George Harrison – Expressed New York (Beatles Master Works BMW022 A/B)

Expressed New York (Beatles Master Works BMW002 A/B)

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – December 19th, 1974

Disc 1 (51:20):  Hari’s On Tour (Express), Something, In My Life, Will It Go Round In Circles (Billy Preston), Sue Me Sue You Blues, Zoon, Zoon, Zoon (Ravi Shakar & Family), introduction of the Shankar family, I Am Missing You, Dispute And Violence

Disc 2 (54:29):  For You Blue, band introduction, Give Me Love, Maya Love, Tomcat (Tom Scott), Dark Horse, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Nothing From Nothing, Outta-Space (Billy Preston), What Is Life, My Sweet Lord

George Harrison played three shows over two days in New York at the very back end of the 1974 tour.  Expressed New York is the first, using a very good and clear mono but compressed audience recording of the show.  It wasn’t a sell out however and there is a strange vibe in the Garden that night, as if they didn’t know what to expect.  

There are several minor cuts between songs, a good half hour of the Shankar set is missing (“Naderdani,” “Vachaspati” and “Anourag”) and the tape becomes garbled during “Tom Cat” from forty-five second for about a minute but is otherwise complete.  There are several young kids sitting by the taper making funny comments throughout the show, but are not really distracting at all.

John Rockwell, reviewing this show for the New York Times, observed:  “The result was not an event.  It wasn’t even quite sold out.  In fact, a few passing pleasantries and a bit of excitement at the end aside, it can only be called boring and eccentric….His onstage manner was curious – petulant as he hectored the crowd to buy albums and programs, cross as he scolded about marijuana, doggedly misguided as he kept repeating ‘Glad you liked it’ during Mr. Shankar’s set to an audience that clearly hadn’t liked it all that much.”  (“George Harrison Returns to the Garden, New York Times, December 20th, 1974).  He goes on to say that Shankar and Billy Preston were under-utilized.

The setlist is identical to the other shows except that “In My Life” is played second and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which was the second song, to much later in the set after “Dark Horse.”  The tape begins with the scorching instrumental “Hari’s On Tour” leading into a more hopeful version of “Something” where Harrison sings “I hope so / I hope so!” 

Before “In My Life” he thanks everybody including those sitting in the back, “who I tend to forget about” and introduces the song as written by “two old friends..nudge nudge wink wink say no more.”  The song was played later in the set most of the tour but was moved up to third for the New York shows.  In the middle he shouts “Thank God for Billy Preston in my life” before a keyboard solo that can only be described as magic.  This break was not played at every stop of the tour unfortunately but the results are breathtaking.

After Preston’s first of three solo songs “Will It Go Round In Circles” Harrison plays “Sue Me Sue You Blues” from Living In The Material World

Ravi Shankar and family come out for their spot.  He had been ill and hadn’t appeared since December 4th, almost three weeks before.  Shankar tells everybody he is madly in love with them as they play the meditative and awe inspiring “Zoon Zoon Zoon.” 

Shankar’s daughter Lakshmi sings the vocals for “I Am Missing You,” a Indian inspired pop tune with a fat, catchy hook.  Afterwards Harrison scolds the audience, saying, “Is marijuana now legal here?”  The final song of the Shankar set is “Dispute And Violence” which Harrison says, “is also called jazz.”  The three tunes on the tape represent an interesting diversity in the material from serious classical, pop, to the final jazz inspired tune.

The second half of the show picks up momentum with the long improvisation on “For You Blue,” “Give Me Love” and “Maya Love” (which Harrison goes to great lengths to pronounce).  “Tom Cat” is a nice interlude before the new song “Dark Horse.” 

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is made more optimistic, singing “while my guitar gently smiles.”  Preston plays his final two songs including a super-charged version of “Outta Space.”  “What Is Life,” with Preston sharing the vocals closes the show and “My Sweet Lord” with the “krishna” interlude is the only encore.  The BMW label released many titles from this tour, many with questionable sound quality.  The first New York show is, by contrast, very enjoyable and is one of the better documents to surface from the tour. 

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