Sound — 10
"All Things Must Pass" is one of my favourite records, so it was with great fervour that I delved into George Harrison's follow up album, "Living in the Material World". Opening track "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" picked up where "All Things Must Pass" left off, with a lush, mellow sound and spiritual, karmic themes, however Harrison soon covers new ground lyrically by hinting at his strained personal relationships.
Phil Spector co-produced "Try Some Buy Some", the album's most expansive arrangement, with a rattling, trembling, sarod melody line and ominous, waltzing chords. Offbeat, waltz rhythms became an odd Harrison trademark, dating back to "I Me Mine." Harrison again employs slide guitar to great effect throughout the album, particularly on the revving, soaring main riff of "Sue Me Sue You Blues." "Be Here Now" is an acoustic guitar number, and highlights Harrison's awareness of space when creating atmosphere. Overall, the album is much more piano and keyboard driven than his last, and I imagine this became his new songwriting tool.
Lyrics — 7
Harrison's lyrics have divided critics, or more specifically, his insistence on spiritual themes. "Living in the Material World" finds Harrison resuming his Ned Flanders character, to an extent that some listeners may find pompous and tedious. Lines like "the leaders of nations, they're acting like big girls" in "The Lord Loves (The One That Loves the Lord)" feel overly simple and uninspired compared to the lofty achievement of "Within You Without You, " and he fails to deliver a chorus as endearing as "My Sweet Lord." George once said "Even though the words are mundane, if the attitude is directed back towards the source, then it becomes more spiritual for me and has more meaning. "
The album is a little more confessional than it's colossal predecessor, with "Sue Me Sue You Blues" clearly a shout-out to McCartney and his Apple Corps lawsuit, "The Light That Has Lighted The World" opening with "I've heard how some people have said I've changed" and accusing his detractors of being "hateful of anyone that is happy," and "Try Some Buy Some" recounting friends who "died to get high."
Overall Impression — 8
The songs may appeal to those seeking Zen more than the layman rock 'n' roll fan; this is a perfect album for the New Age inclined. The album is more orchestral than "All Things Must Pass" and it's hard to imagine a stripped-down version stacking up so well, mostly due to Harrison's limitations as a wordsmith and decision to opt for the love of God over the translatability of Eros (he did warn us with the album title). The remastered re-release featured two bonus tracks, "Deep Blue" and "Miss O'Dell", which saw George laughing during the take; for me, these two expose something sorely missing on the original album - a little lightness. Music is densely arranged but can't conceal the poorer songs compared with his previous album, however Harrison proved himself a fluid composer of melodies and chords from under the shadow of Lennon/McCartney, and there's a reason "Living in the Material World" has been branded a forgotten classic.