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George Harrison – Somewhere In England (Strange Apple Records SAR 015)

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Somewhere In England (Strange Apple Records SAR 015)

(74:39):  Hong Kong Blues, Writing’s on the Wall, Flying Hour, Lay His Head, Unconsciousness Rules, Sat Singing, Life Itself, Tears of the World, Baltimore Oriole, Save the World.  Bonus tracks:   Sat Singing (remixed version issued with Songs By George Harrison book, 1988), Lay His Head (remixed version issued on b-side of “Got My Mind Set On You”, 1987),  Flying Hour (remixed version issued with Songs By George Harrison book, 1988), Tears Of The World (remixed version issued with Songs By George Harrison 2 book, 1992), Life Itself (demo version issued with Songs By George Harrison 2 book, 1992), Save The World (for Greenpeace, new vocals recorded for this version in 1985), Save The World (demo version issued as a bonus track on the 2004 remaster of Somewhere In England), Tears Of The World (remixed version issued as a bonus track on the 2004 remaster of Thirty Three And 1/3)

George Harrison’s eleventh solo album Somewhere In England has a strange and tumultuous history behind it.  As a follow up to his successful George Harrison LP in 1979, the new album was set for release on October 29th, 1980.  At the last moment Warner Brothers pulled the album (even after it was advertised) and wanted the cover picture changed and wanted four songs dropped.  Harrison returned to the studio and worked on four new songs to replace the ones pulled, including a song (“Blood From A Clone) protesting the record company’s action. 

The original 7ips reel-to-reel tapes of the rejected album were available for in-house advance promo release and were pressed on Somewhere In England (PEGBOY – 1005) in 1996 along with some live tracks from the mid eighties.

Dark Horse Records gave the album a much needed remaster and reissue in 2004.  It is understandable they reproduced the LP as it was released in 1981 with the new songs and restored the original artwork.  But the missed an opportunity to produced the definite release by not including the four rejected tracks in their various incarnations, but included only a demo of “Save The World” as a bonus track. 

Strange Apple revisits this strange piece of work again, but instead of padding the disc with unrelated live tracks they reproduce a disc closer to what collectors were asking for.  It has the original album with the four rejected songs plus the variata and demos.  This release is by far the best version of the album by far and essential for the Harrison collection.

The first half of the disc is the original album in sequence.  It’s interesting the album began with gong smash and the Hoagie Carmichael cover “Hong Kong Blues.”  The orient held some interest for Harrison around this time which is also reflected in his association with the film Shanghai Surprise in 1986.  The final sequence of the album places this as the penultimate track, almost as if it were being buried on the second side. 

The four songs that were  dropped were “Flying Hour,” “Lay His Head,” “Sat Singing” and “Tears of the World.”  Although it’s claimed these were too depressing, it’s hard to make that argument since they sound very upbeat.  “Flying Hour” is an uptempo song driven by a combination of acoustic and electric guitars and a cheesy synthesizer solo in the middle.  “Lay His Head” and “Sat Singing” are both very slow paced tunes, the first being a love song to Harrison’s wife and the second dealing primarily with Krishna.  “Tears Of The World” is almost a straight musical re-working of “This Guitar” from Extra Texture.

Of course a fifth song, “Life Itself,” was not dropped and is the most explicit homiletic song taking the form of a prayer.  Why this remained while the others were cut isn’t really clear.  The LP was finally released in June 1981 with four new songs, “Blood from a Clone,” “All Those Years Ago,” “Teardrops,” and “That Which I Have Lost.”

The bonus tracks include all of the variations of the songs associated with this project.  “Sat Singing” and “Flying Hour” were included on a rare bonus CD with the book Songs By George Harrison published in February 1988.  (The other two songs on the rare EP are “For You Blue” (Recorded live in Washington DC, December 1974) and “Lay His Head.”)  “Life Itself” is a different than the other version in several way.  It begins with a studio count in, is longer, has different guitar riffs, fades slightly at the end and plays at the correct speed. 

“Lay His Head” was released on the B-side of “Got My Mind Set On You” in 1987.  Strange Apple make a small error in attribution between this “Flying Hour” by reversing the two.

“Tears Of The World” and the demo of “Life Itself” were used on a four song EP for Songs By George Harrison 2,released in 1992.  (The other two songs are “Hottest Gong In Town” and “Hari’s On Tour Express” recorded in Washington DC in 1974).

“Save The World” is common on both the reject and accepted versions and closes both albums.  Strange Apple include the 1985 version which first appeared on a special Greenpeace compilation titled Greenpeace (827 351-2), released in June 1985.  This version has new lyrics which explicitly mention the organization.

The final two tracks are demos found on the official Dark Horse remasters.  “Save The World” is a simple acoustic run-through which was included on the 2004 reissue of Somewhere In England.  The final track is a remixed version of “Tears Of The World” included as a bonus track on Thirty Three And 1/3.  Quite why it was included on this album and not Somewhere In Englandi s a mystery.  The remix is similar to the first version but has more emphasis upon the keyboards.

Strange Apple utilize basic packaging in a single jewel case and artwork and photographs from the original album. This label usually produces good titles, but this one, given the sound and well though out tracklisting, is among their best. 

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George Harrison - Somewhere In England (Strange Apple Records SAR 015), 2.5 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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