His Majesty (no label)
Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan – December 17, 1991
Disc 1: Opening, I Want To Tell You, Old Brown Shoe, Taxman, Give Me Love, If I Needed Someone, Something, What Is Life, Dark Horse, Piggies, Pretending, Old Love, Badge, Wonderful Tonight
Disc 2: Got My Mind Set On You, Cloud Nine, Here Comes The Sun, My Sweet Lord, All Those Years Ago, Cheer Down, Devil’s Radio, Isn’t It A Pity, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Roll Over Beethoven
Disc 3: Opening, I Want To Tell You, Old Brown Shoe, Taxman, Give Me Love, If I Needed Someone, Something, What Is Life, Dark Horse, Piggies, Pretending, Old Love, Badge, Wonderful Tonight
Disc 4: Got My Mind Set On You, Cloud Nine, Here Comes The Sun, My Sweet Lord, All Those Years Ago, Cheer Down, Devil’s Radio, Isn’t It A Pity, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Roll Over Beethoven
His Majesty is a four-disc set containing two newly surfaced audience recordings of George Harrison’s final live show in Japan at the end of 1991. The December 17 show already exists on an excellent quality recording that can be found on Live @ Big Egg 3rd Night (Front Page FP-0040008/9) released several years ago. While all three are excellent sounding tapes, the source on the first two discs of His Majesty is a phenomenal, three dimensional recording that locates the listener between the stage and the audience and is able to capture the dynamics of the interaction between the two perfectly. Unfortunately there is a non-intrusive cut between “My Sweet Lord” and “All Those Years Ago” and between “Isn’t It A Pity” and the first encore “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Also, the introduction isn’t as long as the other two tape sources, and there are digital smudges in the beginning of “Cheer Down,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” and a pop at 2:27 in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
However the atmosphere it preserves is simply wonderful. The tape source on the second two discs is also very good to excellent. It is slightly more distant than the source on the first two discs and contains more audience conversations and cheering close to the recorder. It does not have any cut and is the most complete source of the three now extant for this date. With all of the tape sources sounding so good, personal preference will be the deciding factor as to which one is dubbed the “best” of the three. But each of them is a phenomenal recording worth having for the collection. Harrison’s tour around Japan was the first in fifteen years and the final one in his lifetime.
Hearing an entire live set is therefore a rarity. And unlike 1974, all of the shows in Japan were recorded and exist in very good to excellent sounding audience tapes. He was supplemented by friend Eric Clapton and Clapton’s early nineties band including Nathan East on bass, Steve Ferrone on drums, Chuck Leavell on keyboards, Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, Ray Cooper on percussion, Andy Fairweather Low on guitar, and backing vocals provided by Katie Kissoon and Tessa Niles. And even though Harrison had a hit album Cloud 9 four years before, the set list is very conservative both in song selection and arrangements. The first three numbers all date from the Beatles era including two of this three songs from Revolver flanking the rare B-side of “The Ballad Of John And Yoko,” “Old Brown Shoe.”
Before “Taxman” he complains about not being able to see anyone in the audience. The renditions performed are updated for the early nineties by including George Bush and Boris Yeltsin in the lyrics. The excellent “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” is the only song from the underrated Living In The Material World LP. “If I Need Someone” from Rubber Soul is the only Harrison written song to be played by the Beatles. This version features his vocals more prominent than in 1966 (where it was sung in harmony with Lennon and McCartney), and the both Harrison and Clapton take longer guitar solos between the verses. “Something” sounds sublime in the live arena and is followed by excellent versions of “What Is Life” and “Dark Horse.”
“Piggies” ends Harrison’s first set and the omitted third verse is restored in these concerts (“Yeah, everywhere there’s lot of piggies / Playing piggy pranks / and you can see them on their trotters / down at the piggy bands / paying piggy thanks / to thee pig brother”). Clapton’s twenty-minute set is a reiteration of his tour of Japan the previous year. Chuck Leavell plays “Sweet Home Chicago” on the piano as an introduction to “Pretending.” “Old Love” is another song from Journeyman and is played before the Harrison and Clapton written “Badge” and a very slow a sweet arrangement of “Wonderful Tonight.” Two of Clapton’s songs, plus “Something,” were all inspired by the same muse and one wonders why “Layla” wasn’t included.
The second half continues with two recent Harrison hits with “Got My Mind Set On You” and “Cloud 9.” “Cheer Down” from the Lethal Weapon II soundtrack and one of the best of his compositions. The final song of the set is “Isn’t It A Pity,” a slow and morose way to end the show. the first encore is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Clapton duplicating The Beatles solo and at the end Harrison says, “Eric Clapton, psycho guitar!” The final “Roll Over Beethoven” lasts fifteen minutes and includes Ray Cooper playing is percussion tricks with the audience, all in good fun. “Thank you to Eric for making me come to Japan” is George’s parting comment. His Majesty is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with many photos from the event on the artwork and is limited to two hundred unnumbered copies.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)