George Harrison – Somewhere in England (1981)

History: George originally put together a version of this album in 1980, but it was rejected by Warner Brothers, who didn’t think there was a single on it. Around the same time George had also done a few songs with Ringo, including an unfinished version of “All Those Years Ago.” After John Lennon was murdered, George changed the words to the song, used the previously recorded drums Ringo had performed, and invited Paul, Linda and Denny Laine into the studio to do backing vocals for it. Four songs were replaced overall with the hope of making the album more commercially successful, and it was finally released in June of 1981.

My own personal history and initial prediction: We’ve reached the point of albums being released in my lifetime now, though of course at 1 month old I wasn’t paying too much attention to music yet. The song on here I’m most familiar with is “All Those Years Ago” and its music video. It’s a nice tribute to John while also feeling quintessentially George. I’ve noticed it gets pretty frequent rotation now on the Beatles SiriusXM channel for obvious reasons and I’m always happy to hear it when it does come up. I’m not really familiar with anything else on the album besides that. I may have heard “Teardrops” before, but when I try to recall it my brain is just giving me snippets of “96 Tears” instead so I may just be getting it mixed up.

Review: I’m afraid I can understand why Warner Brothers were so hesitant about this album. It’s not bad, but beyond “All Those Years Ago,” there’s very little here that truly stands out. George’s religious sentiments are back, but unfortunately there’s also a lot of bitterness. He’s angry with the record company, he’s angry with Chapman and with people who gave John a hard time when he was alive, he’s angry at drug addicts (maybe his former self specifically?), he’s angry at people poisoning the earth. Most of these are logical, natural things to be mad at, but the constant barrage of complaining starts to sound too much like just that and nothing else after awhile.

Add to it that the music itself for the most part doesn’t really stand out too much. There’s some nice bouncy rhythms here and there, and the genre sort of touches on country, doowop, and blues at different points, but it all has a very similar sound to it. He’s also doing an affectation on his voice in quite a few of these that reminds me very much of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. It’s not absolutely awful but I know he can sing better than that. He also chose to include two different Hoagy Carmichael songs, one on each side of the album, and I personally don’t pick up on any particular significance or meaning to them beyond the fact that they were both featured in the same film, To Have and Have Not. I suppose George just liked them and wanted to use them to fill up the album.

I hate to say it but it feels largely like George is just making music at this point because he maybe feels like he has to? I know he will eventually come back strong, but for now it seems like he’s floundering a bit. It’s not bad music, it’s just really uninspired.

Next Time: Ringo wants you to Stop and Smell the Roses.


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