Extra Texture (Read All About It)
|Extra Texture (Read All About It)|
|Studio album by George Harrison|
|Released||22 September 1975 (US)
3 October 1975 (UK)
|Recorded||21 April–9 June 1975, August–September 1974, 2–3 February 1971|
|Studio||A&M Studios, Los Angeles; FPSHOT, Oxfordshire; Abbey Road Studios, London|
|George Harrison chronology|
|Singles from Extra Texture (Read All About It)|
Extra Texture (Read All About It) is the sixth studio album by English musician George Harrison, released in 1975. It followed his troubled North American tour at the end of the previous year and the poorly received Dark Horse album, and the melancholic mood of the recording reflects Harrison's depressed state at the harsh criticism generated by these 1974 projects. Among his solo releases, Extra Texture is notable as the only album whose lyrics are devoid of any obvious spiritual message. Uniquely also, it was recorded mostly in America rather than England, while Harrison was working in Los Angeles in his role as head of Dark Horse Records. Gary Wright, David Foster, Jim Keltner, Jesse Ed Davis, Leon Russell, Tom Scott, Billy Preston and Jim Horn were among the many contributing musicians. The album's keyboard-heavy sound incorporates elements of soul music and the influence of mellow-voiced Smokey Robinson, signalling a further departure by Harrison from the rock and folk-rock approach of his early 1970s work. Contrasting with the musical content, the album's art design adopted an upbeat theme, which included an innovative die-cut cover.
Extra Texture was Harrison's final album under his contract with Apple Records and EMI, and the last studio album issued by Apple. Despite its generally downbeat mood and an unfavourable response from music critics, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America within two months of release. It produced a hit single in the song "You", originally recorded in London in 1971 with co-producer Phil Spector. The album also includes "This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)", which was both a sequel to Harrison's 1968 Beatles composition "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and a rebuttal to his detractors. The album was reissued in remastered form on 22 September 2014, as part of the Apple Years 1968–75 Harrison box set.
In its February 1975 issue, Rolling Stone magazine derided George Harrison's tour with Ravi Shankar in November–December 1974 and the accompanying Dark Horse album as "disastrous". Previously viewed as "the surprise winner of the ex-Beatle sweepstakes", in the words of author Nicholas Schaffner – the dark horse – Harrison had suffered the ignominy of receiving perhaps the worst reviews of any of the solo Beatles' careers as well as having an album fail to chart at all in the UK. Despite his face-saving claims throughout the tour that such negative press only made him more determined, the criticism hit him hard personally. Mikal Gilmore acknowledged almost thirty years later, "the crises he faced in the mid-1970s changed him", and depression was a key factor.
During conversations with Derek Taylor in 1978–79 for his autobiography, Harrison described his mindset upon arriving back at Friar Park in January 1975: "When I got off the plane and back home, I went into the garden and I was so relieved. That was the nearest I got to a nervous breakdown. I couldn't even go into the house." The same despair was evident in the lyrics to "Grey Cloudy Lies", a track that Harrison described to Paul Gambaccini in September 1975 as "one of those depressing, 4 o'clock in the morning sort of songs".
Depression permeated many of the songs that Harrison was writing during this period, an issue that was not helped by his continued heavy drinking and cocaine use. The lyrics for "The Answer's at the End", "This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)", "World of Stone" and "Grey Cloudy Lies" all steer clear of his usual subject matter – Hindu spirituality – and instead appear to beg the listener for compassion. Harrison's wavering from his Krishna-conscious path was most evident In "World of Stone", writes author Gary Tillery: "'Such a long way from home,' he says, but in his autobiography he renders it, 'Such a long way from OM' – confessing inner turmoil at having strayed from his faith." Harrison wrote "Tired of Midnight Blue" in Los Angeles, where he had decamped to in the early spring on Dark Horse Records-related business. The lyrics focused on his "depressed" state following a night in an LA club with "a lot of grey-haired naughty people", he later explained; according to Tillery, with its chorus line "Made me chill right to the bone", "Tired of Midnight Blue" was Harrison reaching "rock bottom".
