Hari's on Tour (Express)
|"Hari's on Tour (Express)"|
1974 single B-side face label
|Song by George Harrison from the album Dark Horse|
|Published||Oops (UK)/Ganga (US)|
|Released||9 December 1974 (US)
20 December 1974 (UK)
|Dark Horse track listing|
"Hari's on Tour (Express)" is an instrumental by English musician George Harrison, released as the opening track of his 1974 album Dark Horse. It was also the B-side of the album's second single – which was "Ding Dong, Ding Dong" in North America and most other territories, and "Dark Horse" in Britain and some European countries. Among Harrison's post-Beatles solo releases, the track is a rarity, since it is the first of only two genuine instrumentals from 1970 onwards (the other being the Grammy Award-winning "Marwa Blues", from his 2002 album Brainwashed). Harrison recorded "Hari's on Tour" in April 1974 at a spontaneous session held at his home, Friar Park, with the Tom Scott-led L.A. Express, who were touring as Joni Mitchell's backing band at the time. It was the first Harrison song to feature Scott, who became a regular collaborator and served as band leader during Harrison's only solo tour of North America, the much-publicised "Dark Horse Tour" with Ravi Shankar.
"Hari's on Tour (Express)" was played as the opening number throughout the Harrison–Shankar tour, in November and December 1974. Although music critics and Harrison biographers have generally viewed the album track in a negative light, concert reviewers identified it as an effective opener for the shows. "Hari's on Tour" is one of only two songs from that tour to have been released officially, after a live version was included on the limited-edition Songs by George Harrison 2 EP in 1992.
George Harrison first worked with jazz saxophonist, flautist and arranger Tom Scott in April 1973, during the Los Angeles sessions for Ravi Shankar's Shankar Family & Friends album. The two musicians also contributed to Ringo Starr's album Ringo around that time, as well as Cheech & Chong's Los Cochinos. Outside of his session work, Scott's main activities were leading his band, L.A. Express, and backing Joni Mitchell, both live and in the studio. Just as Harrison had long combined elements of Hindustani classical music with western rock and gospel, and was now moving towards the funk and soul genres, Scott's solo work fused jazz, funk, pop and Middle Eastern influences, and his collaborations with Mitchell coincided with her move from confessional folk songwriting towards pop, jazz and eventually avant garde.
Harrison, Scott and Mitchell soon developed a mutual rapport, according to L.A. Express bassist Max Bennett, particularly as Harrison began spending more time in Los Angeles while trying to set up his own record label, with the pending demise of the Beatles' Apple Records. In August 1973, rumours in the music industry had claimed that Harrison, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Paul Simon were forming a label together; in fact, Harrison founded Dark Horse Records, one of the first releases of which was Shankar Family & Friends, and Dylan temporarily signed with David Geffen's Asylum Records, which was Mitchell's label.
Composition and recording
Mitchell's tour in support of her "classic" Court and Spark album arrived in London in April 1974. While backstage at her and Scott's show at the New Victoria Theatre, Harrison invited the five members of the L.A. Express to come out to his Oxfordshire home, Friar Park, the following day. Bennett recalls that they arrived by limousine and he mistook the property's grand gatehouse for the main residence.
Scott later told journalist Michael Gross that only a social visit was planned, but the band were impressed with Friar Park's "beautiful" 16-track home studio, known as FPSHOT, and Harrison suggested they record something. The first song they attempted was an untitled instrumental tune that later became known as "Hari's on Tour (Express)", for which Scott made a lead sheet for the band. Harrison played slide guitar, in his preferred open E tuning, adopting a similar sound to the one he had used three years earlier on John Lennon's song "How Do You Sleep?" Aside from Scott and Bennett's contributions, on saxophone and bass respectively, the other musicians were Robben Ford (electric guitar), Roger Kellaway (piano) and John Guerin (drums). Harrison's musical biographer, Simon Leng, observes that the tune predominantly uses major chords, with the "main melodic interest" coming with a shift to C# minor seventh, which provides "a moment of softening sweetness". Leng notes the contrast between Harrison's Fender Stratocaster "roaring into action" on this song and the "opulence" of his previous album, Living in the Material World, and suggests that Harrison now "just wanted to be one of the boys" in a "working, rocking band".
