Living in the Material World has been long overshadowed by its overwhelmingly brilliant predecessor, 1970’s triple LP All Things Must Pass (which still remains the top-selling solo effort by any of the former Beatles). But the often-forgotten album, originally released in 1973, had many successes: It was at the top of the Billboard charts for five weeks; the lead single, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth),” hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles; and it has sold more than three million copies to date. Thirty-three years later, the album is given the almost-but-not-quite-deluxe-edition approach, and the results are mixed.
The album features some of Harrison’s best songwriting, particularly on cuts like “Sue Me, Sue You Blues” (a sly Beatles lawsuit reference) and the poignant “Be Here Now,” one of the best tracks released by any of the ex-Beatles. The original artwork is replicated beautifully here, this time converted into a CD “box” (similar to the casing for the All Things Must Pass LP), which houses a dual Digipak case. The accompanying booklet features many previously unreleased shots from the original photo shoot, truly accentuating the album’s brilliance. The package also includes two additional cuts: “Deep Blue” (from the “Bangla-Desh” single) and “Miss O’Dell” (from the “Give Me Love” single). The tracks sit nicely on the end of an already great album and don’t detract from its playability, as some additional songs can do on reissues.
But the DVD portion of this reissue is a real downer: There aren’t a lot of new or exciting features on what’s an almost unnecessary disc. A live version of Harrison playing “Give Me Love” with Eric Clapton in Japan in 1991 is the most entertaining novelty on this fifteen-minute bonus video, and that really isn’t saying much. The cobbled-together visuals that accompany alternative versions of “Miss O’Dell” and “Sue Me, Sue You Blues” are relatively disheartening (a picture of a guitar and some lyrics flashing on screen), and the shots of the factory cutting the lacquer discs during “Living in the Material World” are mildly entertaining to fans of the format itself.
If a bit more time had been spent on the video portion of this deluxe edition, this would have been a more satisfying release. Still, it’s more than worth the price of the disc, particularly for the excellent acoustic version of “Sue Me, Sue You Blues” on the DVD. It’s an enjoyable listening experience-just pretend the DVD doesn’t come with visual offerings.