Other social outings in Los Angeles included Wings' party on the Queen Mary ocean liner, at Long Beach, where a "drawn"-looking Harrison was seen socialising with Paul McCartney for the first time since the Beatles' break-up. With new love Olivia Arias often in tow, Harrison also made a point of catching a few gigs by Bob Marley & the Wailers, as well as meeting up with old friends Billy Preston and Ronnie Wood backstage after one of the Rolling Stones' Forum shows, in Los Angeles. New friends such as Eric Idle entered Harrison's social scene that summer, although the Python's influence only extended to Extra Texture's quirky artwork and packaging rather than its musical content.
It was Harrison's Dark Horse label that had brought him to LA – Jiva, Stairsteps, Henry McCullough, and Jim Keltner's band Attitudes were all recent signings – and it was through one of the label's semi-established acts, Splinter, that he came to make his "contractual obligation" album there. Studio time had been booked for Splinter's second LP for late in the spring of 1975, at A&M Studios, but the Sheffield duo were unable to make the sessions. Rather than incur the cancellation costs, Harrison decided to record his final EMI/Capitol album there on La Brea Avenue, home of Dark Horse's distributor, A&M Records, at which point he would then be able to move on to the Dark Horse stable himself.
As well as recording his latest compositions, Harrison completed "You", a song he had taped in London with Ronnie Spector for her abandoned Apple solo album, in February 1971. A reprise of the song appears on Extra Texture, in the form of a brief instrumental given the logical title "A Bit More of You". A more recent unused backing track that Harrison revisited was "His Name Is Legs (Ladies and Gentlemen)", recorded at Friar Park shortly before the 1974 tour, with Tom Scott, Billy Preston, Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark. In a private joke that no one seemed to get, this last song featured vocals by "Legs" Larry Smith, formerly a member of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. The inclusion of these two older tracks on Extra Texture provided some upbeat material on an album filled with ballads.
Among the musicians appearing on the A&M sessions were old friends Jim Keltner, Gary Wright, Jesse Ed Davis, Klaus Voormann, Tom Scott and Jim Horn. Along with Keltner, the most regular participant on the sessions was a young David Foster, then the piano player with Attitudes, while the band's bassist, Paul Stallworth, also contributed. On what would turn out to be a noticeably keyboard-dominated sound, Leon Russell and Nicky Hopkins made guest appearances as well. Voormann, a close friend of Harrison's since 1960, found the atmosphere at the sessions unpleasant – the heavy drug use so typical of the LA music scene, in particular, but also the ex-Beatle's "frame of mind when he was doing this album".[nb 1] With Voormann choosing to absent himself, Harrison overdubbed some of the album's bass parts himself, using either an ARP synthesizer or his preferred Moog (just as he had done on "Bye, Bye Love" the year before).
With Norm Kinney as engineer, Harrison recorded the basic tracks for the new songs between 21 April and 7 May 1975, beginning with "Tired of Midnight Blue" and "The Answer's at the End". After a few weeks' break, the overdubbing phase was under way on 31 May, starting with "You"'s sax solo (played by Horn), extra keyboards and second drum part. For two days from 2 June, Chuck Findley, another member of the Dark Horse tour band, joined Scott for horn overdubs on Harrison's tribute to Smokey Robinson, "Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You)", and "His Name Is Legs", while the Foster-arranged strings for "This Guitar", "The Answer's at the End" and "Can't Stop Thinking About You" were added between 6 and 9 June.
