An interesting stab at a tribute to the quiet one – slightly let down by the vocals and similarity of its musical approach.
George is Lord are an amalgamation of Anna Pomerantz on drums and vocals, Lindsay Glover (Whiskey Biscuit and Future Pigeon) on guitar, Cody Porter (Pearl Harbor and Puro Instinct) on bass and guitarist Sam Blasucci (founder member of the Grateful Shred and one half of the LA folk duo Mapache). Pomerantz is the lead vocalist with Blasucci sharing some of those duties. George is Lord recorded this first album of covers with producer Jason Quever (Beach House, Cass McCombs). Dean Wareham (Luna, Galaxie 500) appears as a guest. The whole project is a tribute to the songwriting of George Harrison and covers tracks from his earliest days with The Beatles, on such as, ‘The White Album‘, and, ‘Abbey Road‘, but with the majority to be originally found on the solo triple album ‘All Things Must Pass’, and the remainder from, ‘Living in the Material World‘, and his eighth solo album, ‘George Harrison‘. The songs chart his emergence as a writer, his friendship with Dylan, and his relationship with Pattie Boyd. Additional subject matter covers his frustration as The Beatles fall apart and the difficulties and encumbrances of the whole Apple adventure. Later songs relish the love he has for his second wife Olivia and, unsurprisingly, his spiritual quest – which in fact runs through much of the collection. It’s the story of a particular artist’s high profile life embodied in the music of a newly formed band, some of whom are only just learning their instruments. It’s also much removed in time and place from the originator.
Cover versions and tributes are a funny commodity but can hold real interest for the listener – there may well be something very engaging about hearing new and different versions of favourite songs. They may revive careers as with the Cohen compilation, ‘I’m Your Fan‘, (highly recommended). They can pay tribute to an artist (often those who have been underrated). They can be fundraisers – or sometimes just a way of lesser-known artists getting attention. Pomerantz had a slightly different entry into the world of Harrison and what began as an exercise in learning to play the drums, became a band. She quit her job as ‘interior designer to the stars’ and called upon old friend Glover, to teach her to play the drums. In return, it seems Pomerantz taught Glover to play the guitar. It doesn’t sound like the easiest way to do things. Pomerantz also has a different way at looking at The Fabs: “One of the first songs we learned was, ‘ Something’, I’ve actually spent most of my life hating the Beatles, but hearing them again for the first time through the drums, made me fall completely in love, especially with George and Ringo.”
So what of the end result? The band settle on a particular groove throughout much of the set – a low-fi spacey laid back sound not a million miles from the Cowboy Junkies. The bass can be quite prominent and the guitar is played pretty straight with no effects to get in the way. On individual tracks, this can all work well but over the length of the set, it would be nice for a little more variety. Pomerantz’s vocals can be quite effective with at times a kind of breathy whisper but occasionally her ability to hold a note lets her down. It’s probably most effective on the more up-tempo songs such as, ‘If I needed someone’, or, ‘Wah Wah’. Whilst hers is not a powerful voice it is allowed space enough not to be overpowered by the instruments and it seems, generally, to suit the material. Stand out track – and very probably one of Harrisons’ best realised and most accomplished songs – is, ‘All Things Must Pass’.
There’s an obvious danger in reviewing music; that additional listening can either reveal further charms or disguise initial impressions as it becomes familiar – and this is a set that does present that conundrum. Are we more likely to be attracted to tunes we know as well-loved standards rather than those we don’t? Is that part of the whole ‘covers’ process? Is it why we end up saying something bland like, ‘It’s well worth a listen’?’ Being honest – notwithstanding the occasional similarity of the musical approach and the limits of some of the vocals – it is. Full marks though for the clever cover art.