George Harrison

The Concert for Bangladesh [DVD]

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The film made of the August 1, 1971 concerts in New York's Madison Square Garden to raise relief funds for Bangladesh was given a deluxe reissue on this two-disc DVD, one disc of which contains the original film, the other offering extra features. Organized by George Harrison and also featuring spots by Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and Ravi Shankar, the concert itself might not quite match the expectations some fans might have for such a star-studded lineup. The good-time rock-soul of Preston and Russell, though they were briefly hitmakers in the early '70s, is on the slight side compared to Harrison and Dylan's music. In addition, the acoustic-based Dylan set is a little low-key; though he offers some of his top songs (including "Blowin' in the Wind," "Just Like a Woman," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"), the accompaniment seems tentative and under-rehearsed. Too, the on-stage band is perhaps bigger than it needs to be, including not just Eric Clapton (who doesn't sing or perform any of his own material) and Ringo Starr, but numerous other guitarists, bassists, singers, and horn players, some of whom are basically swamped by the arrangements.

All that noted, there's still much to enjoy about this concert and film, particularly as it remains the best place to watch footage of George Harrison as a solo artist. While his vocals are a bit nervous at times, for the most part he offers good versions of highlights from both his first solo album, All Things Must Pass ("My Sweet Lord," "Awaiting on You All," "Beware of Darkness"), and his Beatles-era compositions ("Something," "Here Comes the Sun," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"). The large complement of gospel-soul-flavored backup singers adds different shades than are heard on the studio versions, and "Here Comes the Sun" is performed in a touching acoustic rendition (with Pete Ham of Badfinger on second guitar). Ravi Shankar opens the proceedings with more solemn Indian music that helps remind the audience about the cause the event raised money for, as does Harrison's closing performance of the non-LP single "Bangla Desh." The filming itself might be a little less sophisticated than the best rockumentaries of the era, but satisfactorily captures the on-stage action and sense of occasion. The bonus disc offers worthwhile bonus items, including a 45-minute documentary on the concert, with interviews of some of the participants; smaller features on the making of the film and the album; and just a few previously unissued performances from the rehearsals, sound check and afternoon show, including Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "If Not for You," along with a cover of Robert Johnson's "Come on in My Kitchen" by Harrison, Clapton, and Russell.

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