Around this time, Preston's It's My Pleasure and Peter Skellern's Hard Times albums were released, and sessions would shortly take place for Scott's New York Connection; all of these albums include guitar cameos from Harrison yet his playing on Extra Texture was surprisingly minimal. The Harrison signature slide guitar appeared significantly on "Tired of Midnight Blue" only; and the sole guitar-spotlight track on the album, "This Guitar" (a lyrical successor to his 1968 classic "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"), included solos overdubbed by Jesse Ed Davis. Harrison's singing voice, the subject of much discussion during the 1974 tour, had recovered from the ravages of laryngitis, but his new, "close-miked" soft vocal style added to the impression of blandness, as if Extra Texture was designed to be a mainstream "soul album for lovers". In a departure from the more Dylanesque approach found on his previous solo albums, this vocal style reflected Harrison's recent immersion in the mid-1970s soul genre. During this period, he would often cite Smokey Robinson as a major influence, and Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley as other examples of his preferred listening.
The album's art design was done by Grammy Award-winner Roy Kohara, who adopted a "wacky" theme throughout the packaging. The vivid orange front cover featured a die-cut design of the album title, through which an inner-sleeve, blue-tinted picture of Harrison was visible; later vinyl editions presented the "EXTRA TEXTURE" title as simple blue text on an orange background, doing away with the expensive cut-out detail. In keeping with the album's title, the thin cardboard used for the cover was similar in texture to the "animal skin used on a football", according to Beatles author Bruce Spizer. On the back cover, there was another Henry Grossman tour photo of Harrison, clearly enjoying himself on stage.
Seen as a joke referencing the impending demise of the Beatles' record label, the iconic Apple logo was presented on Extra Texture as an eaten-away apple core. In addition, the blue inner sleeve photo of Harrison – "grinning like a Monty Python choirboy", in the words of Robert Christgau – was topped with the caption "OHNOTHIMAGEN" ("Oh not him again"), Harrison's self-deprecating take on his dwindling popularity in 1974–75. The album's full title is a pun on the slogan that street-corner paperboys would yell out to sell "extra" late-breaking news editions of their newspapers: "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!"
As on Dark Horse, Harrison listed contributing musicians for each song, on the reverse side of the original inner sleeve, but this time with an additional list for those not appearing. The first of these is guitarist Danny Kortchmar, the fourth member of Attitudes; others include Derek Taylor, Eric Idle, Peter Sellers and Dark Horse Records executive Dino Airali.
Unlike Harrison's previous solo albums since 1970, all of which had their original release dates moved back, Extra Texture (Read All About It) was recorded quickly and submitted on schedule – a further sign of the "expediency" that lay behind the album's creation. Preceded by the advance single, "You", the album was released on 22 September 1975 in America (as Apple SW 3420) and on 3 October in Britain (Apple PAS 10009). Extra Texture reached number 8 on the Billboard 200 on 25 October, holding the position for three weeks – his last top 10 album in the US for twelve years – and was certified gold by the RIAA on 11 November. The album marked a welcome, though brief, return for Harrison to the official UK Albums Chart (now a top 60), reaching number 16 there in late October.
In another departure from past form, Harrison undertook promotion for his new album, in Britain. One of these activities, broadcast on 6 September, was a track-by-track discussion on the BBC Radio 1 show Rockweek, with host Paul Gambaccini. The same day, Melody Maker published an interview with Harrison, the magazine's cover declaring: "George Bounces Back!" Harrison explained to Gambaccini that the album title came about during a studio discussion: just as Harrison was talking about an overdub needing something "extra", Paul Stallworth happened to say the word "texture". Although he admitted to being "in a real down place" while making the album, the Melody Maker interview found Harrison in good humour, pointing the way to a return in form the following year; "I'd rather be an ex-Beatle than an ex-Nazi!" he joked, referring to his recent uneasy experience with the musical John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert. Harrison's other activities in late 1975 likewise centred on comedy, beginning with his production of Monty Python's single "The Lumberjack Song", released in November, and including a humorous star turn, again with Eric Idle, on Rutland Weekend Television's Christmas special.
