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Various - Concert For George album review

Album Review

Happy birthday to the proggiest of The Beatles.

If Sgt Pepper helped usher in the first wave of prog bands, then who was the proggiest of The Beatles? This writer is a fan of all four, but the one who resonates most has always been George Harrison, not least because of his willingness to experiment on those first two solo albums, Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound.

Harrison died in 2001, but released to coincide with what would have been his 75th birthday on February 25 comes a reissue of the Royal Albert Hall concert that celebrated his life, now available in various formats.

Many sides of the peace-loving Beatle are on display here, although the overt experimentalism of those aforementioned albums is not. But plenty of those who were close to him are on hand to contribute, not least fellow Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and fellow Travelling Wilburys Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty.

Anoushka Shankar (daughter of Ravi, with whom Harrison worked) gets things going, showing Harrison’s love of Indian music. Then the fun-loving side of his character is reflected by his mates Monty Python, joined by Tom Hanks for The Lumberjack Song.

Eric Clapton – who later married Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd and who organised this event – really shines, especially when he hooks up with McCartney for Something and While My Guitar Gently Weeps, as does Tom Petty on Taxman and a touching Handle With Care (the latter with Harrison’s son Dhani). Jeff Lynne remains understated on I Want To Tell You, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker nails Old Brown Shoe with aplomb, and cheeky chappy Joe Brown recalls Harrison’s love of the ukelele, especially on Here Comes The Sun and That’s The Way It Goes.

Billy Preston’s My Sweet Lord is fittingly moving and overall this is pretty much exactly the celebration you wanted it to be. Although when Brown closes the show with I’ll See You In My Dreams on ukelele, it really is hard to suppress the lump rising in your throat, even 17 years down the line.

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