When people hear the name “George Harrison,” two thoughts come to mind: his work with The Beatles, and his masterpiece All Things Must Pass. Obviously the latter album stands the test of time, boasting a staggering number of quality singles: “My Sweet Lord,” “Isn’t It a Pity,” “Wah Wah,” and “What Is Life,” just to name a few. However, Harrison released several other solo albums; while some were uneven, most contained at least a few gems. One such album that has received surprisingly little attention is 1976’s Thirty-Three and 1/3, a stellar effort that features beautiful ballads, his trademark humor, and just a touch of soul.
The album came at an interesting time in Harrison’s career: he had just formed his custom label, Dark Horse, and Thirty Three and 1/3 would be the label’s debut release. In addition, he was recovering from a painful lawsuit, having been found guilty of plagiarizing The Chiffons’s “He’s So Fine” for his song “My Sweet Lord.” His last album for EMI/Capitol, 1974’s Dark Horse, had not performed well on the charts; adding to the aggravation was negative reviews he received for his accompanying North American tour. Considering these problems, the album’s content astounds with its positive and romantic outlook.
Kicking off the album with a funky beat is “Woman Don’t You Cry for Me,” featuring Willie Weeks’s popping bass line, Harrison’s signature guitar, and Tom Scott’s deep saxophone adding some punch. Harrison appears in fine voice, exploring its upper ranges. Changing gears is “Dear One,” a track that could have been an extra song from All Things Must Pass. Featuring church organ from Billy Preston, the tune beautifully reveals Harrison’s spiritual side: “Dear One show me/Simple Grace,” he sings, “Move me toward Thee/With each pace.” “Dear One” serves as a lovely hymn, a proclamation of his beliefs.
Perhaps expanding on this spiritual theme is “See Yourself,” a song that calls upon the listener to look deeply at one’s strengths and faults. A gentler version of John Lennon’s “Crippled Inside,” Harrison sings that “It's easier to tell a lie than it is to tell the truth” and that “It's easier to criticize somebody else/Than to see yourself.” These blunt lyrics are accompanied by piercing guitar, as if to emphasize these points. Like “Dear One,” “See Yourself” urges people to look beyond the surface to explore more profound issues.
Harrison’s well-known sense of humor emerges in two songs: “This Song” and “Crackerbox Palace.” The former answers his critics from the “He’s So Fine” lawsuit, stating the tune doesn’t “infringe on anyone’s copyright” and that “my expert tells me it’s okay.” Preston’s rocking piano and Scott’s screeching sax add to the song’s fun, and Harrison’s buoyant solo shows his enjoyment in skewering those involved in the trial. Listen closely for a brief cameo from Monty Python’s Eric Idle during the bridge.