George Harrison Estate Launches New Record Label

The estate of George Harrison has just announced a new record label which will be dedicated to re-issuing some of the Indian classical and World music that George so dearly loved.

The label, called HariSongs, is kicking off by making two titles available to stream or download: In Concert 1972, featuring virtuoso’s Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan recorded live at New York’s Philharmonic Hall; and Chants of India, another Ravi Shankar project dating back to 1997. So far there is no talk of any physical product being made available, but there is a brand-spanking and comprehensive new website to go along with the new label.

In Concert 1972 was originally released on the Beatles’ Apple Records label in 1973, and was mixed and edited by George Harrison (with Zakir Hussain and Phil McDonald).

Chants of India, produced by George Harrison, was originally released in 1997 on the Angel Records label (formerly a classical music division of EMI). It was recorded in Madras, India, and at Harrison’s Friar Park home at Henley-on-Thames in the UK.

Both titles are recently out-of-print, and have never before been available via streaming platforms. In Concert 1972 is also available in Hi-Res 96/24 and 192/24 formats.

You can read the full details of George’s dedication to and delight in Indian classical music, plus the new record label and releases in the press release issued by the George Harrison Estate here.

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George Harrison – Final Live Performance?

Surfing the Internet today we came across this YouTube clip.

It’s from the VH1 cable TV channel in the US – way back in 1997.

They claim it is George Harrison’s last ever live public performance before his untimely death on November 29, 2001. We don’t have a way to verify that – unless anyone out there can add to the discussion? But even if it’s not true it is an extraordinarily frank interview which includes an impromptu rendition of the then un-released song ‘Any Road‘ on a borrowed guitar. ‘Any Road’ was later released posthumously on George’s Brainwashed album in 2002:

VH1 put the interview together with some linking historical pieces and re-broadcasted it as part of their commemorations on the day of George’s death. He was on the promo trail in 1997 with Ravi Shankar for the CD Chants of India (which George produced) and had dropped into the studio unexpectedly. What unfolded was simply great seat-of-the-pants TV.

Ravi Shankar – Beatles Friend – Died Today Aged 92

The opening lines of George Harrison’s “Bangladesh” song from 1971 are: “My friend came to me with sadness in his eyes, he told me that he wanted help, before his country dies…..”.

That friend was Ravi Shankar – Indian sitar virtuoso and legendary musician who has died today – aged 92.

A statement on the musician’s website says he passed away in San Diego, near his Southern California home. His foundation issued a statement saying that he suffered upper respiratory and heart problems and had undergone heart-valve replacement surgery last week.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also confirmed his death and called Shankar a “national treasure”.

pandit_ravi_shankar

Labelled “the godfather of world music” by George Harrison, Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers (including me) discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music. He became a teacher, mentor and father figure to Harrison and greatly influenced the Beatles music, from composition through to their fascination with India and it’s culture.

His discography is understandably extensive, spanning a recording career of well over 55 years. Ravi Shankar was briefly signed to the Beatles Apple Records label and released two albums. The first was a soundtrack album to a film about his music and life called Raga (1971), with the album of music from the film produced by George Harrison:

And then in 1973 came a double LP called In Concert 1972with sarod player extraordinaire Ali Akbar Khan:

Ravi-Shankar-In-Concert-1972--139925

George Harrison of course famously called upon his friend Shankar in 1971 to open the fundraising Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, and then released a live film and a triple LP called The Concert for Bangladesh with the whole of the first side of Disc One dedicated to a performance by Ravi Shankar. This was also released on Apple Records:

The_Concert_For_Bangla_Desh

Following the demise of Apple in the seventies, George Harrison continued his association with Shankar, releasing two LP’s on his Dark Horse label. The first was  Shankar Family and Friends (1974):

Family and Friends

Shankar Family and Friends was followed on Dark Horse Records in 1976 by Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India:

RaviShankar'sMusicFestivalFromIndia_album_cover

George Harrison also compiled and produced a 1996 box set called Ravi – In Celebration (for the EMI subsidiary label, Angel Records). A single CD of highlights was also released:

In Celebration

And in 1997 (also on the Angle label) came Chants of India, which was again produced by George Harrison:

Chants

It was no surprise then, when in 2002 a tribute concert was held in honour of the late Beatle, that the music of Ravi Shankar would feature prominently. He was present for the show and a Shankar composition “Arpan” (Sanskrit for ‘to give’), was specially written for the occasion:

ConcertGeorgeCover

All the Dark Horse Harrison/Shankar collaborations, plus Chants of India, came out in a lavish box set simply called Collaborations in November 2010:

collaborations_01

In recent years Ravi Shankar’s own record label EastMeetsWest Music has been steadily working through his back-catalogue and re-releasing his life’s work on CD, DVD, and digitally.

