“That was the great thing about splitting up: to be able to go off and make my own record… And also to be able to record with all these new people, which was like a breath of fresh air”. Though each Beatle would release a solo album by the end of 1970, none did so as promptly or as successfully as George Harrison did, his triple album a liberation half a decade in the making, Harrison’s best work and an album worthy of the best of Lennon and McCartney. A colossal who’s who of musicians (Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Bobby Keys, Klaus Voorman, Billy Preston and the members of Badfinger were among the musicians that played over the vinyl’s six sides), it proved cerebral and commercial; ‘My Sweet Lord’ the first no.1 hit any solo Beatle had yet enjoyed.
Where many of Harrison’s songs had found themselves on the rejects of The Beatles catalogue, Harrison’s plate was open for the world to hear, veering from the plaintive to the inventive to the comical, encapsulated on the album’s cover of Harrison surrounded by garden nomes at Friar Park. Opening with the wistful ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ (co-written by future Travelling Wilbury Bob Dylan) and closing with throwaway blues ‘Thanks For The Pepperoni’, the album brought every facet of Harrison’s life to the forefront, music as celebration (‘My Sweet Lord’, ‘What Is Life’), music as frustration (‘Wah-Wah’, his middle finger salute written after a heated argument with Paul McCartney), music at its most audacious (the album’s third disc primarily consisted a lengthy jam). All delicately recorded by Phil Spector, mastering his craft he had neither shown on ‘Let It Be’ or ‘Plastic Ono Band’. Guitars and trumpets going hand in hand, seguing from one beautiful number to the next, ‘What Is Life’ his finest production since his tenure with The Righteous Brothers.
Harrison’s prowess as songwriter had reached its zenith.’Behind That Locked Door’ showcased Harrison’s stoic medidative beliefs at their strongest, ‘Run Of The Mill’ and ‘All Things Must Pass’ worthy tips of the hats to Robbie Robertson and The Band. ‘My Sweet Lord’, so lucid and ingenious, it convinced Lennon to claim it nearly made him believe there may well be a God, the same year he sang that he believed in neither religion nor The Beatles. ‘Awaiting On You All’ started in similar vein, though the scathing quip that “the Pope owns fifty-one percent of General Motors” showed this was the same cynic who wrote ‘Taxman’. ‘Isn’t It A Pity’, as forlorn as any could hope for, proved its relevance when Chris Martin admitted it as a blue print for ‘The Scientist’.
As the third song veers from musician to musician, jam after jam, one can almost hear the exhaled breath from Harrison. Free from the grips of The Beatles, free to write and play, Harrison delivers a quality to him never before heard. Playful to the last, (‘It’s Johnny’s Birthday’ written to celebrate his former bandmate’s birthday), Harrison plays and sings like he had never before. You can’t help but feel happy for the man, a man who lived on music as a mantra for the rest of his days.