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Music Review: George Harrison – Live In Japan

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After the negative experiences of his 1974 Dark Horse tour, George Harrison did not go on the road for over 15 years. It took a call from old friend Eric Clapton to entice him to perform live again. He and Clapton would share the stage for a series of successful performances during December of 1991. Following the tour, he would become involved with The Beatles Anthology project. As such, it would be the final live performances of his lifetime and the resultant album, Live In Japan, would be the last release before his death.

He was accompanied by Eric Clapton and his touring band. Guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, pianist Chuck Leavell, drummer Steve Ferrone, and percussionist Ray Cooper are typical of the excellent hands Clapton would assemble to support himself in concert. Of course, having Harrison and Clapton sharing lead guitar duties is a treat.

Harrison’s set, as represented on this album, is a fine retrospective of his career. He reaches back to some Beatles obscurities and well-known performances, plus a nice selection of his solo work.

“I Want To Tell You,” from Revolver and “Old Brown Shoe,” which was originally the B-Side to “The Ballad Of John and Yoko” single were inspired choices, as they resurrect some lost gems in a live setting. I could have done without the lyrical updates to “Taxman,” but the dual guitar work by Clapton and Harrison on “If I Needed Someone” is excellent.

The guitar work on “Something” veers a little from the original, but his takes of the White Album composition “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Abbey Road’s “Here Comes The Sun” are classic.

Most of his well-known solo hits are present. “My Sweet Lord,” a jazzy version of “All Those Years Ago,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” and a rocking “What Is Life” all find him at his post-Beatles best.

The album comes to a fitting conclusion with “Roll Over Beethoven,” which was a Beatles staple during their live shows.

George Harrison could not have chosen a more fitting live album to present his legacy. It remains a fine representation of his music and talent.

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About David Bowling

  • Peter Kelley

    I always appreciate reading about the great George Harrison (and yes Live in Japan’s a splendid alb). And of course it’s the nature of old Beatle fans to be picky. So I’ll just add that 1991 was not in fact Harrison’s last live performance. He appeared at Dylan’s 30th anniversary concert, in Oct. 1992, and is on that great double album playing “Absolutely Sweet Marie” and sharing the Byrds’ “My Back Pages,” incredibly, with Clapton, Petty, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn and Dylan himself, of course. Keep remembering George!

  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    Live in Japan had been out of print for some time, so it’s nice to finally see it reissued.

  • Jim Coats

    This is a fine set and a rare chance to hear live renditions of some latter-day Harrisongs, together with an imaginative selection from the Beatles years. Worth hearing for Clapton’s wonderful solo on “If I Needed Someone”.