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Reviews: George Harrison: Live in Japan

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Reviews: 9

Review by JW February 27, 2004 (1 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
FANTASTIC packaging. A joy to the eye. I have never seen this type of jewel case. A hinged lock, the booklet held in place with clamps left/right instead of north/south. Great pictures, 12 pages of them, nice liner notes, and a bento-box red permeates the entire thing. I love it. The discs have very classy red/black labels, sporting a George Harrison signature and Japanese images of a multi-headed horse. This jewel box stacks the two discs on top of each other.

Did you know that Clapton wanted George to enjoy the show and that he actually reveled in his side kick role? His solo's were very effective and he makes his strat weep on track 8. Harrison was a reluctant performer but he clearly enjoyed himself on this set. He did not have the ambition to continue his Japanese success elsewhere though. So the thing started and died in Japan. A month later Claption pioneered the 'unplugged' trend with his MTV appearance and the jazz version of 'Layla'. (source: 'The Life And Music Of Eric Clapton', by Michael Schumacher, p.305).

So, how does it sound ? There is a big difference between the CD layer and the SACD layer. The CD layer sounds more distant. The treble is harder. The drums have less impact and are less 3-dimensional. The voice is recessed and flat. There is more air and a bigger soundstage on the SACD layer. The drumkit and in fact all instuments stand out more, but the piano is where that really is very apparent. Oh, and the clapping, watch the clapping. The SACD actually paints a picture of a large audience composed of individuals, whilst the CD layer meshes it together.

Having said all that, this is another SACD that shows that even DSD cannot turn a mediocre recording into an audiophile gem. The sound overall is somewhat 'grey'. Not sure why I am saying this but that's the association that keeps coming up. The treble is a little hard, square - note: not harsh. Important difference. The soundstage is nice. I get quit a big stage.

Overall feelings : Great release. Great packaging. Great music. Good enough sound.


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Review by René van den Abeelen March 7, 2004
Performance:   Sonics:
The soundquality is less crisp then I hoped for, but the (SA)cd's sound better then any other live recording of George I have.

I don't like this (to me new) type of jewel case: I hate to stack cd's on top of each other!

Nice booklet. The concert is absolutely great. Wish I'd been there!

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Review by jimmyjames8 March 11, 2004
Performance:   Sonics:
Well you can't beat the price from BestBuy on this one, $10, but that's about it. I'm soryy I just don't think the fella's had their heart in this performance. The sound is not up to sacd quality either. I have tried and tried to make George's vocals sound better. In MCH I can turn up the center channel and that's about as good as it gets. Also, after seeing and hearing the Concert for George DVD, I feel like I'm missing something, the visual performance. I understand this is out on DVD. I think that would be the better performance. It's good to hear the songs here done live and with Eric Clapton but it's just not up to par.

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Review by tream March 15, 2004 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
There are a few defining events in the life of someone my age (50) - where were you when JFK was assassinated, where were you on 9/11, LBJ, Vietnam, Berlin Wall, Iranian hostages, etc - and did you see the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. For Americans, Beatlemania really started then. The Beatles were truly different, exciting, fresh (as an aside, I went to the Smuin Ballet's performance of "To the Beatles" a few years ago, and met one of the dancers who hadn't been born when the Beatles broke up. His comment when asked about the songs "They are so fresh").

One of the amazing things is how the Beatles developed over the years-what a distance from "Love Me Do" to "The Beatles" (AKA the While Album). (Several other asides - Pete Best WAS a drag (listen for yourself - no imagination, no sense of the song being played - Ringo was way better) and I'm not sure that George Martin always did best for the songs. Consider the mucked up "Strawberry Fields Forever" vs the charm of the early acoustic versions, or the prissy arrangement of "In My Life" - I didn't really feel the impact of that song until I heard Johnny Cash sing it, pretty much unadorned.)

