Monday, July 13, 2009

His Guitar Gently Weeps

When I was a kid, I had George Harrison’s magnum opus All Things Must Pass on 8-track. In fact, it was an 8-track “box set” – with two 8-tracks packaged together. The childhood memories of it stayed strong enough that I never got around to purchasing the deluxe reissue that came out a few years ago.
However, All Things Must Pass returned to my mind the other day after listening to the new EP Tribute To, a sublime six-pack of Harrison songs credited to Yim Yames (aka Jim James from My Morning Jacket). Four of the EP’s six tunes originated on ATMP – “Behind That Locked Door,” “My Sweet Lord,” “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)” and “All Things Must Pass”, with “Long Long Long’ and “Love You To” filling out this short set.
Although James recorded these tunes shortly after Harrison’s passing in 2001, it is only being released now. It’s a spare, simple affair that serves as a loving tribute to Harrison. Somber without being funereal. Typically on these songs, it’s just James and his guitar, with the sound is more aligned to the earlier Neil Young-ish My Morning Jacket than the more recent MMJ style. The arrangements aren’t embellished performances much, but James does add, for instance, a nice touch of banjo to “Love You To.”
But the disc’s gauzy sound well suits the material, as it feels like a stripped down version of Phil Spector’s denser work on the original. You can hear a fan working through his sorrow on the moving renditions of “My Sweet Lord” and the title track, with the inclusion of “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp,” a very personal song of Harrison’s, is an inspired choice.
The six songs create an emotional mood of reflection and remembrance – from recalling George Harrison and the Beatles on one hand to the reflecting sheer emotional power of music on another. It achieves the nice trick of making you want to go back to hear the original while also appreciating the new renditions.
The EP also makes you wish that the disc were longer, and see how James might have tackled other ATMP tunes, from the well-known ones like “Isn’t It Pity” and “What Is Life” to more personal faves like “Apples Scruffs” and “Wah-Wah.” But it’s always good to leave fans wanting more as opposed to wearing out your welcome, and Tribute To is a welcome arrival for Beatles fans and My Morning Jacket fans, and music fans inbetween
The EP is available now digitally at, while ATO Records officially releases it on Aug. 4. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary ( .