George Harrison’s Early Takes: Volume 1
Demos and early studio cuts are typically a cautionary tale when purchasing music. Usually included as a bonus feature to a deluxe or reissue, it is rare when you can find a collection of demos that can stand alongside those that made it onto the record. It is even more uncommon when you can hear a collection of demos and outtakes that are as well done as the tracks included in George Harrison’s posthumous release Early Takes: Volume 1.
Recently distributed in cohesion with the DVD release of the Martin Scorsese documentary Living In The Material World, Early Takes is primarily comprised of infant studio recordings from Harrison’s later Beatles/early solo career, particularly his seminal record All Things Must Pass. The collection serves as a way to listen to Harrison’s music without the frills of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” and to just enjoy his songwriting through demos that may have been good enough to make it onto a record.
One of the songs to really benefit from the stripped-down format is “All Things Must Pass.” Hearing Harrison sing the lyrics without Spector’s influence actually brings forth a more powerful cut of the title track to the 1970 album. “My Sweet Lord” also shines without the layered guitars, as it brings out the spiritual nature of the song’s verse. “Let It Be Me” stands tall, but for a different reason. The quiet slide guitar playing brings a sense of peace to the Gilbert Becaud song that was later covered by the Everly Brothers.
It will be interesting to see if the Harrison estate expands on these outtakes, as they clearly bring out his talents as a musician and a songwriter in a way that we have not always been able to see. Early Takes: Volume 1 is more than a regurgitation of studio leftovers, as the disc is an album unto itself and a different way to appreciate Harrison’s remarkable solo career.