According to Scott, the backing track took "a couple of hours" before they had a satisfactory take. The musicians recorded a second song that day, "Simply Shady", which would likewise be included on Harrison's forthcoming album, Dark Horse. The five band members stayed the night at Friar Park before Ford, Bennett, Kellaway and Guerin left for Denver the following day. Scott stayed on and worked further with Harrison; in addition to the various horn parts, he played organ on "Hari's on Tour". In his interview with Gross, for Circus Raves magazine, Scott recalled that he was the first Western musician that Harrison approached about joining him and Shankar for a tour of the United States and Canada later in the year. The idea for this tour, and for an ambitious musical revue in Europe beforehand known as Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India, had come about in February 1974, when Harrison visited Shankar in the Indian city of Benares. Eight Arms to Hold You authors Chip Madinger and Mark Easter suggest that "Hari's on Tour (Express)" was written "simply as a show opener" for the North American concerts, which would also feature Harrison's former Apple Records protégé Billy Preston.
Part of the title for the instrumental was taken from "Hari Georgeson", the latest pseudonym adopted by Harrison when working with non-EMI/Capitol artists, since he was still contracted to Apple until January 1976. Some concert reviewers later referred to the song as "Hari Good Boy Express" or "Hari Good Bye Express". The first of these two titles is how Harrison named the track on the preliminary artwork included in the 2014 reissue of Dark Horse.
Although his 1969 experimental album Electronic Sound consists of Moog synthesizer sounds and the 1968 Wonderwall Music soundtrack is almost entirely devoid of vocals, out of all the tracks released by Harrison as a solo artist after the Beatles' break-up in 1970, "Hari's on Tour" is a rare example of a genuine instrumental composition. Only 2002's "Marwa Blues" stands as another.[nb 1] Among other projects they worked on together through to the early 1980s, Harrison played on the instrumental "Appolonia (Foxtrata)", from Scott's 1975 album New York Connection, and Scott helped produce Harrison's debut on Dark Horse Records, Thirty Three & 1/3.
Release and reception
Harrison's overcommittal of his time to Dark Horse acts Ravi Shankar and Splinter resulted in him having to rush-record much of his own album while preparing for the North American tour, the first there by an ex-Beatle. Due to the pressure, Harrison developed laryngitis during rehearsals and lost his voice, which marred the concerts for many observers and earned him harsh reviews from influential critics such as Ben Fong-Torres of Rolling Stone. Dark Horse was finally released during the second week of December in North America, towards the end of the Harrison–Shankar tour, and a few days before Christmas in Britain.
Music critics have traditionally viewed the studio version of "Hari's on Tour" in an unfavourable light, but the song was well received in concert, where it was played harder and faster. Feng-Torres described it as a "well-arranged, tension-and-release number", while the Pacific Sun concert reviewer called it "a zingy and classically melodic instrumental ... a touchstone of the Harrison style". In a review of the second show of the tour, D.P. Bond of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote: "Harrison's opening instrumental piece was beautiful: the fullest, finest explosion of rock 'n' roll that I think I have ever heard." The studio version subsequently appeared as the B-side to the second single off the album – "Ding Dong, Ding Dong" in the United States, Canada and a number of other territories, and "Dark Horse" in Britain and some other European countries.
In his notably unfavourable assessment of the Dark Horse album, for the NME, Bob Woffinden wrote: "The opening track, 'Hari's On Tour (Express)', is an instrumental, an unevenly paced boogie thing that has George blowing most of his licks straightaway and Tom Scott coming on with a few quasi-Jnr. Walker bursts. Which, you feel, would not be a bad appetiser for the real meat to follow. Unfortunately, Hari's vegetarian." In an equally unfavourable review, for Rolling Stone, Jim Miller dismissed the track as "banal". Harrison biographer Alan Clayson refers to Hari's on Tour" as "an instrumental that went in one ear and out the other", while in The Beatles: An Illustrated Record, critics Roy Carr and Tony Tyler described it as sounding like "a backing track from which the vocal line has mysteriously been deleted". Author Elliot Huntley acknowledges that the musicians "performed brilliantly" on the recording, but adds, "unfortunately brilliant musicians alone do not a good song make".
In a positive review for Dark Horse, in Melody Maker, Brian Harrigan praised Harrison's "nifty slide guitar" on the opening song and throughout the album. Beatles Forever author Nicholas Schaffner similarly opined that "Hari's on Tour" "boasts some mean licks" while observing that neither the tour nor the album "warrant[ed] all the abuse they got". Simon Leng views this "neat instrumental" as a collaborative effort between Harrison and Scott, and a logical step for the guitarist, given Harrison's early appreciation of Chet Atkins' instrumentals. Leng regrets Harrison's apparent abandoning of his "meticulous approach" to recording in favour of uncharacteristic spontaneity, and concludes: "Ultimately, this good-time guitar showcase is as relevant as Dylan's 'Nashville Skyline Rag'."
Ian Inglis writes of Scott's soprano sax producing an "atmosphere of anticipation" similar to a successful film or television theme, and identifies "Hari's on Tour" as an indication that Harrison, some years before his career became focused on movie production, was able to "effectively incorporate the conventions of a soundtrack within the codes of rock". Reviewing the 2014 reissue of Dark Horse, Joe Marchese of The Second Disc describes the track as an "upbeat instrumental" and "a bright opening to an album that would considerably darken in tone".
Harrison played "Hari's on Tour (Express)" as his opening song at every concert on the 1974 North American tour, which began on 2 November in Vancouver and ended in New York on 20 December. It was preceded by Monty Python's "The Lumberjack Song", played through the concert PA while the band took to the stage. As the many bootlegs from the tour reveal, early on in each performance of "Hari's on Tour", Harrison usually called out a greeting to the city or town in question. His large band – "an outstanding group of musicians", author Peter Lavezzoli writes – comprised Scott and Ford from the L.A. Express, Preston, Emil Richards, the rhythm section of Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark, and additional horn players Jim Horn and Chuck Findley. Jim Keltner joined as second drummer midway through the tour, and some of Ravi Shankar's musicians played during Harrison's portion of each show.
Harrison recorded and filmed a number of the concerts for a planned release, but only this instrumental and "For You Blue", both reportedly taken from a 13 December show at the Capital Centre in Largo, Maryland, have ever been issued officially. In 1992, "Hari's on Tour" appeared on the four-song EP accompanying Songs by George Harrison 2, a limited-edition, hand-bound book made by Genesis Publications. The book was limited to a print run of 2500 and published on 22 June that year.[nb 2]
The sound heard during the opening seconds of "Hari's on Tour" is a sarangi, played by Sultan Khan, who was one of the fifteen musicians in Shankar's orchestra. Madinger and Easter claim that this released version is actually a composite of performances from the evening show at Largo and the 6 December matinee performance at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. As with all the tracks from the highly priced Songs by George Harrison volumes, "Hari's on Tour (Express)" is available unofficially on bootleg compilations such as Pirate Songs.
- George Harrison – slide guitar, acoustic guitar
- Tom Scott – saxophones, horn arrangement, organ
- Robben Ford – electric guitar
- Roger Kellaway – piano
- Max Bennett – bass
- John Guerin – drums
- uncredited – tambourine
- Jam-session improvisations, but not strict compositions, were included on the Apple Jam disc as part of All Things Must Pass; Harrison's vocals were removed from the 1975 song "You" to create the instrumental reprise "A Bit More of You"; and the "neo-instrumental" "Greece" and "Zig-Zag" both contain snatches of lyrics.
- Genesis produced the original, leather-bound edition of Harrison's autobiography, I, Me, Mine, as well as the first volume of Songs by George Harrison, in 1988. The EP from this first volume grouped the live "For You Blue" with songs rejected by Warner Bros. Records for inclusion on Harrison's 1981 album Somewhere in England.
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