George Harrison: Soul Man Vol. 1
By John Blaney
Mega Dodo/Paper Jukebox
In his introduction, author Blaney explains that this book is not to be seen as a biography. The press release’s description of it as “an in-depth illustrated critical review” of Harrison’s work is an apt characterization of the 400+-page tome, but there are elements of Harrison’s life story woven into the text.
Working in chronological order, Blaney follows all the music Harrison made, produced, collaborated on, and released (as head of his Dark Horse label) through the years 1968-79. Even diehard Beatles/Harrison fans will likely not have previously known about some of the varied recordings Harrison was part of, as studio knob-twiddler, writer, player, label boss, etc. Details abound with respect to Harrison’s musical relationships with the likes of Doris Troy, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar, Badfinger, Ringo Starr, et al.
Naturally, the greatest attention is given to Harrison’s own records. Blaney offers backstories about every individual song on Harrison’s singles and albums from this period. He also supplies particulars on the playing credits, and offers his critical assessment of each tune/album. And, while he’s correct in stating that his book should not be viewed as a biography per se, he does in fact sprinkle in notes about Harrison’s personal life (focusing on his spiritual quest, but also touching on his love life, friendships, legal and business affairs, etc.) in drawing parallels between what Harrison was living and the music he made; and he analyzes the lyrics to many of Harrison’s songs, offering his impressions of their inspirations and meanings.
A key element of the book is its graphics. It is lushly illustrated with a vast selection of relevant images, including album covers and the records themselves, magazine advertisements, etc. In this respect it can function as a coffee table book that one could enjoy flipping through just for the wealth of illustrations.
All told, this book is something for only the most ardent of George Harrison fans. It’s hard to imagine anyone else wanting to read this much detail on, and analysis of, his career. But for the Harrison enthusiast, it’s a tirelessly researched treasure that will allow even a knowing fan to see a layer or two deeper into GH’s personal and musical path through this stretch of years.
Review by Brian Greene/2016
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