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Songs From the Material World - A Tribute To George Harrison 
Artist: Various 
Label Koch Records 
Length: 12 tracks

Lots of critics have little time for Tribute albums. I love them. I go mad for them. Lots of fans are very precious about their favourite artists being embarrassed by poor covers of the original songs. I love them. I am mad for another artist to give a song a new angle, a different slant so that I can milk a song dry of its meaning and resonance. 

I was excited to hear about a George Harrison Tribute and looked forward eagerly to its release. So here it is. What is the verdict? Lack of big names is a little disappointing. I had never heard of Marc Ford, Masters Of Reality, Leslie West and Torque, Wayne Kramer and then found out that they had all been legends in their own lunchtimes one way or another. Then the names you do know include Dave Davies, John Entwhistle and Bill Wyman who were hardly the lead vocalists in their legendary lunchtimes either. The song choice is a little unbalanced too. Nine out of the twelve songs are songs Harrison wrote for The Beatles. That is only three from eleven solo albums and only one post 1973!  One of the many results of this is that there are few of these songs that deal with the most important area of Harrison’s life, his spiritual search which has to be a huge misrepresentation and certainly makes the lyrical content a little less interesting.

Concerns then? Oh yes and they are well founded. This is no classic. It is certainly interesting but hardly a just tribute to Harrison’s life and career. There are the aforementioned vocal frailties. Some songs plod that shouldn’t most notably Davies’s chug at "Give Me Love" and Wayne Kramer’s "It’s All Too Much." It is actually Wayne! Those that work best are Todd Rundgren’s "While My Guitar Gently" weeps with its extensive guitar break, Leslie West’s bluesy rendition of "Old Browne Shoe," Masters of Reality’s "Devils Radio" a dark horse of a great tune , They Might Be Giants find a quirky relation in "Savoy Truffle," The Smithereens’ "I Want To Tell You" rolls along rockingly and then ex Wilco’s Jay Bennett collaboration with Edward Burch on "Isn’t It a Pity," though it takes nearly five minutes to ignite.

There is going to be the release of the Live Tribute Concert soon which brings bigger names to the reassessment. It should be hoped too that a bigger company with a bigger budget and bigger names can put out a more definitive compilation than this one. Some proceeds will go to charity which is about the biggest point of merit. Of course if you are as big a Harrison fan as I am it is essential for the shelf and archive! 

Steve Stockman 3/18/2003

Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He has just finished a book on U2 - Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2, is the poetic half of Stevenson and Samuel who have just released their debut album Gracenotes and he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster. He has his own web page - Rhythms of Redemption at He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.


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