I had to buy this as soon as I saw it, not just because I love demos and outtakes, but also because George Harrison wrote songs that were an expression of his inner world, and that makes all the difference. This collection is full of charm and warmth, just what you’d expect from the former Beatle. Early Takes features 10 tracks, all previously unreleased. The liner notes on the rear cover note that these tracks were unearthed during research for Martin Scorsese’s Living in the Material World documentary.
The demo of My Sweet Lord is a hesitant run-through without the propulsive tempo of the finished version, so it comes across as a little dorky. It’s the only track that doesn’t stand up as a demo. Still, it’s worth hearing as an insight into Harrison’s writing and arranging process. Better is Run of the Mill, which is an intimate acoustic version of the All Things Must Pass (1970) track. Many of these demos hail from that album and it’s great to hear them shorn of the full production that album received at the manic hands of Phil Spector.
After the melancholic I’d Have Her Anytime, a Dylan co-write, Harrison asks “Anything you want to change?” - very little it seems. Dylan pops up again with Harrison’s cover of Mama You’ve Been On My Mind. This track is perhaps the best on the album. It’s a beautiful version and Harrison actually sounds like he’s impersonating Dylan.
What sounds like a Jew’s harp graces a short but gorgeous rendition of Woman Don’t You Cry For Me. Unlike the demo version on the Beatles Anthology 3 (1996), the track All Things Must Pass sounds like a full band demo, but it still retains its emotional impact. Let it Be Me is almost perfect, which is something you could say for almost all of these demos. They are more than just sketches.
I’ve listened to this album at least eight times now and haven’t tired of it. These stripped back recordings really suit the warmth of vinyl and I’m grateful that Universal went out their way to get them pressed up. Thoroughly recommended not only if you are a Beatles or Harrison fan, but also if you enjoy music with soul.