The Concert for Bangladesh Album Review – Archive, 1972 | George Harrison

We is not trying to make any policy. We are artists. But through our music, we want you to feel the pain … in Bangladesh. “Ravi Shankar spoke before he started playing in Madison Square Garden. The record for that concert will be released next Monday as a triple album (Apple STCX 3385) , and the entire profit goes to emergency aid for Bangladesh (as the concert gate of $ 243,418,50).

Since playing in Monterey, Ravi Shankar has become known both to the rock music audience and also to rock musicians. George Harrison chose to be influenced by Indian music as soon as the Beatles played more than pop tunes: Revolver, released in 1966, shows the beginning of his self-learning. (Brian Jones was influenced at the same time: Aftermath, also released in 1966, has him playing the sitar). Harrison was always more concerned with deepening his ideas than trying the musically impossible; So instead of imitating Ravi Shankar, both men have in fact been the protector of the others: George by putting his fame in Ravi’s service, Ravi by being in the background a better guru for Harrison than Maharishi.

Ravi Shankar, a Bengalis, asked Harrison for help raising money for the victims of the war in eastern Pakistan last summer. Madison Square Gardens concert was the result, mounted in one month. The first page of the triple album features Ravi playing guitar for Ali Akbar Khan’s sarod.

Page two is, in fact, a repetition of the most memorable and distinctive of Harrison’s songs on the All Things Must Pass (Apple STCII 639). In fact, with some very notable exceptions coming, the line-up of musicians is similar to The Concert for Bangladesh George’s previous triple album. Eric Clapton joins him for Wah-Wah, My Sweet Lord and Awaiting On You All, with Leon Russell on piano. The photographs of Harrison for the concert show him with a long pointed beard, like a wizard, singing with his eyes closed, almost removing the words from himself. The chorus behind, and the audience in front, rises to him, the girls in the band responding half in gospel style, half as a mantra. The song remains rock; organ and piano characterize the melody as stamps, guitars oil it, bend and shape the beat.

My Sweet Lord was widely recognized as the single from the 1970s. The song is an invocation, made not for protection, but in a state of bliss. Again, Harrison mixes East with West chorus sometimes “hare krishna”, sometimes “alleluia.” The song is simple enough that it can be played even better here than on the previous studio number, where Clapton’s guitar matches Harrison’s voice. The act of worship, amplified enormously by being made by star artists at the height of their fame and skill, becomes almost a beatitude. Every part of the song comes out clearly, Harrison infects a little cry not in the studio version. “Touch my cheek.” When you listen, the effect is just that of the early Beatles’ hits: pleasant thrills and tingling at your fingertips, almost evangelical.

Two hymns conclude the other side, Waiting On You All and That’s The Way God Planned It. Both songs are confident celebrations that end abruptly in their own silence.

Just as the album has a picture of a starving child on the cover, so the audience for the concert must have heard words from the new songs. After Billy Preston sang “I hope you get this message”, Ringo Starr will sing his It Don’t Come Easy. Horns and drums thump, the audience claps and calls, he sings “open your heart and come together.” Then Harrison again, recalling Dylan in Beware of Darkness: “Now beware, beware, beware of greedy leaders.”

Leon Russell provides the secular feast of fun on page four, with a medley of Jumping Jack Flash and Coasters ‘Young Blood, mocking and yip-yip as well as Jagger, guitars stumbling down and through the sound, girls’ choir squealing, Leon improvisation of the song’s links. The page ends with George singing his Here Comes The Sun from Abbey Road.

George Harrison (center), flanked by Allen Klein (left) and Ravi Shankar, talks to journalists about their benefit show for East Pakistani refugee children in Madison Square Garden, 1971.
George Harrison (center), flanked by Allen Klein (left) and Ravi Shankar, talks to journalists about their benefit show for East Pakistani refugee children in Madison Square Garden, 1971. Photo: NY Daily News / Getty Images

Page five: a roar of joy as Bob Dylan gets to sing songs he all wrote six years ago or more, play acoustic guitar and harmonica, sing like he used to. Clearly, he relates Bangladesh to the concerns of his old songs, giving them a new twist, a different facet. Four years ago, Dylan said of his early songs, which were taken as hymns by the children, “I no longer have the capacity to feed this power that needs all these songs. I know the power exists, but my insight is has become something new. ” And at other times, he talked about being made unbearably confused by the pressure put on him. Now, as he recreates these songs by singing them for the Bangladeshi concert, Dylan brings them to light again and reminds us of their value.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall – like most of Dylan’s songs elliptical and metaphorical – comes into its new focus. “Been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a cemetery”: and the audience sees the newspaper pictures of the brown corpses. “I met a young woman / whose body was burning.” “The executioner’s face / is always well hidden / where the hunger is ugly / where the souls are forgotten.” Here and now the familiar words are hard to take: they are too apt, they point to sorrows that are too great to be grasped except by a poet. But here is the poet in public. Dylan continues with Blowin ‘In The Wind, Mr Tambourine Man, for Just Like A Woman. He plays gently, in himself; perhaps to make it clear that the show is Harrison’s.

The concert ends casually with George singing Something and Bangladesh. What Woodstock is said to be was the Madison Square Garden Bangladesh concert. It’s busy. The concert will stand as the greatest act of magnanimity rock music has yet achieved.

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