Let It Roll: The Best Of George Harrison

George Harrison

Capitol, 2009

http://www.georgeharrison.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/20/2009

The “quiet Beatle” was underestimated more or less throughout his career -- by his bandmates, by the critics, and almost certainly by this listener.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s musical genius was simply beyond question, and Ringo Starr remains to this day a shambling sweetheart of a man, not to mention a superb drummer.  George Harrison, for all the memorable songs he penned and sang, still feels somewhat overlooked -- a state of affairs that Capitol’s new collection Let It Roll: The Songs Of George Harrison seeks to remedy.

The track list is rich with gems, and the feeling (for me) of discovery and rediscovery is enhanced by the non-chronological sequencing.  Thus we hopscotch from Harrison’s light-hearted 1987 “comeback” hit “Got My Mind Set On You” -- a jaunty collaboration with pal/fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne -- to 1973’s of-the-moment paean “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” to the darkly beautiful 1970 album cut “Ballad Of Sir Francis Crisp (Let It Roll)” to a stirring live rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from 1971’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Concert For Bangladesh album. The effect is kaleidoscopic and a keen reminder of the range and potency of Harrison’s talents.

From there, classic 70s tracks like “My Sweet Lord” trade off with latter-day notables like “Cheer Down.”  With the familiarity of most of these tunes, it’s still a small thrill to be reminded of the spark and drive of the exuberant “What Is Life,” the weary wisdom of “All Things Must Pass” and the fond remembrance of “When We Was Fab” and "All Those Years Ago." Even the three tracks from 2002’s posthumously-release Brainwashed album -- especially the dreamy instrumental “Marwa Blues” -- feel like solid choices.  And “Isn’t It A Pity” makes a fitting closer with its themes of searching for inner and outer peace and transcendence, accompanied by Harrison’s trademark “weeping” guitar licks.

As underrated a guitarist as he was, Harrison’s gifts as a composer are almost as underappreciated, especially in the way his songwriting brought out the best in his vocals.  He consistently wrote songs whose essential warmth, curiosity and wit reflected both the core of his personality and his best attributes as a singer. This collection brings into focus Harrison’s post-Beatles identity as a superb musical craftsman with an ear for pop hooks and a gentle and generous heart.

Collecting most of the strongest tracks from Harrison’s three-decade solo career, and adding a trio of key Beatles tracks through the inclusion of live renditions from the Bangladesh album, Let It Roll is the best collection out there for folks like me who have always appreciated Harrison, but could and should appreciate him even more. The less consequential songs here might be merely charming, but the best are stunningly rendered arguments for the significance of Harrison’s musical legacy.

Rating: B+

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