One of the biggest developments made by any of the Beatles was the emergence of George as a songwriter. In the early days, George was a highly professional sidekick of John and Paul's - George Martin made the comment that the Beatles could have been John and Paul and any other two guys - not really true (Pete was a drag, again), and there was usually a George song on each album, as a bit of relief from the Lennon-McCartney masterpieces produced.

However, by the end of the 60's George was doing songs to equal or exceed anything that John or Paul were doing-on Abbey Road (their last album to be recorded, if you didn't know), George had the two best songs - "Something, and "Here Comes the Sun" (Does anyone out there believe that "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", for example, is anything but a novelty song). "All Things Must Pass", George's first solo effort, is an enormous outpouring of great songs. After that, his output was spottier but he was still often capable of great things - I personally think "Brainwashed", his last recording, was excellent. (He was great in the Traveling Wilburys, as well - Volume I is the one to have, Volume III not so good (the joke is that there never as a Volume II) - if you don't know the Wilburys, they were George, Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty, the greatest superband since Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins all recorded together for Sun)

So I am a big George Harrison fan, and it somewhat pains me to write that "Live in Japan" is mostly for us - you know who you are. George's vocals, never robust in the first place, sound positively threadbare. Someone coming to George for the first time would wonder what the fuss is all about.

Some great playing by the backup band (Eric Clapton is Eric Clapton here-if you know what I mean). I think the band sounds overtight in the first few tracks and then starts to loosen up and really plays well thereafter. But if I had a friend that want to hear George for the first time, I'd steer him or her to "All Things Must Pass" and/or "Abbey Road" first and recommend "Live in Japan" only when they became an addict, like me.

Sound in 2 channel is OK-look forward to hearing this in 5.1. I will be playing this, often, so this is not a total negative review- but......

BTW, I missed the $9.99 intro price at Best Buy, and had to spend $13.99 for mine which is the price now. Still a bargain.

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Review by DACooper March 23, 2004 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Harrison was notoriously uncomfortable on stage. "The Quiet Beatle" relished his privacy and tried vigorously to stay out of the spotlight. Perhaps that was part of the reason why he was relegated to 1 or 2 songs per Beatles album (although -- competing with Lennon & McCartney for songs would be a losing battle for any songwriter). And while I agree with the previous reviewer that "Something" and "Here Comes The Sun" were the best two songs on Abbey Road, they weren't the only good songs. I would also quarrel with your assessment of George Martin, but this is not the place for that discussion.

Harrison's solo career and his Beatles compositions are well represented on this album, and the band behind him is a solid collection of road-tested musicians who were clearly having a good time playing great songs behind a legendary front-man. Harrison's vocals aren't as strong as I would have liked, even to the point of occasionally sounding like someone doing a weak impression of him, but his strong band more than makes up for any of his vocal shortcomings. I'm not a big fan of Clapton's solo work in the past 10 years or so, but it is absolutely thrilling to hear him expanding on the classic solo of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

The redbook CD sounds similar to the previous release of this CD and is unremarkable. The original concert was not very well recorded, so the sound on the CD layer is a bit flat and muddy, including George's vocals. The SACD layer makes a good attempt at polishing the sound, and does so admirably, considering the source material. Harrison's vocals are still a little weak, but anchored to the center channel they are better focused and clearer. There is more immediacy to the music, better audience ambiance, and individual performances from the band are more clearly defined than previous editions of this CD.

The SACD is a definite improvement, and if you are a fan of George Harrison, then this is a must own.

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Review by dbfarr63 March 9, 2005 (0 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I have heard the cd version of this album and the sacd multichannel mix is a marked improvement on this. I can not understand why live cd's/dvd's etc use the rear speakers to emulate the crowd noise in the soundtrack. we know it is live we don't want to hear the crowd, most normal people want to hear the music. Anyway, Harrison gives a great performance along side Clapton and co and is worth the extra dollars for the sacd version. Bring on the Beatles in sacd multichannel. It wont happen overnight, but it will happen.

