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George Harrison / Splinter – Hari + Splinter’s Dark Horse (Godfather Records GR 332)

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Hari + Splinter’s Dark Horse (Godfather Records GR 332)

(57:07):  From The Place I Love:  Gravy Train, Drink All Day (Got To Find Your Own Way Home), China Light, Somebody’s City, Costafine Town, The Place I Love, Situation Vacant, Elly-May, Haven’t Got Time, China Light (single edit).  From Harder To Live:  Lonely Man, Lonely Man (single edit), Lonely Man (Japanese version).  From Two Man Band:  Round & Round

Artists who create in the orbit of more famous figures live under a double edged sword.  On the one hand they receive support and promotion from those who are much more well connected then they and have a tremendous amount of resources at their disposal.  On the other hand it is difficult for them to escape from that influence to establish their own identity.  Such is the case for the duo called Splinter.  Composed of Bill Elliott and Bobby Purvis, they caught the attention of George Harrison in the early seventies through Mal Evans.  Harrison initially wanted them to record their debut album for Apple Records, but when that company was going through struggles, Harrison signed them to his own Dark Horse Records in 1973.  They released their first album The Place I Love in 1974 and the duo recorded five albums total before dissolving in 1984 and slipping into obscurity.

The George Harrison estate owns the rights to The Place I Love and show no signs of releasing it.  (It took Harrison’s death before his own Dark Horse catalogue was released on CD).  It is a shame because Harrison produced, played guitar and contributed some backing vocals to the material and it stands as some of his best work in the seventies.  Godfather, with the release of Hari + Splinter’s Dark Horse, redress the deficit by pressing the first album complete.  Godfather also include the songs which Harrison played on from Splinter’s following two albums, “Lonely Man” from Harder To Live and “Round & Round” from Two Man Band.  They use a pristine vinyl copy of the album with no evidence of its origin except for the single edit of “Lonely Man” which has slight surface noise.  The sound is full, fresh and warm and stands as one of the better Beatle related releases of the year.   

The Place I Love took eighteen months to record and was first released on September 20th, 1974 (UK) and September 25th, 1974 (US) it had the distinction of being the very first album on the Dark Horse label.  It peaked at #81 on Billboard and produced their only top 100 single in the US with “Coastafine Town” which hit #77 on Billboard.  In addition to Harrison, Splinter are joined by a stellar cast of backing musicians including Alvin Lee, Billy Preston, Gary Wright, Jim Keltner, and Klaus Voorman.  

“Gravy Train” starts off the album with Elliott and Purvis sharing the vocals and joined by Harrison and Alvin Lee on guitar, Voorman on bass, Mike Kelly on drums, Billy Preston on electric piano and a horn arrangement by Mel Collins.  When John Lennon played DJ with Dennis Elias on WNEW on September 28th, several days after the album’s release, he played this song on the air and quipped:  “Here’s the first track from side 1 on the Splinter album, and we’ll see…it sounded like George on the radio last night.”  The more interesting songs include “China Light”, “Costafine Town”, and “Situation Vacant.”  Some claim that Harrison’s guitar playing is among the best of his career on “Somebody’s City,” “Drink All Day” and “The Place I Love.”  The personnel for the rest of the tracks are:

“Drink All Day (Got To Find Your Own Way Home)”
lead vocal: Bill Elliott
harmony & backing vocals: Bill Elliott & Bob Purvis
acoustic bass: Klaus Voorman
drums: Jim Keltner
6 and 12-string guitars, dobro, harmonium, jew’s harp, percussion: George Harrison

“China Light”
vocals: Bill Elliott & Bob Purvis
bass: Willie Weeks
drums: Mike Kelly
electric & acoustic guitars, mandolin: George Harrison
piano: Gary Wright
organ: Billy Preston

“Somebody’s City”
vocals: Bill Elliott & Bob Purvis
bass: Klaus Voorman
drums: Mike Kelly
6-string, 12-string and electric guitars, percussion: George Harrison
piano: Gary Wright
horn arrangements: Mel Collins

“Costafine Town”
vocals: Bill Elliott & Bob Purvis
bass and 8-string bass, harmonium, percussion: George Harrison
drums: Mike Kelly
piano: Gary Wright
accordian: Graham Maitland

“The Place I Love”
lead vocal: Bill Elliott
harmony & backing vocals: Bill Elliott & Bob Purvis
bass: Klaus Voorman
drums: Mike Kelly
acoustic & electric guitars, percussion: George Harrison
electric piano: Gary Wright

“Situation Vacant”
vocals: Bill Elliott & Bob Purvis
bass: Willie Weeks
drums: Jim Keltner
guitars: George Harrison
piano: Gary Wright
horn arrangements: Mel Collins

“Elly-May”
vocals: Bill Elliott & Bob Purvis
acoustic bass: Klaus Voorman
drums: Mike Kelly
acoustic guitar, moog synthesizer: George Harrison
piano: Gary Wright

“Haven’t Got Time”
lead vocal: Bob Purvis
harmony & backing vocals: Bill Elliott & Bob Purvis
bass: Klaus Voorman
drums: Mike Kelly
guitar, percussion: George Harrison
guitar: Alvin Lee
horn arrangements: Mel Collins     

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Splinter’s second album Harder To Live was released on October 6, 1975 (U.S.) and October 24, 1975 (U.K.).  The only song with Harrison’s participation is “Lonely Man,” a gorgeous ballad punctuated by Billy Preston’s swirling organ lines.  It was used in the obscure film Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs and the lyrics to the first verse and chorus were written by Bob Purvis & Mal Evans.  (Evans wrote the lyrics for the last two verses.  The music and the “Di Di Di” section was written by Bob Purvis.)  Godfather also includes the single edit.  Since “Lonely Man” was a hit in Japan, Splinter recorded the song in Japanese with the help of the singer Masatoshi Nakamura and was released in October, 1976.

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Splinter’s third album Two Man Band was released by Warner Brothers in September 1977.  The only song that has Harrison’s participation is the excellent “Round & Round,” a song that was issued as single but never charted.  The production on much of the songs forced them into soft adult rock and, on a couple of the songs, disco.  Overall Hari + Splinter’s Dark Horse serves as an excellent release catered to Beatles collectors to fill a void in Harrison’s musical output in the late seventies.  It is packaged in a tri-fold cardboard gatefold sleeve with excellent liner notes and detailed recording information.       

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George Harrison / Splinter - Hari + Splinter's Dark Horse (Godfather Records GR 332), 2.4 out of 5 based on 10 ratings

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