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George Harrison with Eric Clapton – Lost Mistral Tapes: Osaka 5 Days (Front Page FP0040010-19)

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Lost Mistral Tapes:  Osaka 5 Days (Front Page FP 0040010-19)

It was a happy surprise when, in the summer of 1991, George Harrison announced he would tour Japan, his first tour in fifteen years.  The New York Times reported:  “George Harrison, ending a long absence from the road, plans to tour Japan in December with Eric Clapton. Roger Forrester, Mr. Clapton’s manager, said yesterday that the performances would feature Mr. Harrison as the headliner, with Mr. Clapton and his touring band as his backing group. 

“Mr. Forrester said that if the Japanese tour went well, Mr. Harrison and Mr. Clapton might also tour the United States and Europe together.  The Japan tour, which includes 13 concerts between Dec. 1 and Dec. 18, is to be Mr. Harrison’s first since 1974, and Mr. Clapton’s first public appearances since his 4-year-old son, Conor, died in a fall from a window in Manhattan in March. Neither Mr. Clapton nor Mr. Harrison could be reached for comment. Mr. Forrester said they were both traveling.”  (“Harrison Plans Tour Backed by Clapton and Band” by Allan Kozinn, July 24, 1991).

George Harrison was joined by Eric Clapton and his touring band at the time including Nathan East (bass), Steve Ferrone (drums), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards), Ray Cooper (percussion), Andy Fairweather Low (guitar), Katie Kissoon (backing vocal), and Tessa Niles (backing vocal). 

The opening show was on December 1st at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama and ended on December 17th in Tokyo totalling twelve concerts in six cities.  The souvenir called Live In Japan was relased in July 1992 which didn’t chart in the UK, reached #126 in the US and #15 in Japan.  The Tokyo shows were used for most of the material but “If I Need Someone” and “Dark Horse” from December 11th and “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” from December 12th show utilized.

Front Page released the two Tokyo shows and the Hiroshima concert on individual releases and chose to release the five Osaka concerts, which comprise the bulk of the tour, in one comprehensive release using very good audience tapes which have all been released before. 

They are treated with the normal light remastering to present these tapes in the best possible quality.  Each disc is in its individual sleeve and they are all housed in a clam style cardboard box with a four page booklet with the track-listing included on the inside.

Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – December 2nd, 1991

Disc 1: I Want To Tell You, Old Brown Shoe, Taxman, Give Me Love, If I Needed Someone, Something, Fish On The Sand, 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

The first two discs contain the December 2nd show, the second on the tour and the first one in Osaka.  This is the same tape source used on The God, Dark Horse, And Legends (Electric Monkey EM-01/02) and One Moment In Time (Misterclaudel mccd-15/16/17), a three disc set with a press conference on the third disc.  

A second tape source surfaced several years ago and was pressed on Run For The Roses (Tricone 003/004) which is a bit more clear than this one.  However this one is still very good and an enjoyable listen with the biggest distraction a couple of noisy girls from California sitting in front of the taper.  The set list for every show is identical (with a couple of important exceptions).  The show begins with Harrison playing some of his older hits.  

Eric Clapton plays a four song mini-Journeyman tour set from the previous year.  Harrison comes back on and they play more contemporary Harrison numbers and ends with an epic version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with the encore an extended version of “Roll Over Beethoven.”  The first concert in Yokohama had two rarities, “Love Comes To Everyone” and “Fish On The Sand.” 

The former is dropped but the latter is played on December 2nd and would be dropped for the rest of the concerts.  This show is characteristic of a slight stiffness in Harrison’s performance in the first part with self-depreciating humor like when he introduces “Taxman” by saying, “Let’s do an old song from 1873.”  Clapton warms up the audience well and Harrison’s second set is very strong and a joy to listen to.

Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – December 3rd, 1991

Disc 1: 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

December 3rd show can be found on Rock Legends (Mistral Music MM 9222/23).  The same label also released Harrisongs By George (Mistral Music MM 9224) which is labeled December 10th but is in reality another release of this show.  Harrisongs has only the George Harrison songs and is cut between tracks. 

Of the five concerts, this is the only one that isn’t complete with the encore “Roll Over Beethoven” missing.  The tape is another stereo DAT audience recording is excellent quality.  There is a “bump” at 2:36 in “Taxman” and a small cut between “Isn’t It A Pity” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  Some commentators claim it sounds a bit “darker” because of a deeper echo compared to the December 2nd tape, but still an enjoyable listen. 

According to Harrison, “Taxman” was written “back in the seventeenth century” tonight and “Piggies” dates back to when “most of you were babies.”  This song sounds majestic in this recording but Harrison makes a mistake on the first line of the third verse.  Clapton’s set is equally impressive with a gorgeous eight minute version of “Wonderful Tonight.” 

The second half kicks off with a fun version of “Got My Mind Set On You” and afterwards Harrison says, “I got a message here for somebody.  It says…It says ‘have my love / it fits you like a glove’” admiring the lyrics from ”Cloud 9.”  Clapton plays a fluid solo during the “Hey Jude” section of “Isn’t It A Pity” and is equally impressive dueling on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  Isn’t it a pity the encore is missing?

Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – December 10th, 1991

Disc 1: 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

The December 10th show can be found on Rock Legendary (WS-01/02), A Whole Lot Of Precious Time (Peace Frog PF-165D), Days Of Speed (Mid Valley 170/171) and on the first two discs of the six disc set Rock Legends: Osaka 1991 (Shamrock Records SR-203044/45).  “Devil’s Radio” to “Roll Over Beethoven” can also be found on 4th Night Revisited (no label) along with the December 5th show in Nagoya.   The source for this concert is a complete stereo audience recording that is more distant and is thinner than the first two Osaka shows. 

Harrison is more laconic in this performance by doing away with the self-depreciating humor and his attempts as Japanese (only a few scattered “domo arigatos” and “thank yous.”)  And after playing six shows he is comfortable to bring subtle changes to the well rehearsed numbers like singing “Piggies” with a particular sneer in his voice.  

The tape also emphasizes Clapton’s guitar work throughout the entire evening.  It is Clapton’s ability to breathe new life into some of the ancient compositions that is the chief virtue of this recording.  Amid the clang of “If I Needed  Someone” he delivers a solo of breathtaking beauty.  In Clapton’s set, “Old Love” is a masterfully constructed ten minute long epic and one of the better versions from this era on tape. 

In his second set, Harrison sings “Got My Mind Set On You” with a heavy layer of sarcasm in his voice sounding like a complete wisesass, and “Cheer Down” is introduced as being from the film South Pacific.  And as in the first part of the show, Clapton adds another dimension to these songs and in particular to “Devil’s Radio” and ”While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  A twelve minute version of “Roll Over Beethoven” includes the long Ray Cooper interlude and serves as the encore.

Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – December 11th, 1991

Disc 1: 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

The audience recording for the December 11th show can be found on three and four of Rock Legends: Osaka 1991 (Shamrock Records SR-203044/45).  Shamrock and this box set are the only silver releases of this concert.  The sound quality falls a notch below the previous recordings.  It tends to emphasize the drums and bass with slight distortion when the volume is increased, but it is still clear and enjoyable. 

The show begins like all the others with “I Want To Tell You” which is very energetic with an acerbic solo by Clapton in the middle and “Old Brown Shoe” is sloppy in the middle.  Someone loses the beat early on but they recover.  This is the start of what is the best of the Osaka shows.  Clapton delivers his best performance of the five and Harrison loosens up considerably.  It sounds like they are both having a ball throughout the entire evening.

After a gentle version of “Give Me Love” Harrison lets out a loud laugh and introduces “If I Needed Someone” as “something from the Budokan.”  After a great version of “Piggies” Harrison shouts:  “And now Mr. Eric Clapton!!”  He plays his half hour set which is highlighted by a nine minute epic rendition of “Wonderful Tonight” that leaves the crowd speechless.  

In the second set, the version of “My Sweet Lord” is among the best played on the tour.  It is played straight without the long “hare krishnas” from the 1974 tour which is a shame since seeing George get into his ecstatic prophetic speech added his particular quirkiness to the show.

Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – December 12th, 1991

Disc 1: 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

December 12th is the final show in Osaka and was released on Songs For Osaka (Original Mastering ECDR-913/914) and on discs five and six of Rock Legends: Osaka 1991 (Shamrock Records SR-203044/45).  It is a distant recording with some distortion during the first couple of songs.  Although it is the worst sounding of the five in this set, it is listenable. 

In the first set “Give Me Love” has an ecstatic quality in this recording and “Something” is sublime.  The center of Clapton’s set is “Old Love” as it is in all these shows, but Chuck Leavell plays an impressive organ during “Badge” and the segue into “Wonderful Tonight” has a dreamlike and soothing quality.  

“Cloud 9″ features excellent slide guitar laid over the disco beat.  Harrison is even more tightlipped in this set, eschewing the normal song introduction and instead launches into each one.  He stops after “All Those Years Ago” to say “John Lennon!”  The set ends with an epic, eight minute long version of “Isn’t It A Pity,” followed by his second most depressing song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  The mood is lifted in the encores with a fifteen minute version of ”Roll Over Beethoven.”  Harrison flubs some lines (“let’s do it again” he sings), and of course the song belongs to Cooper by getting the audience involved with his percussion solo.  

Comprehensive box sets like this are generally a mixed bag.  As good a it may look, if one part isn’t good then it spoils the entire set.  Thankfully all of the shows stand up well and can be considered close to definitive.  Moreover, since the set list is essentially the same for all the shows, only the most devoted George Harrison or Eric Clapton will want to investigate it. 

Upon listening to the shows one after the other, differences in attitude and subtleties in performance can be discerned.  It is a shame that Front Page stopped with this and their three other releases documenting the Hiroshima and first and third Tokyo shows.  Misterclaudel released a good version of the December 5th Nagoya show, but there still need to be definitive versions of the opening night in Yokohama (with the rarity “Love Comes To Everyone”) and the December 15th Tokyo show.  Regarding the Osaka shows, this box set stands as definitive.       

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George Harrison with Eric Clapton - Lost Mistral Tapes: Osaka 5 Days (Front Page FP0040010-19), 3.0 out of 5 based on 5 ratings

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