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Review by mindovermatter March 10, 2005 (0 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I think I will stick to the studio recordings. This is not enjoyable. What little surround they use is all crowd noise. No thanks, I got this mis-marked for about $13. Even that was too much if you will never listen to the complete disc. It really is a stay away!

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Review by raffells May 31, 2005 (4 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Well I was put off by some of the reviews.didnt buy it for a long while ......I must now add that IMO the person who gave this 1 star should be banned from this forum..Its getting 5 stars from me to balance the stupidity of that rating..This is a live version with the major artist backed by a terrific team (Clapton etc and should be judged as a historic event..luckily recorded in hirez which is better than the 16 bit cd level by a fair distance...Its Live and sounds it..Starting track with its micky taking..wanna tell you in slightly different key was a laugh but this performance got better and better..despite Georges poor health..We dont yet have the Beatles on HiRez..but this is the next best thing,,,,,as an ex roadie I think the comments "that I prefer studio recordings" are for non musical persons..being diplomatic !!!! get out and getta life... .I disagree with the packaging/ 2 discs on top of each other.That aint good enough...Alternatively If you have been put off and prefer Pseudo Beatles ie Oasis etc and want to be bored to death by repetitive better quality ? studio recordings then, so be it,,,Please listen to it as a Live in Japan performance with Eric Clapton and his Band.....note I am from Liverpool.......If people on this site can give 5 stars to some of the average mediocre performances by below average performers then I can Give 5 stars to two sets of the worlds top artists in a historic performance......history will be the judge...Dave

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Review by Marpow February 7, 2015 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
George Harrison: Live in Japan

A 2 disc, Live recording, released in 1992, remastered/remixed and re released as this hybrid stereo/multi channel in 2004.

There are 8 great reviews prior to this review. 5 reviews from 2004 and 3 from 2005. I clearly have the advantage in my review as having the help of others from 10 years ago.

My style is not to comment on what should have been done or the state of the artist, etc. Just a brief summary of the below items that I feel are to the point of a certain release. I will always remained saddened of George's passing in 2001.

Performance: Couldn't be better. Great band, front cover is, George Harrison, with Eric Clapton And Band. No slouches in this line up. This two disc set really packs a wallop with George's singles and Beatles songs. I loved every version of every song, especially the way the songs where performed with great power and clarity, and of course small twists on all the familiar tunes.

Stereo Sonics: I listened to in car as I frequently do in order to sync myself with the performance. Sounded fantastic in car.

Multichannel Sonics: Of course is the point of purchase. I am completely satisfied and I want for no other. I have been to many live recordings in my life and the mch sonics of this recording come across great. I agree with others that it is what I call front loaded with ambient rears. I personally do not have a problem with a live recording being mixed this way, a studio recording, that is another story. I can attest from my digital read out on my amp that it clearly front loaded. However, there in lies the beauty at beginning and end of tracks the rears light up and you really get a good dose of the happiness of the crowd. These two discs benefit greatly for the volume being on the high side because with the added volume you do get the full ambiance of the mch recording regardless of how it was mixed. It is mch and you will like it better than a stereo listen, trust me. Separation between front speakers is perfect and mixed very well. There are a few gems where the rears light up a little more like in Piggies, and the dueling guitars of Dark Horse.
As always I listened to via well kept equipment, HDMI outs, great equalization, with no need to interfere with the sound that was given to me via the two discs.

Packaging: Plastic jewel case. Weird little spindle where the two discs are stacked on top of each other, of course not preferred, but I take care of my stuff. Paper mini booklet, with fantastic liner notes, George making mini comments on his feelings and history of every track. Original and SACD recording notes. Photos of George looking happy. Hmm, the black on black cover, did Metallica see something they liked?

I love this two disc set, recorded very well, with out bells, whistles, gimmicks. A great SACD to own, thanks George Harrison.

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