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Music DVD Reviews: Review of George Harrison & Friends: The Concert for Bangladesh
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George Harrison & Friends: The Concert for Bangladesh (2005)

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George Harrison! Ringo Starr! Badfinger! Eric Clapton! Leon Russell! Klaus Voorman! Billy Preston! Bob Dylan! Ravi Shankar! The re-release of “The Concert for Bangladesh!” It’s finally here! And it’s…well, it’s dated and dull, quite frankly. Just more proof that grand scale charity concerts and/or events quickly lose their luster (see or hear USA for Africa, Live Aid, Band Aid, etc.) But hey, it was for a good cause and raised a sum of money for the starving people in Bangladesh, so it can’t all be bad.

It’s just that the music isn’t all that good, period. If ever there was proof that the Beatles truly were a fantastic band and that George Harrison sounded best when he had a good producer working with him, then the live songs here, mainly consisting of his All Things Must Pass singles and some Beatles gems, are certainly that. Harrison never had the strongest voice or a commanding stage presence, and the show here only makes those points stand out, almost unbearably. Harrison needed that Wall of Sound production behind him for his solo cuts, and he damn sure needed more than just Ringo Starr on drums to make those Beatle tracks shine through.

But the Beatles were dead, man. The only one solo-wise worth a damn all around was McCartney at this point. Otherwise, you had Ringo cutting corny country albums and lousy pop tracks, John still attached to the hip with Yoko, and George shoving his Eastern philosophies and Hare Krishna down the throat of anyone within earshot. It might as well be a written fact that George’s Beatle songs featuring sitar and the like are easily some of the dullest work the Fab Four ever recorded. But since he got all buddy-buddy with Ravi Shankar, well, he just had to spread the news. Only in the ‘70s, baby.

That kind of thing nowadays is generally laughed at, whenever some pop star tries to push some kind of religion (see Madonna) on the fans. But back then, kids, well, you might as well just consider George Harrison one of rock’s first holy rollers. At least on the All Things Must Pass  album, the songs were tasty, but in this concert setting, one really gets to hear how chiding a song like “My Sweet Lord” and “Awaiting on You All” really are. Jesus, even Billy Preston throws in his “That’s The Way God Planned It” for good measure, just to get one in for us Christians. Thanks, Billy. Whatever.

So, yeah. Even a star-studded group can’t begin to prop up Harrison here. Maybe this is why Ringo’s All Starr Band gigs generally suck so much as well. Not even Bob Dylan can come in and save the day here. He turns in amicable performances of a few chestnuts, including “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” but it’s not half as good as if it had just been a Bobby Zimmerman throwdown. And then there’s Leon Russell, one of the biggest b-list dudes who ever got marginally big, grinding out an annoying medley of the Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” coupled with the oldie “Young Blood.” The latter almost falls apart various times, and who the hell cares about Leon Russell, anyway? “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is watered down to a karaoke quality here. Keith Richards would have beaten the shit out of the whole band, had he been there.

But lest we forget, the first 15 minutes or so of the show is taken up by Ravi Shankar and his cronies whipping it out for some Eastern drone rawk. Did the audience clap because they really dug it, or because they just were happy to see these guys finally get off the stage? Who knows? Equally punishing is Ringo Starr dropping off “It Don’t Come Easy” to an easily adoring crowd. Man, they’ll cheer for anything!

So that’s basically the music for you. How about the DVD goodies? Well, this is a two disc affair. On the first disc you get the full, original concert that still looks like shit. It’s rather grainy and lifeless. Even the “Woodstock” DVD looks better than this show. The sound mix is presented in a Dolby stereo, Dolby 5.1 mix, or a DTS mix. The 5.1 surround mix seems good enough, but nothing that dramatic over the stereo mix. Let’s put it this way: the sound is remastered better than the visuals.

The second disc has a “looking back” documentary with people who worked on the concert, as well as a look at how the album art came together and a few other items that you’ll probably gloss over once and then never watch again. In fact, it might be safe to say that you’ll put this entire puppy to bed after one viewing. Just because this thing was an “event” at the time doesn’t mean it has aged gracefully. Indeed, like a lot of George Harrison’s stuff, “The Concert for Bangladesh” is at best an old curio that was probably best left as only a memory, or a 50 cent album in shitty condition at a used record store.

~Jason Thompson 



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