Concert For George – Win a Free New Blu-ray

This week a new 2-disc Blu-ray version of “Concert for George” was released. It’s the first time we get to see this spectacular memorial concert in all its true high-definition glory. And you can win a free copy of the set – see below for details.

The “Concert for George” took place at London’s  Royal Albert Hall on November 29, 2002 – one year to the day after the sad passing of George Harrison. Olivia Harrison and longtime friend Eric Clapton organized a performance tribute in his honor.  It was a celebration of his music on a number of levels. The concert begins with a spectacular Indian orchestra performance of a composition called “Arpan”,  specially composed for the occasion by Ravi Shankar who was  a friend and mentor to George since he first discovered Indian music and began incorporating it into his Beatles music in the mid-1960s. “Arpan” means offering and within the piece Ravi Shankar expresses aspects of George’s moods and spiritual aspirations. The work includes Eric Clapton playing a haunting acoustic solo.

Disc One of the new Blu-ray “Concert for George” set contains the concert in its entirety.  A second disc features the original theatrical version of the film. There are also concert highlights, interviews with the performers, rehearsals and behind-the-scenes footage. The second disc also contains a previously unreleased interview segment entitled “Drummers,” featuring Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner and legendary percussionist Ray Cooper.

This very special evening featured many of George’s original compositions (both as a solo artist and as a Beatle) and the music he loved – all performed by a lineup including Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, the Monty Python team, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka, Ringo Starr, and George’s son Dhani Harrison.

The concert focusses very much on George’s writing and features songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (with Eric Clapton on guitar, Paul McCartney on piano and Ringo Starr on drums), “Taxman” (performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), “My Sweet Lord” (by Billy Preston), “Old Brown Shoe” (Gary Brooker), and “The Inner Light” (covered by Jeff Lynne and Anoushka Shankar).  Jeff Lynne  was George’s longtime friend and collaborator and he produced the recording of the concert, while Eric Clapton oversaw the entire proceedings as Musical Director. The concert film is directed  by David Leland.

Now – here’s your chance to win a copy of the new Blu-ray 2-disc release. All you have to do is be the first person to email me at beatlesblogger.gmail.com with the correct answer to this “Concert for George” question:

In the “Concert for George” singer Sam Brown (daughter of Joe Brown, who is also in the concert) performs a version of a George Harrison/Dhani Harrison composition called “Horse to the Water”. What is the name of the album on which this song was first released?

Its a little bit tricky but the first correct entry sent to my email address above will win a Blu-ray copy of  the “Concert for George” set – released just this week.

The “Concert for George” Blu-ray is courtesy of Rhino Entertainment.

Here’s a promotional trailer for the film.

Harrison-Shankar “Collaborations” – Unboxing

Our copy of the George Harrison/Ravi Shankar box set “Collaborations” has just arrived. The first thing to say about it is that it’s much bigger than we’d expected it to be from the photos and info on the web so far.

Here’s a shot of the box alongside the 1997 release of the standard “Chants of India” CD so that you can get an idea of the scale:

“Collaborations” box – size comparison

There’s a stick-on label on the plastic shrink-wrap which sums up what you will find inside:

After the plastic shrink wrap comes off you discover that this is a very solid, richly embossed green-coloured box. It’s a bit like the Beatles “Remastered” stereo box set in that it has a magnetic clasp on the right-hand side that allows the box “lid” to flip out and open:

Once you have the box open the first thing you see is your individually numbered “Certificate of Authenticity” and a white ribbon that helps lift out the contents below very neatly:

These box sets are Limited Editions and this one is number 13486. Here’s a close-up of the certificate:

Immediately underneath the certificate is a beautiful hardback book with a foreword written by composer Philip Glass; then George Harrison and Ravi Shankar talk about their collaborations together in a section called “In Their Own Words”.  This is followed by descriptions of the three CDs and the DVD; there’s some information about George’s Material World Charitable Foundation; an insight into Indian music by Ravi Shankar (along with drawings and descriptions of the Indian musical instruments used on the albums); information about and photographs of the individual artists who perform on each disc. Then there’s a glossary of terms, and finally the album and production credits.

