Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases. This week we take a look at Concert For George, Muddy Waters and Teen Beat...
Concert For George (Concord)
It is a little known fact that since The Beatles' catalogue became available for download in 2010, and later for streaming, the track that has been consumed far more than any of the hits is Here Comes The Sun, George Harrison's delightful Abbey Road album track, which has attracted more than 340,000 sales, including sales-equivalent streams. Its popularity mirrors Harrison's late blossoming as a songwriter of note, and forms part of what was eventually a strong body of work - both with The Beatles and solo - before his passing at the age of just 58 on 29 November 2001. On the first anniversary of his demise, Concert For George - organised by his widow Olivia and son Dhani to benefit his Material World Charitable Foundation - was staged at London's Royal Albert Hall under the musical supervision of his dear friends Jeff Lynne and Eric Clapton.
To mark what would have been Harrison's 75th birthday on Sunday (25th), the Grammy award winning album, which was originally released in 2003. is being reissued today (23rd) as a 2 CD set (catalogue number: 7203002), on vinyl for the first time as a 4LP 180gm audiophile set (7203006), in new 2 CD/2 DVD (7203004) and 2 CD/2 Blu-ray (7203003) packages and - from ConcertForGeorge.com only - as a 10 disc (2 CD/2 DVD/2 Blu-ray/4 LP) deluxe box set limited to 1,000 copies worldwide and accompanied by a 12x12 hard bound book. The 2CD set features the sound recordings of the concert, while other configurations variously include film of the complete concert, the original theatrical movie, highlights, interviews, behind the scenes footage and more.
And so to the music...Harrison accumulated a large coterie of friends and admirers in his life, and many of them came out to play for this gig. The aforementioned Lynne, of course, was Harrison's colleague in The Traveling Wilburys, and plays a major role, taking lead vocals on The Inner Light, a complex but serene song about transcendental meditation that originally served as the b-side to The Beatles' Lady Madonna. Lynne also performs I Want To Tell You, one of Harrison's earlier and weaker songs, and the rather more engaging Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth). He also joins another Wilbury - Tom Petty - and Dhani on a spirited version of the band's Handle With Care. Petty also performs Taxman and I Need You, which was only the second Harrison song The Beatles recorded, and which still has a pleasant, fresh feel.
Ringo Starr is on drums on many of the tracks, and also sings Photograph - which George wrote for and with him - and Honey Don't. He also lends support to fellow former Fab Paul McCartney's efforts, which include the bluesy For You Blue, a slightly below par Something and an excellent All Things Must Pass as well as While My Guitar Gently Weeps, on which Eric Clapton recreates all the guitar motifs with which he embroidered the original Beatles recording. As well as proving to be an amiable and competent host for much of the event, Clapton performs If I Needed Someone, Beware Of Darkness and Wah Wah. There are also some solid performances from Procol Harum's Gary Brooker, Billy Preston and Joe Brown, who ends proceedings with the standard I'll See You In My Dreams, accompanying himself on ukulele. It was a song Harrison never recorded, but one which he loved.
Before the Harrison covers take hold, there's a trio of Indian compositions played by Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Harrison's great friend Ravi Shankar. I'm not sure how faithful they are to the originals, but everything else is certainly kept very close to the original Beatles/Harrison interpretations, and together they make for a worthy tribute to a gentle man and a great musician.
Can't Be Satisfied: The Very Best Of (Spectrum/Chess/UMC SPECXX 2119)
Chess and Muddy Waters are synonymous with the blues and with each other, and this excellent retrospective - which is packaged with a 28 page booklet full of rare photos and authoritative notes - is a considered and comprehensive survey of the consummate bluesman's entire career with Chess, which spanned 1947-1975, housing acknowledged classics, little-known rarities and choice album cuts from throughout. Waters played a defining role in both blues and rock & roll, as evidenced by tracks like Mannish Boy, I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man and Rollin' And Tumblin', providing definitive takes on existing blues tracks and forging new ones of his own. It is, remarkably, 35 years since his death but Muddy remains a colossus, and this is a great way to get into his back catalogue, with 40 songs spread across two CDs and, as it's on Spectrum, it is pitched at a very affordablebudget price of around £7.
Teen Beat Volume 6 (Ace CDCHD 1518)
Aside from the fact is contains 26 tracks instead of the 30 that graced its predecessors, Teen Beat Volume 6 doesn't change the winning formula for this esteemed series, some 25 years after its inception. Now, as then, it is mastered to a very high standard, accompanied by copious liner notes and illustrations, and provides a vivid and enjoyable journey back to America's golden age of rock'n'roll via memorable instrumentals. Tracks range in vintage from 1958 to 1966, and include Sandy Nelson's previously unreleased Drum Shack, which was to have been released in 1964, but was cancelled and has not seen the light of day until now. It turns out to be a typical percussion-heavy and catchy delight from America's top rock drummer of the era, and would certainly have been a welcome addition to his canon of 30 plus singles. Almost equally obscure, The Astronauts Big Hunk O' Love was previously only issued in Japan, and is an excellent revamp of the Elvis Presley hit, recast as a surf instrumental. Rather more familiar fare - at least to those who were around at the time - comes in the form of Peter Gunn, Duane Eddy's definitive twangy guitar recording of the Henry Mancini composition; and Reveille Rock, Johnny & The Hurricanes follow-up to their smash Red River Rock, which is enlivened by a Hammond organ phrase similar to the US army's reveille - hence the title - and features Johnny Paris' signature parping sax.