George Harrison: Extra Texture (Read All About It) (Apple Records)

extra texture

By the time Harrison recuperated from his disastrous 1974, he was relaxed, refreshed, and a man deeply in love. The mystery woman on side two of the Dark Horse sleeve was Olivia Arias, a young woman he had met in America and who worked for his label. The two quickly became lovers, and he had found the love of his life, remaining together until his death in 2001. She was a muse of the highest order, and where Dark Horse had captured the worst of times, Extra Texture (Read All About It) was his announcement to the world of his newfound love.

From the first notes of album opener “You,” it’s instantly apparent that this record was going to be enjoyable. With a wonderful soul horn section backing him up, one can hear the smile on his face and in his soul, as big and as joyous as that of the album’s inner sleeve—if not bigger. The song was a leftover from a planned Ronnie Spector Apple album that never came to pass, and while her version would assuredly have sounded good, it’s all Harrison, a man reinvigorated by love, the clouds having parted, more than willing to bare his soul for the world to see.

“Soul” is the key word for Extra Texture, because it is indeed a soul record. One might forget that the Beatles started out playing and taking inspiration from American R&B, but Harrison’s exploration into soul music is worthy, simply because it comes so natural to him. No surprise, either, considering how spirituality, redemption, and romance are three of the main lyrical subjects in R&B—three key themes found on Extra Texture.

Mainly, though, it’s enjoyable to hear Harrison the romantic, because the sincerity of his feelings adds an element that no producer could mix into the finished project. When he sings, “Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” he sings praises of the one he is longing for, you feel his longing.  Similarly, “Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You),” is Harrison in Quiet Storm mode, channeling Smokey Robinson over a silky-smooth melody. No coincidence is it, then, when one learns this song was dedicated for the veteran Motown singer.

With “This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying),” Harrison revisits one of his greater Beatles numbers, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Eric Clapton isn’t around this time, as Harrison feels perfectly comfortable showcasing his own guitar stamina. It’s a fitting song for Extra Texture, because Harrison is looking straight into the future, while paying homage to the past. Only one song, “The Answer’s At The End,” recalls the heavier-arranged, introspective sounds of his previous work, and as it’s the only one done so, it doesn’t feel out of place.

In a somewhat auspicious manner, Extra Texture concludes his Apple years; as Apple’s last release, it was launched in a very low-key manner, and has generally been overlooked and ignored. It’s a shame, as it’s quietly some of Harrison’s best work. Furthermore, it’s his most positive record; one might say his happiest.  it’s not a farewell letter, or an album wrapped up in acrimony—it’s a bright, mature look into an uncertain future, where he was finally allowed to be George Harrison. His post-Apple career would have highs and lows, with some records better than others, all the while keeping a low profile, enjoying the pleasures of his garden, his family, and his friends. One thing was clear, though: Harrison was finally making music because he wanted to, not because he had to.

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