“I always liked George…”
This is what Tom Cruise’s character says to Kurt Russell’s in one of my favorite scenes Vanilla Sky when discussing their favorite Beatles. We’ve all asked each other about our favorite from the Fab Four. When I was growing up, John was my favorite, in my twenties it was Paul, and the older I get the more that George is the one I relate to, even more so these days. He was the quiet one, the spiritual one and later on the Dark Horse. He was the best musician in the Beatles. You can always tell a Harrison song by his trademark soulful guitar licks. It was as if the guitar was his voice, and expressed his inner light during and after his years with The Beatles.
I actually was into George before I was born. I didn’t realize this until one day during my teenage years I was listening to the original Best of George Harrison cassette in her car. “My Sweet Lord” starts playing and I say “That’s the song I love,” to my Mami pointing to the cassette cover. That’s when she told me that the radio station she listened to in New York played that George Harrison song when I was in the womb. It all made sense why I so connected this song. Such a great song—because of this full circle moment my Mami bought me the original triple album box set of All Things Must Pass for Navidad that year.
All Things Must Pass was only the beginning for me, officially introducing me to his solo career. Unfortunately EMI didn’t feel his solo output was that important to their 1976 Best of collection that was released without Harrison’s input at all. That record included many of George’s Beatle recordings and very few of his solo hits. Thirteen years later we got Best of Dark Horse that reflected songs from own record label circa 1976-1989. But even so, we never had a complete compilation that spanned Harrison’s solo career until this year. EMI has released Let It Roll which is neither a greatest hits nor `best of.’ Instead this wonderful collection is simply subtitled Songs of George Harrison, amassing many of Harrison’s best works.
Some may not like the fact that it’s not in chronological order by release date, but Let It Roll works as an ideal Harrison mix tape. I love the way it’s sequenced, especially the transitions between similar guitar licks in “Rising Sun” and “When We Was Fab.” Then when “Fab” ends, we get the clapping from the Concert for Bangladesh version of “Something” recorded at Madison Square Garden. They flow so well together and these songs were released in three different decades.
I would have preferred that EMI added some tracks from stellar Live in Japan disc with Eric Clapton and his band backing him up on stage in 1992. For that matter, why not add “Handle with Care,” the song that created the Traveling Wilburys, and one of the best songs that Harrison has ever co-written. Maybe even add “You” from Extra Texture and the very rare single “Bangla Desh” that help inspired the concert in New York City.
My only real complaint is that there wasn’t a bonus disc of rarities and rare tracks for the fans. I don’t count the addition of “Isn’t It a Pity (Earliest Demo Version)” that was a bonus cut when you bought a digital version from a proprietary digital media player application that shall remain nameless. I would have paid extra to have some demos or unreleased cuts. But EMI wants us to wait, against the supposed wishes of the Harrison estate. They didn’t even add favorite Harrison song of George’s widow Olivia, “Run of the Mill.” However, there is news that Jeff Lynne is going to compile and release some songs that George was working on before he passed away.
Alas, if you’re a devoted Harrison fan like me, you need to pick up a copy of Let it Roll. The compilation is a fitting tribute to the Dark Horse. Even if you’ve heard these songs a million times, there’s something to George’s voice and his guitar riffs that has a way of moving us from beyond. It’s always like the first time for me, hearing this soulful spirit who surpassed his rock star status with eternal songs like “My Sweet Lord.”
It’s been said by his closest confidants that Harrison loved to bring out the ukulele during a gatherings at his house. George would serenade his guests with his sweet voice past dawn. He lived and breathed music through his timeless songs and you can hear it in songs like “This is Love.” George and his eclectic canon of music from Let it Roll will continue to inspires us within the sounds of his electric rhythms of peace and love on earth and everywhere in between.
John Lennon – The John Lennon Collection
The Beatles – Abbey Road
Graham Nash – Reflections