What is that shrieking noise? Ah yes, it’s my teenage self howling at its middle-aged counterpart’s embrace of the first side of The Concert for Bangla Desh and dismissal of the other five.
The fact is, despite the reputed vaunted musicianmanship on display, this is a middling, poorly edited and produced album, Shankar aside, full of half-assed buskings which says all too much about sixeventies rock royalty’s self-regard and its audience’s gullibility. Briefly but unkindly put, George Harrison is a weak, meandering and reedy live vocalist, and his backing band is either under-rehearsed, disabled by drugs or both. While it must have been thrilling to see an actual Beatle in concert singing Beatles songs for the first time in five years (this momentum certainly carried the show for the audience on the day), the album experience reveals all manner of flaws that wouldn’t be tolerated these days at the club down the road let alone Madison Square Garden.
Even with its ostensible and laudable aim, consciousness and funds raising for desperately needy people in East Pakistan, the concert was mired in several lurid and depressing backstories, notably CBS Records holding up release to get its slice of the pie, Eric Clapton’s junk abetted will-he-won’t-he-show controversy and the glaringly conspicuous absence of Harrison’s erstwhile band’s creative lynchpins.
On the positive side, the album is pressed up old style so that it can be played in order on a stackable record player, i.e. with side six on the flip side of side one, side two with side five and sides three and four together. And it comes with a lavish 64 page four-colour album sized book. And it only cost me £3. Oh and there’s comedy value when the audience tries and fails to clap along with Bob Dylan on side five.