From experiments with world-beat psychedelia, to guitar playing that focused on texture rather than indulgence, to recordings that rank with classic rock’s most majestic, George Harrison sent vital ripples through pop. Unfortunately, it’s a legacy strewn across nearly two dozen original Beatles albums and 15 uneven solo discs (the most notable in print of which are All Things Must Pass, Living in the Material World, and the skimpy The Best of George Harrison). So, the best way to honor Harrisongs—to use the name of his publishing company—may be to burn a compilation. One sweet lineup:
—AWAITING ON YOU ALL (All Things Must Pass, 1970) Start with this rouser from his regal masterpiece. Only Harrison could make ”By chanting the names of the Lord and you’ll be free” into an ebullient hook.
—TAXMAN (Revolver, 1966) With the Beatles, Harrison skewers 10 Downing Street with one of his punchiest melodies.
—I NEED YOU (Help!, 1965) One of his most straight-ahead love songs, with Beatles guitar shimmer to boot.
—SOMETHING (Abbey Road, 1969) See above, but with an infusion of deeply appreciative, grown-up bliss.
—MY SWEET LORD (All Things Must Pass) The secular, the spiritual, and oh, those magnificent opening guitar strums.
—GIVE ME LOVE (GIVE ME PEACE ON EARTH) (Living in the Material World, 1973) Effortless and hopeful, and a showcase for Harrison’s sweetly lyrical slide guitar.
—WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS (The Beatles, 1968) The Beatles, and George, at a stately, rapturous peak.
—FOR YOU BLUE (Let It Be, 1970) Jaunty, frolicsome George, from Fabs’ final days.
—IF I NEEDED SOMEONE (Rubber Soul, 1965) Lennon/McCartney weren’t the only Beatles who could write first-rate chime.
—IT’S ALL TOO MUCH (Yellow Submarine, 1969) In case anyone doubted he took acid.
—CRACKERBOX PALACE (Thirty Three & 1/3, 1976) Rare example of his whimsical side.
—HANDLE WITH CARE (Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1, 1988) In search of middle-aged tenderness, with his superstar buds.
—DARK HORSE (Dark Horse, 1974) More like hoarse—Harrison had a sore throat when he cut this—but those flutes are hard to deny.
—DON’T BOTHER ME (With the Beatles, 1963) Pre-Krishna, Harrison could snarl with the best of ’em, as on this early Beatles sulk.
—DON’T LET ME WAIT TOO LONG (Living in the Material World) Unjustly neglected serenade from an often preachy set.
—THINK FOR YOURSELF (Rubber Soul) A hint of the sourness that overtook his later work, softened by the Fabs’ kicky arrangement.
—HERE COMES THE SUN (Abbey Road) His most crystalline Beatles recording, perfect for one of his most uplifting songs.
—BLOW AWAY (George Harrison, 1979) …and a later, gentle successor.
—WHAT IS LIFE (All Things Must Pass) George at his most cautiously exuberant, with producer Phil Spector piling on joyful noise around him.
—DING DONG, DING DONG (Dark Horse) An austere, but lovable, farewell, whether to a year or a lifestyle.
—ALL THINGS MUST PASS (All Things Must Pass) Autumnal, with a hint of an arriving daybreak—one of his most elegant ballads, and an apt finale.