Harrison's haunting melodies

All four members of The Beatles enjoyed successful careers as solo artists outside the band, not to mention long after the band's demise.

In the past six months alone, there have been releases from the 1960s pop phenomenon's two remaining members, bassist Paul McCartney and drummer Ringo Starr.

Starr, 71, released his 16th album, Ringo 2012, in January; while 69-year-old McCartney - who shared the bulk of songwriting duties with the late John Lennon - put out a covers album, Kisses On The Bottom, in February.

Later this month, McCartney will also re-release Ram, his 1971 album with first wife Linda. But there have been posthumous releases, too, the latest of which is George Harrison's Early Takes Volume 1.

Guitarist Harrison, who died of cancer at 58 in 2001, was often referred to as the quiet Beatle.

But on this 10-track collection of demos from throughout his solo career - which was put out in conjunction with the DVD release of last year's Martin Scorsese documentary George Harrison: Living In The Material World - his spirit rings loud and clear.

My Sweet Lord - from Harrison's 1970 full-length solo debut All Things Must Pass and arguably his most-famous song - kicks off the proceedings, and from the get-go, one can't help but be bewitched. That album's title track also makes an appearance.

Unencumbered by complex studio production, which often accompanied The Beatles' work, thanks to producer Phil Spector, Harrison croons gently: "Sunrise doesn't last all morning/A cloudburst doesn't last all day/Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning/It's not always going to be this grey."

Gorgeous.

The bare-bones arrangements continue on songs like the melancholic The Light That Has Lighted The World (1973) and Let It Be Me (made popular by The Everly Brothers in 1960).

The tempo of the album picks up pace on Woman Don't You Cry For Me (1976), a bluegrass/skiffle number, and Awaiting On You All (1970), both of which highlight Harrison's skilled guitar plucking.

There's a blissful immediacy and intimacy about this compilation, which clocks in at just over 30 minutes.

Plus, it's a great reminder that Harrison, who penned classics like Something and Here Comes The Sun (both 1969) during his time with The Beatles, was one heck of a talented songwriter.

We can't wait for Volume 2.

George Harrison
Early Takes Volume 1 (Universal)
4/5 stars

vbarker@sph.com.sg


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