Not too shabby considering
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 08/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This album, while not exactly a top-notch memorable classic, actually holds up pretty well considering the era and the behind-the-scenes goings-on. Had it not been forced to be drastically reworked by the record company, it probably would be an artistically better and more memorable album, but we should judge it for what it is and what it's not. It has enough good songs to be elevated a bit beyond mediocrity, and taken in comparison to an awful album like 'Extra Texture,' it sounds like a minor masterpiece! And what kind of album would have sold better in 1981, one full of deep serious dark downcast music or one with a lot of catchy synth-heavy pop tosh?
The album starts out with the really fun punchy rocker "Blood from a Clone." This is a really great song, one of the album's standout tracks, and it's made even better by knowing that the lyrics were so giving the finger to the record company who severely compromised the original album. Up next is "Unconsciousness Rules," which is pretty unmemorable for me and sounds rather like filler. Although perhaps it would sound better to me had the album retained the original track listing, where it wasn't only the second track. "Life Itself" is an absolutely gorgeous song, another of the album's best songs. It starts out sounding like it were a love song to George's new wife Olivia, but then the lyrics start making clear it's a love song to the Divine. I'm baffled at why some people find his spiritual songs "preachy"; this particular song has the decidedly non-sectarian, universal, and non-preachy line "They call you Christ, Vishnu, Buddha, Jehovah, Our Lord, you are Govindam, Bismillah, Creator of all." Next up is the well-known and catchy "All Those Years Ago," which hit #2 on the charts, and which of course is a tribute to John. Though it was written before he was killed (and intended for Ringo), the lyrics were reworked a bit to reflect the tragedy. It's also a really nice touch how the other two surviving Beatles played on the song. The song is followed by one of two Hoagy Carmichael covers, "Baltimore Oriole." It seems to be one of the songs a lot of people most like on this album, and has a very dark feel to it.
"Teardrops" is a catchy upbeat song in spite of covering a rather downcast subject (kind of like "All Those Years Ago"), and, like a lot of the other songs, is very synth-heavy. Being a child of the Eighties, I honestly don't mind all of these synths; it just wouldn't be a real Eighties song without some overproduction or synths! And how many albums from the early Eighties sound genuinely undated today? However, the whole feel of this song just sounds radically out of character, like it should be being sung and performed by an entirely different artist. "That Which I Have Lost" and "Writing's on the Wall" slip back into more familiar territory, matters of spiritual and sociopolitical issues, though strangely they appear to have the exact opposite messages. The first one seems to be saying that you need someone to awaken you, and the other one carries the message that it's within you to change yourself and wake up to the fact that you need to change. "Hong Kong Blues" is the second Hoagy Carmichael cover, and is pretty upbeat and catchy, though, like "Teardrops," just sounds really out of character for George. The album closes with "Save the World," another great sociopolitical song with some of his trademark quirky dark humor.
Overall, considering the era and the circumstances behind the album's long slow painful creation and birth, it holds up surprisingly well. More artists' lesser albums should be so solid, enjoyable, and strong. There are enough good songs and songs which aren't so great but still enjoyable enough to elevate it beyond average. I also love the Bhagavad Gita quote in the liner notes, "There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you. Nor will there be any future when we cease to be," right above a dedication to John. Not the album to get if you're just starting to get into his solo work, but it's not something to be avoided until very last either."
A little confusing, but still worthwhile
Timothy Smith | United States | 04/01/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, "Somewhere In England" is NOT the George Harrison album any new or casual fan should want to start off with. Of course, it goes without saying that those fans should first look into the masterpiece "All Things Must Pass," followed by George's rock comeback "Cloud Nine" and the beautiful "George Harrison" and "Brainwashed" albums.
The funky "33 1/3" also rates up toward the top, with a strong track listing and humorous pop hits "This Song" and "Crackerbox Palace."
OK, now to THIS particular Harrison offering.
The record company, Warner Brothers, goofed in 1980 when it forced George to re-do this album, to drop four downbeat numbers and make it "more commercial."
What came out in mid-1981 sold enough to make it to No. 11 on the Billboard charts and crank out a No. 2 single in the tribute to John Lennon, "All Those Years Ago."
But something was missing, Harrison's heart in the whole ordeal. That's because the extracted tunes ("Flying Hour," "Sat Singing," "Tears of the World" and "Lay His Head") were all far superior to anything that survived the cutting room floor.
How those songs were deleted in favor of the half-baked "Teardrops," bitter diatribe "Blood From A Clone" and the country-ish "That Which I Have Lost" continues to baffle most serious George Harrison fans.
The "new" songs, plus the Lennon tribute single, were more upbeat. But they just didn't have the same cohesiveness, feel or passion that the four "lost" tracks had. (By the way, those four songs have been heavily booted over the years, which means any Harrison fan could successfully seek them out somewhere.)
When this remastered version of Somewhere In England was included in the 2004 box set, "The Dark Horse Years," many hoped the situation would be rectified -- with the original track listing to go along with the original album cover.
Well, they did release the original sleeve (intended for release in fall 1980) but the music contained is what was found in the June 1981 George-sitting-in-front-of-a-wall version.
Very disappointing and confusing.
Thankfully, you can now legally purchase the wonderful "Flying Hour" by purchasing the MP3 version of this album. But where are the other three songs? (Oh yeah, "Tears of the World" is a bonus cut on "33 1/3" for yet another confusing situation!)
Given all that backdrop and angst, SIE is good enough to warrant a 2.5 or 3-star status. Certainly, it is probably one of George's weakest all-around releases, but there are reasons to check it out (provided you already looked into the aforementioned CDs at the start of this review as well as the splendid-but-not-for-newbies "Living in the Material World" reissue from 2006).
The opening track, "... Clone" does have some biting slide guitar along with an oddly interesting beat. Both "Life Itself" and "Writing's on the Wall" are musical and atmospheric gems -- with the former providing one of Harrison's most-inspirational slide guitar solos.
Two Hoagy Carmichael cover songs are OK; "Baltimore Oriole" is somewhat peppy with dense drums and horns.
And it takes some getting used to, but "Save the World" does have some typical Harrison cynicism mixed with Monty Python humor and sound effects. After a few listens, it is actually quite alright.
In 1981, I absolutely hated that song. But that's the thing about George Harrison's music. Those who are open-minded and who actually give it a chance eventually tend to like it.
With that, I would recommend "Somewhere In England," but with a hearty dose of caution. Take it for what it is, and hope like heck that the Harrison estate finally does do the four deleted tracks the justice (and light of day) they certainly deserve!"
It still sounds great 27 years later!
R. Martin | 06/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When this LP was originally released, I spent countless hours listening to it. It still sounds great 27 years later!
The two singles from this album were "All Those Years Ago" b/w "Writing's On The Wall" and "Teardrops" (edited version) b/w "Save The World"."