as George sings straight-faced and does not laugh and stumble through the middle of the song. The DVD also has an acoustic version of 'Sue Me, Sue You Blues', with images of a guitar George owned and his handwritten lyrics flashing on the screen. Finally (actually the first thing you see if you just push 'play'), there's a stirring performance of 'Give Me Love', during George's 1992 tour of Japan that makes you wish he really made more live appearances during his life. Unfortunately, all this only adds up to a short length of less than 15 minutes! A new documentary discussing the making of the album would have made the DVD a lot more worthwhile.
The two disc set is rather elaborately packaged in a box thicker than both The Concert for Bangla Desh and All Things Must Pass re-issues. The included book features lyrics (which are printed at a size you can read, unlike the previous release) and George's commentary on the tracks (reprinted from I, Me, Mine) all accompanied by some handwritten lyrics (again, from I, Me, Mine). It also features a nice lead-in essay that provides a nice overall commentary for first-time listeners (what makes it really nice is the mention of critics who wrote that the album was 'too holy') and great photos of George, Ringo and all the other people who worked on the album. For the die-hards who might not have noticed, the 'Jim Keltner Fan Club' info at the bottom of the original LP cover is included on both the outside and the inside, complete with the wings next to his name (which were oddly edited out on the original CD release). This is to poke fun at Paul McCartney & Wings' album Red Rose Speedway (released the same year), which included info on how to get information on the Wings fan club.
I'm a Bealte fan and I really find it hard to say anything bad about an album made by a solo-Beatle (unless it really is outright bad). Living in the Material World is one album I would seriously consider getting, even if you aren't the most fanatic Beatle fan. Even though the DVD is really much too short, I would suggest getting the deluxe edition over the regular version. I am sure the book is shorter and the packaging is hardly anything compared to this version. Any fan of the Beatles needs this album.
OVERALL: ***Next up: I'm really not 100% sure what the next review will be on, but you can be sure that there will be one! See you then!