The Concert for Bangladesh (1971)


 
Disc One 1. George Harrison/Ravi Shankar Introduction 2. Bangla Dhun (Ravi Shankar) 3. Wah-Wah 4. My Sweet Lord 5. Awaiting on You All 6. That's the Way God Planned It (Billy Preston) 7. It Don't Come Easy (Ringo Starr) 8. Beware of Darkness 9. While My Guitar Gently Weeps Disc Two 1. Medley:Jumpin'Jack Flash/Young Blood (Leon Russell) 2. Here Comes the Sun 3. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan) 4. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (Bob Dylan) 5. Blowin' in the Wind (Bob Dylan) 6. Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan) 7. Just Like a Woman (Bob Dylan) 8. Something 9. Bangla Desh

 

As far as I know, this is the first time that major superstars decided to do a one-off concert for a war famished part of the world. More than a decade before Bob Geldoff and all of the "We are the World" hoopla, ex Beatle and newly established superstar solo star George Harrison planned this event after encouragement from his musical idol/friend Ravi Shankar. It's debatable whether or not you should classify this as a "George Harrison" solo album with all of the stars performing on this record, but since this was George's project, and since he performs one about half the album, it's essentially fallen into that category.

A triple album - his second in a row after the excellent All Things Must Pass solo debut. The set begins with him calmly addressing a massive Madison Square Garden audience as to the purpose of the show, and then introduces Ravi Shankar who leads off the extravaganza with a "reminder of why we're here". He encourages the audience to "try to get into" the music. They politely oblige - even to the extent of applauding after the Indian musicians tune their instruments (they didn't know, obviously, the difference between "tuning" and what and actual Indian song should sound like), and the entire first side is taken up with the "reason we're here".

Harrison starts off the next side of the album, and plays at intervals throughout the remainder of the set. He recreates many of his new songs off his new album, and the audience is rightfully delighted. Some of the tracks sound a bit different, largely because the Phil Spector production can't be replicated that well in a setting such as Madison Square Garden. Harrison also sporadically throws his latter day Beatle material in the set as well - just what one would expect, and he again delivers to the audeinces expectations.

Also on the agenda are Billy Preston playing the gospel-tinged That's the Way God Planned It, it comes across very professionally done in the manner intended, but sounds a bit out of place. Leon Russell does a medley of some good numbers, the highlight being The Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash and then ex-Beatle bandmate Ringo Starr takes front stage with It Don't Come Easy. This comes across as the weakest link in the chain, maybe because Ringo wasn't used to playing live? The audience is, again, very appreciative however.

The highlight of the whole album is the surprise appearance by none other than Bob Dylan. He shows up on the last disc, and from the sound of the feverish audience before Harrison introduces his friend, you get the feeling the secret was already out of the bag. Dylan performs five of his many classics, and the whole performance is welcomed and is a very strong addition. It makes one wonder if this release would have still received the recognition and praise had Dylan not been included. It was also a highlight because Dylan had been a bit "out of the picture" for the last couple of years, and this seemed to signify that all was still well.

Harrison then comes back and closes the set with a new song Bangla Dhun and the concert, with its multitude of well doers on the stage, comes to an end. A wonderful, well put together charitable event from one of the most famous people in the world was a breath of fresh air and brought a lot of faith back to humanity.

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