Extra Texture (Read All About It) was remastered for CD release in January 1992. The album was remastered again and reissued in September 2014, as part of the Harrison box set The Apple Years 1968–75. As a bonus track, the latter release includes a version of "This Guitar" that Harrison recorded in 1992 with Dave Stewart, previously issued as a digital download for Stewart's Platinum Weird project.
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Describing the album's reception in his 1977 book The Beatles Forever, Nicholas Schaffner wrote: "Harrison's worldly critics, who had long found his sermons insufferable, responded like bulls to a red flag to Extra Texture, which contains a number of treatises on how reviewers always 'miss the point.'" Even Harrison's loyal "disciples", Schaffner added, tended to view the album as "plodding and aimless". Rolling Stone 's album reviewer, Dave Marsh, highlighted "You" as a return to All Things Must Pass-style grandeur, and "Can't Stop Thinking About You" and "Tired of Midnight Blue" as "the most effective nine minutes of music" Harrison had made since 1970. Generally, on an album that was "sketchy at best", Marsh bemoaned the over-reliance on "merely competent" keyboards and Harrison's "affectingly feeble voice".
In the NME, Neil Spencer wrote that "Though 'Extra Texture' isn't the Harrison revival that many might have hopes for, it's still several leagues superior to Hari's more recent efforts; and just as 'All Things Must Pass' would have made a great single album, so 'Extra Texture' would make a more than commendable single side." Spencer described the album's content as "the customary mournful and doom-laden Harrison we've come to know and fear, only this time the rigours of love take precedence over matters spiritual", before concluding: "I've played it, I don't mind it … Hari fans can anticipate purchase with glee. Others approach with cautious optimism."
In the 1977 edition of their book The Beatles: An Illustrated Record, Roy Carr and Tony Tyler described Extra Texture as "another lugubrious offering" and concluded: "the needle of the listener's personal Ecstatograph points sullenly towards zero throughout." Harrison's pleas for tolerance and understanding, like his self-deprecation on the album sleeve, seemed to backfire. Harrison himself acknowledged in a January 1976 BBC Radio interview: "People who were never really keen on me just really hate my guts right now. It has become complete opposites, completely black and white." Writing in 1981, Bob Woffinden found that the album showed signs that Harrison was "no longer so scornful of his audience" compared with Dark Horse. Woffinden wrote of the songs that "plead plaintively with critics not to judge too severely": "In this different context, such pleas are more sympathetic. Very well, then, we will not. Extra Texture wasn't really very good musically … but it did have some appealing qualities, and barely any disagreeable ones."
In his book Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970–1980, Robert Rodriguez features Extra Texture in a chapter dedicated to the worst solo albums released by the four ex-Beatles between 1970 and 1980 – the only one of Harrison's albums to be included there. Rodriguez writes: "To be sure, Extra Texture boasted several fine cuts … but the remainder of the collection was almost entirely weary in tone, amounting to a prolonged buzz kill." Nick DeRiso, co-founder of the music website Something Else!, includes it on his list of the five worst solo albums by either John Lennon, McCartney or Harrison, and describes it as a "grinding, relentlessly downbeat album, where even the name Extra Texture has come to feel like a cruel joke".
Harrison biographers likewise tend to hold Extra Texture in low esteem, Alan Clayson describing it as his "artistic nadir". Simon Leng writes that Harrison's post-Dark Horse "rehabilitation disc" came way too soon, resulting in an uncharacteristically passionless work, with its singer sounding "punch drunk". Aside from the uplifting "You", both authors identify "Tired of Midnight Blue" as the only saving grace. Gary Tillery notes the "darkly sarcastic" album title for a collection full of such "downbeat" tracks, the darkest of which is "Grey Cloudy Lies". Harrison himself rated Extra Texture as his worst solo release of the 1970s. Speaking to Musician magazine in 1987, he dismissed it as "a grubby album" and added: "The production left a lot to be desired as did my performance."
