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Living In The Material World
George Harrison

Apple 3410
Released: June 1973
Chart Peak: 1
Weeks Charted: 26
Certified Gold: 6/1/73

George HarrisonWith the long-awaited and painstakingly-crafted Living In The Material World (whose title was originally announced as The Magic Is Here Again) George Harrison devised a luxuriant rock devotional designed to transform his fans' stereo equipment into a temple. The record was lavishly packaged with color representations of the Hindu scriptures, decorated with Sanskrit symbols, and -- like George's subsequent forays -- dedicated "All Glories to Sri Krishna." The lyrics repeatedly hammered home the message that the best way to insure a better deal for yourself in the next life is to keep your mind focused on God in this one, for "the Lord loves the one that loves the Lord." George had evidently concluded that he had been placed in this vale of tears for a specific reason, that being to reveal the Inner Light to his millions of fans. As he sang on the album's title track, he had "a lot of work to do" getting his "message through," before the Lord Sri Krishna was likely to elevate George from "the material world" to "the spiritual sky." Just about the only secular note on the record was struck by "Sue Me Sue You Blues," a commentary on the Beatles' legal squabbles, complete with the sort of vicious slide guitar work George had provided for John's "How Do You Sleep?"

George Harrison - Living In The Material World
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
"Be Here Now," based around a drone played on the tanpura, marked a return to a quasi-Indian mode of George's mid-Sixties work; the title and some of the lyrics were borrowed from one of his favorite books, Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass. Indian instruments also made sporadic re-appearances on the title tune. For perhaps the only time, George created an album that showcased all the musical styles with which his name has been associated with the conspicuous exception of good old rock 'n' roll. Whatever one thinks of their solo music, John, Paul, and George had all evolved into surprisingly tasteful and meticulous producers -- a job they had always left for George Martin when they wre still the Beatles. WIth one exception, Harrison handled Material World's big production job by himself. As on All Things Must Pass, great blocks of strings and horns and overdubbed guitars were piled onto one another to bring Harrison's somewhat dirge-like hymns to appropriately transcendent heights. Surely Phil Spector never had a more attentive pupil. George furthered his saintly image by donating royalties for nine of the 11 tunes to his "Material World Charitable Foundation."

Thanks in part to the inclusion of his heartfelt Number One single "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)," Material World chalked up another massive commercial success for George. But some of the critics began to sling a few barbs at his lofty perch, complaining that he had become insufferably preachy and sanctimonious. George had been built up as the surprise winner of the ex-Beatle sweepstakes, but in going out on his limb to embrace the sublime, George was beginning (like Paul and John before him) to risk appearing ridiculous. The Apple Bonkers were starting to rally, and once George would cease to underscore his transcendent dogma with the exquisite musical underpinnings that were still evident on Living In the Material World, they would do the best to knock him back down to earth.

Living In the Material World first appeared on the Billboard chart on June 16, 1973, reaching #1 and spending a total of 26 weeks.

- Nicholas Schaffner, The Beatles Forever, pp. 159-60.

Bonus Reviews!

Harrison has surrounded himself with some of his studio pals on this made-in-London production, which is both introspective and spiritual in nature. All the 11 tunes are by Harrison who is joined by Nicky Hopkins, Gary Wright, Klaus Vorman, Jim Keltner, Ringo Starr, Jim Gordon, Jim Horn, Zakir Hussein and John Barham. Inevitably there are songs about the Beatles and their mish-mash ("Sue Me, Sue You Blues" and "The Light That Has Lighted The World", the latter about George questioning people's impression that "he's changed"). The spiritual undercoat is captured in "The Lord Loves The One," "Be Here Now" (with an Indian sitar drone in the background), "The Day The World Gets Round." Harrison's vocal overdubs are first-rate and easily understood. Best cuts: "Living In The Material World," "Don't Let Me Wait Too Long."

- Billboard, 1973.

Harrison had a lot of songs stored up for his first major solo work, All Things Must Pass, and it launched his post-Beatles career with a bang. Two and a half years later, he released its follow-up, which, although it contained some good playing by his band of superstar friends and some good tunes, notably the number one hit "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)," indicated that the first album had contained his best effort and the most he'd be able to do in the future would be to repeat it. * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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