George Harrison – Thirty Three and 1/3 (1976)

History: While George was now free of his EMI contract and had created his own record label, the copyright infringement case for “My Sweet Lord” prevented him from getting started on his new record as quickly as he wanted to. To make matters worse, he also suffered from hepatitis in the middle of recording. But George approached this album with a bit of renewed faith and a good sense of humor, which continued as he promoted the album as well.

My own personal history and initial prediction: This is another one to which I have no frame of reference. That album cover makes me think of 1980s era George with his sunglasses. George’s albums have been kind of mixed lately too so I kind of don’t know what to expect from it musically either. I think I might have heard “Crackerbox Palace” before but not enough to really tell you what it sounds like or any of the lyrics.

What I worked on while listening:

A field of blue

Review: This album is largely regarded as a return to form for George and I can see why. A lot of the gloominess he’s been suffering from over the last two albums has been cleared away, and we’re left with a lot of great instrumentation and those lyrics that could both be addressing the spiritual or your true love. The moment the album started I was taken off guard by the funky bass that Willie Weeks is providing. This is largely a new band for George, and if this is the kind of style we’re going to get because of it, I’m all for it. After that wonderful surprise on “Woman Don’t You Cry For Me”, I also really loved “Dear One” which starts off sounding like some of his trippier Beatles tunes but changes into this really upbeat poppy song. The thing that leads me to prefer John and George over the other Beatles at times is that they both tend to write lyrics that make you want to make sure you understand every word. John’s are personal in a more emotional and psychological way, whereas George taps into the spiritual and intellectual, but either way there’s something to explore and learn. That’s present on “Dear One” for sure, but also in “See Yourself,” “It’s What You Value,” and “Learning to Love You”

But it’s not all seriousness either, as “This Song” is probably the highlight of the album, a fun response to his recent legal troubles that is also very catchy besides. His sense of humor really shines here, and there’s also a good point behind it, of how so many pop songs can in fact sound like others and take heavy influence from them. On the other side of the coin for me you have “Crackerbox Palace.” I’ve definitely heard this one before now, probably on the Beatles SiriusXM station I’d guess. While apparently George heard the name of comedian Lord Buckley’s home and jotted it down because he thought it would make a good song title, for me the whole thing just sounds a little too awkward to say. It certainly does get stuck in your head though, so there’s that.

“Pure Smokey” is George once again trying to pay tribute to Smokey Robinson, and this time he succeeds at it much better. Not only does it sound much closer to Smokey’s style, it’s also just a really nice idea, of remembering to say thank you in the moment and showing appreciation for someone else’s music. There’s technically one cover on the album, “True Love,” but I honestly would have assumed it was another of George’s songs. I guess it’s partially because I’m not familiar with the other versions of the song, but also that this version of the song is so full of his distinct slide guitar playing that it fits in so well with everything else on the album.

George also created three music videos to go along with this album for “This Song,” “Crackerbox Palace,” and “True Love” which are all really amusing and worth checking out. George isn’t the best actor, but he does seem to be having a lot of fun making them which counts for a lot.

Next Time: Paul adopts the pseudonym Percy “Thrills” Thrillington in order to quietly release an instrumental cover of Ram, titled just Thrillington.

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