Dark Horse is a George Harrison album that I don’t think about very often which is probably an over statement. It is not terrible, nor is it overly good. It is just an average release and if I want to hear some Harrison music there are a number of better albums to visit.
The album was released at a difficult time during his life. His wife, Patti Boyd, had run away with his good friend Eric Clapton who would somehow remain his friend. His voice was also not in top form and he would receive a lot of criticism for its gravelly sound at the time of this release. Dark Horse was issued December 20, 1974 and became a moderate commercial success reaching number four on the American album charts.
Harrison would tour in support of the album but his concerts were not well received. His insistence on presenting Indian music as a part of the shows turned off many of his fans. He would only tour sparingly after this period.
As usual he would surround himself with some of the top musicians of the day. Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Gary Wright, Alvin Lee, Ron Wood, Nicky Hopkins, Jim Keltner, and good old Eric Clapton provide stellar support.
There is some pleasant if not great material. The two top forty singles are still very listenable. They may not be classics but they are enjoyable seventies pop. The title track was a double play on words. A dark horse meant a secret affair as well as the name of the label he was forming once his Apple Label contract ran out. “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” was a holiday song that still receives some airplay today.
Probably the best track was “Far East Man” which was co-written with Ronnie Wood. It was a song where it seemed Harrison was at least having fun. It is lounge act rock at its best.
When he gets serious or maudlin things take a downward turn. His re-writing of The Everly Brothers “Bye Bye Love” to reflect the Boyd/Clapton situation is painful. “So Sad” wallows in self pity and wastes some nice music. “Maya Love” and “It Is Me” are a return to his spiritual philosophy but are more preachy than humble.
Dark Horse signaled a downward spiral in the career of George Harrison. His albums would never be as commercially popular as his previous three releases. The material was also uneven which would plague many of his subsequent releases. It remains an album only for people who want to collect his entire catalogue.