Monday, November 21, 2016

Stick Shifties

George Harrison : It's What You Value

It should have come as relief to millions of Beatles fans to see George Harrison grinning ear to ear in the video to his first single on Thirty Three and 1/3, released in November of 1976. By all accounts it had not been an easy year for the quiet Beatle, still stinging from bad reviews of his American Tour and for albums like Extra Texture. His record label sued him for "non-delivery" of an album, he had a bout of hepatitis to battle all Summer, and the owner of "He's So Fine" successfully sued for more than $1.6 million over similarities to "My Sweet Lord."
 "(The ordeal) has put me through a real bad period of paranoia though," Harrison told NME."Every time I pick up the guitar to play something I think 'Uh-oh, this sounds like...'I can't help it. I do it all the time now."

 Still, there's George making light of the whole thing on the video to"This Song":

This tune has nothing Bright about it (the case was called Bright Tunes Vs. Harrisongs)
This tune ain't bad or good and come ever what may 
My expert tells me it's okay 

The song that delighted my thirteen year old self ( and my 11 year old son these days) is "Crackerbox Palace". My kid asked me what the song was about and I said I thought it was a whimsical tune about Harrison's huge estate, Friar Park. Turns out it's about Harrison's favorite comedian, Lord Buckley's,  nickname for his Los Angeles home.

Both "This Song" and "Crackerbox Palace" videos made their debut on the November 20, 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live.

Overall, the critics weren't much kinder about the new album, which nonetheless peaked at US #11 and sold enough copies over the holiday season to go gold. 

 From Robert Christgau :

 This isn't as worldly as George wants you to think -- or as he thinks himself, for all I know -- but it ain't fulla shit either. "Crackerbox Palace" is the best thing he's written since "Here Comes the Sun" (not counting "Deep Blue," hidden away on the B-side of "Bangla-Desh," or -- naughty, naughty -- "My Sweet Lord"), and if "This Song" were on side two I might actually play the record again. B-

From Ken Tucker of Rolling Stone
The most accessible tracks on Thirty-Three and 1/3 are "Woman Don't You Cry for Me" and "This Song," the latter an attempt to make light of George Harrison's recent plagiarism case. To the extent that he includes these fast, cheerful numbers, and smiley oddities such as Cole Porter's "True Love" and the impenetrable fable "Crackerbox Palace," Harrison seems hoping to achieve fresh popularity. In pursuit of the commercial, the sitar is banished and replaced by a horn section. But Harrison's concept of the popular also leads him to use Tom Scott as an "assistant" in producing the album, and the overall sound of Thirty-Three and 1/3 hums with Scott's presence: it is music with the feeling and sincerity of cellophane. Also unfortunate is George's persistent preaching. 

He essays his lessons in "See Yourself," "Learning How to Love You" and "It's What You Value," each of whose melodies is superseded by a fatuous pronouncement on morality or fidelity or worldly gain or something. Now more than ever, George is living in the material world, and if anything, seems less reconciled to it. 

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