George Harrison – Thirty Three & 1/3 (1976)

Thirty Three & 1/3

Thirty Three & 1/3

After the sensation that was All Things Must Pass, Harrison seemed to lose his way.  His 1973 album, Living in the Material World, is uneven, and the following year’s Dark Horse is  not a pleasant listen, mainly due to Harrison’s laryngitis during its recording.

With such failures behind him, one might have thought that Harrison was content to relive his Fab Four past and keep releasing mediocre albums, but Thirty Three & 1/3 is clearly a musical step forward.  Perhaps Harrison was motivated by anger resulting from being found guilty of copying The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine for his hit My Sweet Lord the previous year.  And yet, the album is more romantic than angry.

The opener, Woman Don’t You Cry For Me is typical Harrison, but the didgeridoo-sounding bass is a nice surprise and works well.  Dear One is more stripped down, with just Harrison’s voice and a melodic church organ in the background.  For me, the highlight of the album is Beautiful Girl, probably the most Beatles-sounding song on the album, and with a guitar sound and vocal performance not dissimilar to Something.

With the album’s single, This Song, Harrison directly addresses the previous year’s court case. “This song ain’t black or white and as far as I know / Don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright, so” he sings, with typical wry humour amid wailing saxophones.

There are moments where Harrison’s tendency to preach is evident, usually to the detriment of the album.  See Yourself never really gets going, while the 5 minutes of It’s What You Value tend to drag.  However, the album ends with a bang: both Crackerbox Palace, and Learning How To Love You are top-notch, especially the latter, where Harrison croons “Left alone with my heart / I know that I can love you” over a soft backdrop.

The 2004 reissue comes with Tears of the World, an overly sentimental but decent effort that was originally intended for 1981′s Somewhere in England album.

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