This book is beautifully produced – clearly it has been put together with a great deal of care and there are many really special glossy photographs included throughout:

After the hardcover book come the albums themselves. And these are a surprise as they are each housed in over-sized cardboard covers that are about 8 1/2 inches (or 21 cms) square. They are “Chants of India”:

Then comes “Music Festival From India”:

Then “Shankar Family and Friends”:

And finally the concert DVD, “Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India”:

The CDs all replicate the original LP artwork faithfully. Again, here’s a comparison photograph with a cover from the box set alongside a standard CD so you can get an idea of the size of the box set covers:

That’s the standard “Chants of India” CD on the right, compared to the box set version behind. Each of the CDs in the 2010 box are held in special, thick cardboard inserts:

On the flip-side of each of these cardboard CD holders is a large Dark Horse Records logo:

And inside each CD cover there’s also an accompanying folded paper insert with information about the recording. This is the one for “Chants of India”:

The great part about this set is that both “Shankar Family and Friends” and  “Music Festival From India” are being released for the first time ever on CD, and the DVD “Music Festival From India” is previously unreleased.

In conclusion then, for me this is a very interesting, limited-edition box set. For many Beatle collectors George Harrison’s excursions into the exotic world of Indian music and culture lie on the outer edges of  their musical tastes, but for others this forms an essential part of their collections. We really enjoy Indian music and having a connection to it through George makes this set very special – just like this photograph [by Carolyn Jones] which appears on the final page of the book:

Apple Artist LP Reissues – From 1991 to 1996

There are about to be 16 Apple artists titles reissued on CD (many with bonus tracks) by the Beatles’ record company, Apple Records. But it’s not the first time that Apple has had such a big re-issue program. They’ve done it at least once before – only over the period of a couple of years in the early 1990’s in what they then called release “phases”. Phase I of the original reissue program started in 1991 with five newly digitally remastered CDs and vinyl seeing the light of day for the first time since they  originally came out back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. For collectors of Apple vinyl these were interesting items because it often meant that the LP’s were expanded – with the bonus material contained on unique, separate, additional discs. The original single-sleeve covers also became gate-fold doubles. The Phase I titles included James Taylor – “James Taylor”; Mary Hopkin – “Postcard”; Billy Preston – “That’s the Way God Planned It”; Jackie Lomax – “Is This What You Want?”, and Badfinger – “Magic Christian Music” To mark Phase I there was a vinyl EP released, and also a CD with the same tracks. However, it was issued in a special apple-shaped cardboard container. There was also a promo CD with 14 tracks that was sent to radio stations featuring selected songs from each release that is now a real collectors item:

Apple “Phase I” limited edition promo CD cover

The Phase II titles came in 1992 when Apple re-issued (on vinyl and CD): Mary Hopkin – “Earth Song Ocean Song”; Badfinger – “No Dice”; Doris Troy – “Doris Troy”; The Iveys – “Maybe Tomorrow”; George Harrison – “Wonderwall Music”, and John Tavener – “The Whale”. Phase II also had a special, limited edition promo CD (also with 14 tracks) that’s become a highly prized collectors item as well:

Apple “Phase II” limited edition promo CD cover

Phase III was in 1993 and included John Tavener – “Celtic Requiem”; The Radha Krsna Temple London – “Radha Krsna Temple”; Billy Preston – “Encouraging Words”; Badfinger – “Straight Up”, and The Modern Jazz Quartet – “Under the Jasmine Tree”. There was then quite a break with nothing released until 1995 when two “Best Of” discs came out, one of which – from Badfinger – was a completely new, digitally remastered title. These were Mary Hopkin – “Those Were the Days” (previously released in 1972) and Badfinger – “Come and Get It – The Best of Badfinger”. Both were available on vinyl and CD. In 1996 Apple finished off the reissue series with I guess what must have been Phase IV by that time – although they’d given up actually using that term: The Modern Jazz Quartet – “Space”; Ravi Shankar/Ali Akbar Khan – “In Concert 1972”; Badfinger – “Ass”, and George Harrison – “Electronic Sound” (on the Zapple Records label). As mentioned before – the reason these vinyl releases were of interest to me was that most of them (but not all) came with unique, additional discs containing the bonus material:

Jackie Lomax “Is This What You Want?” – rear vinyl LP cover detail (1991)

The full-sized, 12-inch bonus discs  all play at 45 rpm (not 331/3 rpm like an LP):

Jackie Lomax – Bonus Disc Side 1

This Jackie Lomax reissue came out in 1991, has five bonus songs, and as you can see is a European pressing. Here’s Side 2:

Jackie Lomax – Bonus Disc Side 2

From the Phase II series in 1992 comes the album “No Dice” from Badfinger, also with five previously unreleased tracks:

Badfinger “No Dice” (1992 vinyl reissue) rear cover detail

Again, the 12-inch bonus records were to be played at 45 rpm:

Badfinger “No Dice” bonus songs – Side 1

Badfinger “No Dice” bonus songs – Side 2

An earlier incarnation of Badfinger was a band called The Iveys. In 1969 they had an Apple LP called “Maybe Tomorrow”. In 1992 it was re-issued by Apple on vinyl with four bonus tracks, two of them previously unreleased:

The Iveys “Maybe Tomorrow” (1992 vinyl reissue) rear cover detail

The labels from the bonus disc looked like this:

The Iveys – bonus disc Side 1, from “Maybe Tomorrow” released in 1992

The Iveys – bonus disc Side 2

The next release “phase” came in 1993 and on vinyl I’ve got four of the five releases (haven’t got the Radha Krsna Temple). Of those, two came with bonus discs:

Billy Preston “Encouraging Words” vinyl LP rear cover detail (1993)

Billy Preston’s “Encouraging Words” record was co-produced by George Harrison and it was great to get on vinyl one previously unreleased song:

Billy Preston “Encouraging Words” bonus disc Side 1

Billy Preston “Encouraging Words” bonus disc Side 2

There were also bonus tracks on the Badfinger “Straight Up” LP. Here’s the rear cover of the 1993 release:

Badfinger “Straight Up” (1993 vinyl re-issue) rear cover detail

Inside the gate-fold cover was an additional record with six bonus tracks, five of which were previously unreleased:

Badfinger “Straight Up” bonus disc – Side1

Badfinger “Straight Up” bonus disc – Side 2

The forthcoming 2010 Apple CD reissues will contain bonus material as well, and in most cases these will be additional to the tracks already re-issued on these vinyls and on CD in the early 1990’s. Some of the additional tracks in 2010 will be included on the new CDs, but some will be only be available for digital download – that is unless you buy the box set of all the CD albums complete. Then you get an additional two CD’s containing absolutely everything.

Ravi Shankar – “Raga” Reissue

Amidst all the anticipation around the huge Apple Records reissue program (scheduled for October 25), and the new George Harrison/Ravi Shankar “Collaborations” release (scheduled for October 19), there’s also further news about another previous Apple release called “Raga” (which is not part of the current official Apple Records reissue series).

Quite separately Ravi Shankar’s East Meets West company is re-issuing “Raga: A Film Journey Into the Soul of India”, a 1971 film about Shankar’s life and music, which features appearances by George Harrison.

The soundtrack is a former Apple vinyl title – but it won’t be part of the latest 16-title Apple CD reissues program.

The new artwork for "Raga", the soundtrack to the film of the same name - originally released by Apple Records

Both the DVD and a soundtrack (available as a digital download) are coming out on October 14, released on the East Meets West label:

Cover for the DVD release of the film

Further details about the DVD and the soundtrack (which will be available free via a digital download card with the purchase of the DVD, or which can be  downloaded separately at all digital retailers) can be found here. There’s also a high quality YouTube sample from the film as well: