Keno's CLASSIC ROCK n ROLL Web Site
THE CONCERT OF BANGLADESH
Concert date: Aug 1, 1971. Release Date: Dec 20, 1971 on Apple Records & Films. Produced by George Harrison & Phil Spector
George Harrison -
& Slide Guitars (Electric & Acoustic); Lead & Backing Vocals
(Note: This review is for both the CD and the DVD)
Before there ever was a No Nukes concert, and long before Live Aid took place, George Harrison, after hearing about the homeless refugees of the 1971 India-Pakistan war, organized two concerts at Madison Square Garden with some of the biggest names in Rock, to raise money for these people, making The Concert for Bangladesh the very first rock concert of its kind. This review will cover both the film and triple album that came from these two concerts.
Being that Harrison was a former Beatle, he had lots of friends in the rock world to call on for help. But even George could not get everybody who he wanted, including his friends John Lennon and Paul McCartney, as it was just too soon after the Beatles' breakup. But one by one, many other friends of his said yes, including Beatle Ringo Starr, and close friends Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan said maybe - with both of them recovering from personal health problems. Dylan hadn't played live since his near-fatal motorcycle accident which broke his neck, and Clapton was very sick, fighting his heroin addiction and hadn't played live in ages 'cause of that problem. Only in the last moments before the first show went on did Harrison know if either one would attend and take part in the concert.
Most of what we hear on the album and see in the film comes from the second, night time concert. That show started off with Ravi Shankar and friends playing some wonderful Indian instruments, including Shankar's sitar, with Ali Akbar Khan out playing him on his sarod. After that the rock show got underway.
Really, almost every song played on this night turned into solid gold, this with a band that had so many members - many who had never played with each other before. There were some rehearsals before the show, but not all were able to attend them. The first three songs were Harrison numbers, with all of them sounding as great as their studio recordings. "My Sweet Lord" was the best of the bunch, with Clapton's slide guitar just perfect! After that Billy Preston got to sing one of his songs and towards the end he got up from his organ and cut the rug a bit. That was followed by Starr's fine singing on 'It Don't Come Easy", even if he did mess up a line or two.
After another Harrison song and the band introductions, perhaps the only song that was a bit of a disappointment - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" played. Clapton was off on his lead guitar for most of the song, only towards the ending of the song, when George started to weave with him, did he pick it up, and did that weave sound fine, in fact the ending was so good that it almost made up for the rest of the song where his playing was lacking.
Up next it was time for Leon Russell to shine, and boy did he! His medley of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Young Blood" was tops - perhaps the highlight of the entire concert, with a little help from his friends on "Young Blood", with Don Preston's lead guitar just blasting off and heading into space!
After that things mellowed out again, with just Harrison and Pete Ham of Badfinger playing acoustic guitars on a beautifully sounding "Here Comes the Sun", pure bliss! The rest of Badfinger also played at the concert, but one has to wonder why they didn't get a chance to play one of their own songs, too.
Next up it was time for Dylan. In the extras that come with the DVD, Harrison talks about the fact that up till this moment he didn't know for sure if Dylan was gonna come out or not. He did, and played a six song set, and damn did he sound excellent for his first show back. This is the only part of the show where the CD, DVD and old triple vinyl album differ, but only a bit. Sadly and for what ever reason, "Mr. Tambourine Man", which Dylan sounds his best on, does not show up in the film. Also now on the CD, a bonus cut, "Love Minus Zero/No Limit", shows up and closes out the CD. This song also wasn't shown in the original film version, but thanks to the special DVD that is now out, we get to see this too, on Disc 2.
As far as other extras on the DVD, there are two more songs and both of them are purely a gas! The first one is from a pre-show rehearsal with just Harrison and Dylan singing together "If Not For You", while playing their Acoustic Guitars to a empty Garden. Then another rehearsal is for the old Robert Johnson Blues Song "Come on in my Kitchen", with Harrison and Russell trading off vocals, it's handled just so fine. There are also a few documentaries that are found on Disk 2, which cover how the concert came about, and the making of the film, etc, and they are very interesting to say the least. Seeing many of these performers in 2005 commenting about what went down back in '71, and seeing how much they did age, is a trip, and really made me feel old. But those of us who were around back then, well we are getting old, but damn the music still sounds fresh and young to my ears today.
I had not seen The Concert for Bangladesh for about 30 years when I ordered the DVD a couple of months ago. I had no plans to review this film and CD, but after viewing the show again, shit, I had to find time today to write this review up. Chances are you also may not have seen this in years - or maybe if you're years younger and never saw this before - but dig Classic Rock music, well, you got to get your hands on this DVD and CD! It is that good, and even today, all money raised after costs still goes to UNICEF. What a great concert George Harrison put together for these people in need, and the fact it would lead to many more of these types of shows just makes this one that much more special, since it was the very first one held and thought up.
- Keno 2006
To listen to some soundclips from THE CONCERT OF BANGLADESH CD, or to purchase, click on: The Concert For Bangladesh [2 CD]
For more info on THE CONCERT OF BANGLADESH DVD, or to purchase, click on either: The Concert for Bangladesh - George Harrison - Deluxe Set - 2 DVD + Extras
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