The album has its admirers, however. Writing in a Rolling Stone Press tribute book, Greg Kot labels Extra Texture as "something of a return to form for Harrison". AllMusic's Richard Ginell views "You", "The Answer's at the End" and "This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)" as some of Harrison's best solo compositions and identifies other "musical blossoms" on an album that stands up relatively well to the passing of time. Writing in the 2004 Rolling Stone Album Guide, Mac Randall considered it to be an album that "starts off well, then runs out of steam midway through". In a 2011 review for Mojo, John Harris described it as "a classic case of contractual obligation" but still a "decided improvement" on Dark Horse.
Reviewing the Apple Years box set for Blogcritics, Seattle-based critic Chaz Lipp opines of Extra Texture: "Though not without a few notable tracks, it's the least satisfying album of Harrison's entire career … The essential cut is the grooving 'Tired of Midnight Blue.'" In his review for Classic Rock, Paul Trynka writes that the album "boasts neither the highs nor lows of its predecessors" and is "the work of a man wounded by criticism". In Trynka's assessment, whereas "You" "sounds dull today", "confessional songs" such as "World of Stone", "Tired of Midnight Blue" and "Grey Cloudy Lies" "have worn well". Writing for the website Vintage Rock, Shawn Perry similarly considers "You" to be "out of sync", and he highlights "This Guitar" and "Grey Cloudy Lies" on "a creative and introspective album that's aged well".
In another 2014 review, for the Lexington Herald-Leader, Walter Tunis writes: "[Extra Texture (Read All About It)] is a delight from the start of the brightly orchestrated pop of 'You' to a series of light soul-savvy reveries that culminate in the playful 'His Name is Legs'. The record places the secular and spiritual concerns of Harrison's music in animated balance to close out The Apple Years in a state of hapless harmony." Writing in Mojo, Tom Doyle concedes that, being the final album in the box set, "It's possibly a downbeat note to end on", but welcomes the reissue for "allow[ing] us time to dig for the diamonds in the dirt".
All songs written by George Harrison.
2014 remaster bonus track
- "This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)" (Platinum Weird version) – 3:55
- George Harrison – vocals (1–5, 7–10), electric and acoustic guitars (1–10), ARP synthesizer (3, 9), Moog synthesizer (9), piano (10), backing vocals (1, 2, 7–10)
- David Foster – piano (2, 3, 5, 9), organ (1, 6), ARP synthesizer (1, 5, 6), electric piano (7), [track piano]] (10), string arrangement (2, 3, 7)
- Gary Wright – organ (2, 5), electric piano (1, 4, 6), ARP synthesizer (3, 7)
- Jim Keltner – drums (1–9), percussion (9)
- Jesse Ed Davis – electric guitar (3–5, 7, 9)
- Klaus Voormann – bass (4–5, 7)
- Paul Stallworth – bass (2, 8), background vocals (7)
- Leon Russell – piano (1, 6, 8)
- Tom Scott – saxophones (4, 10)
- Chuck Findley – trumpet (4, 10), trombone (10)
- Nicky Hopkins – piano (7)
- Jim Horn – saxophone (1, 6)
- Jim Gordon – drums (1, 6), percussion (1, 6)
- Carl Radle – bass (1, 6)
- Billy Preston – electric piano (10)
- Willie Weeks – bass (10)
- Andy Newmark – drums (10)
- Legs Larry Smith – vocal (10)
- Ronnie Spector – vocal (1)
- Norm Kinney – percussion (2)
- Supplementary credits for 2014 reissue (track 11)
- George Harrison – vocals, acoustic guitars
- Dave Stewart – electric guitars, bass, organ
- Dhani Harrison – acoustic guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Kara DioGuardi – backing vocals
|Australian Kent Music Report||36|
|Canadian RPM Albums Chart||63|
|French SNEP Albums Chart||19|
|Japanese Oricon LP Chart||9|
|Norwegian VG-Lista Albums Chart||8|
|UK Albums Chart||16|
|US Billboard 200||8|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
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