George Harrison

Somewhere in England

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Somewhere in England had a troubled birth, for when Harrison originally submitted it for release in November 1980, Warner Bros. rejected it, claiming that four songs -- "Flying Hour," "Lay His Head," "Sat Singing," and "Tears of the World" (once available on the bootleg "Ohnothimagen") -- were not worthy of being issued. Harrison was forced to go back into the studio to cut four new tunes, delivering a bitterly barbed thrust at his record label in "Blood from a Clone" (which they did release) and a tune originally meant for Ringo Starr but rewritten as a remembrance after John Lennon's assassination ("All Those Years Ago"), as well as "Teardrops" and "That Which I Have Lost." As a result, the most compelling issue of this album is the contest of wills between the artist and the suits. Now how do the four deleted tunes stack up against the ones that replaced them? The four missing tunes are of generally even quality, even similar in sound, although "Tears of the World" is a strident attack against corporate and political masters that probably unnerved the executives the most. Actually, the six tunes that Warner Bros. spared should have been more likely candidates for the hook, including the curious covers of two Hoagy Carmichael songs, "Baltimore Oriole" and "Hong Kong Blues." Yet in general, the new ones are indeed superior and more varied, with more of a punch than the ones they replaced. The bouncy "All Those Years Ago" is a definite gain, being the most heartfelt song on the record as well as a de facto Beatles reunion (Starr plays drums and Paul and Linda McCartney overdubbed backing vocals), and it was justly rewarded with a number two showing on the singles charts. The official release is slightly preferable over the bootlegs of the original.

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