How does one even begin to introduce a band that changed the world? The Beatles left behind an extensive catalog of diverse music, an omnipresent legacy from the four lads from Liverpool. Yet if you look beyond the spotlight of Lennon/McCartney classics, you might be surprised to find additional innovative songs from George Harrison that may just be as classic as the more popular songs. Harrison’s talent made him the perfect medium between John and Paul all those years ago, and as evidenced by a new collection, his was a skill that never abandoned him through his solo years. Early Takes, Volume 1 displays Harrison’s confidence. The album is a compilation comprised of unreleased demos of songs that originally appeared on albums dating back to the early 1970s. The collection is a part of the soundtrack that sets the tone for Martin Scorsese’s new inspiring and enlightening documentary “George Harrison: Living In The Material World.”

An earlier take of Harrison’s classic “My Sweet Lord” opens the album, and his cordial voice immediately sets a warm tone. This demo offers a softer, more acoustic version of the hit, with sincere vocals that provide a more candid look into George’s spiritual mentality. In fact, spirituality is one of the prominent themes in this compilation. In the late 1960s, The Beatles made their famous journey to India to visit the Maharishi where they explored transcendental meditation together. The visit propelled Harrison’s interest in spirituality, which is evident throughout most of his delicate writing that took place afterwards.

Harrison was intrigued by Eastern religions and culture, and, as a result, he became involved in the Hare Krishna religious movement. On Early Takes, Volume 1, “Awaiting On You All,” delivers a milder rock groove than the original. The song is rich with lyrics influenced by the Hare Krishnas, who spent hours chanting their mantra daily. This practice is referenced in the song’s chorus, adding character to the piece. George’s charged vocals carry the track and are reminiscent of a gospel choir soloist. The well-balanced number is a standout on the album, as it’s not as acoustic-heavy as the rest of the songs.

Early Takes, Volume 1 also makes distinct Harrison’s skill for balancing the musical elements in his songs. The eloquent lead guitar part, played by his longtime friend Eric Clapton, mixes beautifully with Harrison’s warming voice to give the early take of “I’d Have You Any Time” authenticity. Harrison’s greatest talent was being himself. And in the song, that’s just it—the quiet Beatle always showed restraint.

Early Takes, Volume 1 presents the eternal energy and soul that George Harrison poured into each and every one of his songs. The themes presented in these early renditions of Harrison’s material reflect the loving and spiritual qualities that he embodied. The album shows a raw and more honest side to Harrison, as the mostly acoustic demos create a personal, less commercial atmosphere. The album accompanies Scorsese’s documentary so perfectly. Despite the fact that the songs are not new material and are mostly acoustic, the demos and early takes are a refreshing collection. George was deliberate with his music and himself – he was genuine, and Early Takes, Volume 1 is a testament to just that.

Release Date: May 1, 2012

Label: UMe

Stars: 4 out of 5