Greetings, Glancers! Here we are, my first full (fool?) foray into the world of non-Beatles music by members of The Beatles. For a few years in my youth I was an Oasis fan – that’s the first time I heard the word ‘Wonderwall’. I wasn’t much of a fan of the song, but I loved the album it appeared on. Shortly after, Travis asked the question ‘What’s a Wonderwall anyway?’ in their hit ‘Writing To Reach You’, but I was none the wiser. I knew by this point that the Oasis lads were massive Beatles fans and as time went on they were repeatedly accused of nicking off the Liverpudlians. It must have been around this time that I heard about this George Harrison album. This was still before the days of downloading, at least for me, and I had no intention of forking out my pocket money on a Beatles’ bloke’s solo album when I hadn’t even heard a single Beatles album all the way through.
It turns out Harrison was the first to release solo material. In late 1968, The Beatles were already crumbling – Harrison’s rise as a songwriter and desire to do his own thing possibly one of the factors of the band coming to an end. I’ve always had a middling opinion of Harrison’s work with The Beatles – his writing contributions – some good, most average, and certainly not up to the standards of Lennon or McCartney’s day to day stuff. Maybe he felt constricted by them, and going solo would let him soar? I was going to say I had middling hopes for this one – more positive than negative – but then I saw that this is actually an instrumental only album, a soundtrack to a movie nobody has ever seen. My hopes have plummeted. Still, it can’t be much worse than Lennon’s experimental stuff, can it? CAN IT?
Microbes: We begin, as expected, with some sitar. Other Indian instruments too. I’ve never been much of a fan of Indian instruments, but something about the way George uses them does create a trance-like tone and atmosphere. That atmosphere people say they get in general from Indian music, but in most cases it just annoys me or makes me think of Mario 64. This though…. I like it. It very much works in conjuring up images of the movie which I haven’t seen – I’m making up my own opening scene in my head.
Red Lady Too: A plodding piano piece, like someone walking slowly or footering about the house. Credit for making it sound unlike anything The Beatles had written.
Tabla And Pakavaj: As the name suggests, this is mainly a drum led piece, with some sitar in the background. Picks up pace near the end, short enough to not get boring.
In The Park: More Indian strings. Maybe my problem with India music is that I’m so heavily invested in melody, Western melody, and emotion that India stuff typically feels like it has no melody and just a chaotic random selection of notes with no discernible emotion. I’m not saying that’s how it is, that’s just how it makes me feel. For me, this goes nowhere and does nothing.
Drilling A Home: A jaunty, more Western tune. Sounds like something you’d hear in a saloon in a Western movie, only with more dancing. Sounds like something McCartney would write.
Guru Vandana: Lots of horns and sitar.
Greasy Legs: A much nicer tune, with lots of… I don’t know – keyboard stuff of some description. Sounds like a child writing a song on a child’s toy.
Ski-Ing: Finally some honest to goodness electric guitar, with India stuff lurking ominously in the background like a strange stirring pot. It’s just the same riff played on a loop by different instruments with a lot of stuff blasting off around it. Pretty cool.
Gat Kirwani: Fast beats and Indian guitar stuff. If it’s fast, it’s good.
Dream Scene: Backwards stuff and some vocals. India vocals, so I have no idea. Changes halfway through, merging piano with Indian horns. Chaos drums. I assume this is the clash of East and West. Then is suddenly changes again, becoming hungover. Then it goes buck nuts. Sounds nice enough, not sure I need to hear it again.
Party Seacombe: Harry Seacombe? Sounds like the start of Across The Universe. Funky enough. Guitars, wall of sound, piano, drums.
Love Scene: More of what you would expect. I don’t have anything insightful or useful to say about most of this. I’m listening to it, maybe that’s enough. Don’t worry, I’ll have more to say once we get to a more familiar style. Still, it works as a melding of East and West.
Crying: A strange whining piece which almost sounds like a woman wailing in pain – not as bad as it sounds.
Cowboy Music: This is exactly as it sounds. If someone told me to write, in five minutes, a typical cowboy instrumental, this is exactly what I would write. Except it seems to have a slight Caribbean twinge.
Fantasy Sequins: There’s that whining again. This one is a little more jaunty. Like a scene at a fair or a market or a party in a palace.
On The Bed: A bit more of a groove and a tune to this one and the way the drums fade in is something The Beatles would play with.
Glass Box: Another short piece, jangly.
Wonderwall To Be Here: A Western opening, with pianos and triangles, and a vaguely threatening soap opera tone. So this prompted one of the biggest songs of all time, eh?
Singing Om: Organs and voices doing an ‘ahhhh’ mantra. Works as an end credits, I guess.
So what did I think? I’m happy I’ve heard it, but I don’t think I need to ever hear a single track again. It didn’t make me overly interested in ever seeing the movie of the same name. There isn’t a stand out piece but George does a fairly good job of slapping together Eastern and Western instrumental music – at least as he envisioned them at the time. If you’re a regular on the blog you probably know I’m not big on instrumental music, at least when made by ‘regular’ artists or bands, and they rarely feel anything more than an experimental aside, a curiosity to be heard once and forgotten. Pretty much sums this up. What did you think – let us know in the comments!