"Concert For George" Beautifully Packaged, Released on 4 180g LP Box Set

Let's get directly to the point: the packaging of this almost $100 set is inversely proportional to the sound quality. The packaging is deluxe.

Live concerts first seen on DVD and Blu-ray and later released on audio-only formats can bring surprises. Sometimes what was musically compelling when seen turns out to be somewhat boring without picture. The Blu-ray surround sound set of this love fest/ tribute to George Harrison recorded at The Royal Albert Hall November 29th 2002—one year to the day of his passing (hard to believe that much time has passed), both looked and sounded spectacular. Many of the musical performances were unforgettable, including Ringo's "Photograph" co-written with Harrison, that took on a far different meaning.

From Anoushka Shankar's opening performance of a Ravi Shankar composition, backed by a large ensemble with choir to the closing "My Sweet Lord", "Wah Wah" and "I'll See You in My Dreams", it was a memorable, joyful yet melancholic evening featuring Harrison's musical friends Eric Clapton (who was also the musical director), Jeff Lynne (who produced the concert), Paul McCartney, Billy Preston, Ringo, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and others, including the pretty much unknown Joe Brown who was a dear friend of George's and who brought down the house with his versions of "Here Comes the Sun" and the closer "I'll See You In My Dreams".

The musicians in the backing band included Gary Brooker, Jim Capaldi, Jim Keltner, Albert Lee, Chris Stainton and Klaus Voorman among others and when the cameras scanned the band, it was great seeing "old friends"—not to mention fixing eyes on George and Olivia's son Dhani who at the time looked eerily like George. So, even if some of the performances were tentative and some just so-so, it was a riveting experience musically and sonically. All profits went to Harrison's Material World foundation.

The packaging of this vinyl set is superb. It includes a beautifully finished textured slip case box, in which are equally attractively packaged individual records (4) pressed on 180g vinyl at QRP and there's a thoughtfully produced 27 page full-sized booklet. The concert fits on 7 sides, so the 8th is a "sculpted" version of the Indian artwork concert "logo" (I'm sure there's a particular name for it but I don't know it).

The problem here is the sound: it is inexcusably terrible. All of the sparkle, detail, definition and excitement heard on the Blu-ray is gone, replaced by thick, congealed, dynamically compressed muck. There is no excuse for this mess. In fact, for $100, the Blu-ray or a DVD should have been included, but that's something else.

For an example of how good something like this can be, check out the Eric Clapton Slowhand at 70 (EV307399), a 3 LP plus DVD set that Eagle Rock Entertainment released a few years ago in a triple gatefold package, also recorded live at The Royal Albert Hall in which Clapton gives an exciting and inspired performance. One track from it is included in the AnalogPlanet Radio show Eric Claption Tribute. That one had lacquers cut by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering and the sound is equally spectacular both on the DVD and on vinyl. It's out of print and used prices are equally spectacular—around $300. That one is as good as this is awful. There's no excuse for the lousy sound, which may very well have been sourced from a CD. Whatever the source, it was either seriously degraded from the original high resolution files or mastering engineer Gavin Lurssen did something to it, or Ron McMaster, who cut lacquers did to make it an easy cut, or perhaps both plus whoever okayed the source material were all to blame.

Whatever or whoever is responsible, do yourself a favor and avoid this. And would someone please reissue the Clapton? Musically and sonically it's incredible.

Hats Domino's picture

The sound in Gavin's mastering room is so dark you'd think his speakers were broken. He has the top end dialed all the way down, which is surprising because he has a tendency to make dark, mushy remasters... Not always, but this isn't the first time I've heard something he's mastered that was murky.

sunderwood's picture

Thanks for the info on slowhand at 70. I bought it when it first came out. I wouldn't want to sell it, but it is nice knowing it has that kind of

misterc59's picture

I wish I had both vinyl and Blu-ray. Funds are limited, so I opted for the Blu-ray so I could view the performance as well. Too bad Blu-ray doesn't appreciate in value so much! Anyway, I still enjoy watching (and listening to)him...


Grant M's picture

Do i get fries with that? I'm starting to think there isn't the best chance of getting a happy meal if McMaster is on the menu.

Hats Domino's picture

Ron McMaster cut the lacquers. He didn't master it.

Grant M's picture

I never said he mastered it, only implying that the last number of projects Michael has unfavorably reviewed happen to have lacquers cut by him. Seems like he's not working with the "A" team on these projects if he's getting such terrible sounding files.

Michael Fremer's picture
Has also cut some very good records especially when from tape and he is in charge....
Grant M's picture

Real question without snark, can Capital cut from tape anymore?

ViciAudio's picture

... cutting vinyl is indeed mastering. Anything else made prior to vinyl cutting (the final mastering to the end format), can be some kind of pre-mastering to generate a suitable source. In any case, we should not stop referring to cutting as mastering because mastering it is, and different cutting engineers and/or equipment result in very different sound.

Hats Domino's picture

Every cartridge sounds different, too. So do all phono preamps. And, to a much lesser extent, so do turntables. Should we consider them part of the mastering process, too? But thanks for stating the obvious, I guess.

ViciAudio's picture

... I didn't say that each mastering engineer / gear sounds different to justify why record cutting is mastering. It's just additional information to help others understand the concept. Cutting is mastering because it has always been mastering, that didn't change in 2018. Is it obvious? Yes, should be.

ViciAudio's picture

... who cares what amps and carts at home sound like, what does that have to do with mastering?

Michael Fremer's picture
He's cut many good sounding records too. Especially when from tape. I think he cut from what he was given.
Lazer's picture

I have this on blue ray. You saved me $100.

richiep's picture

I was just about to make the purchase but you saved me the disappointment once I had heard it. Another opportunity to shine and remove the old stigma we're only in it for the money. Quality and Content are the keys to sustain the Vinyl comeback, audiophiles kept it alive, make us happy and you will get the trickle down effect. Mikey thanks again for your valued review, we listen.

kozakjj's picture

Another Digital Vinyl release. It is isn't the The Vinyl resurgence. It's 12 In CD Vinyl Resurgence. Please keep that distinction.

Michael Fremer's picture
If it’s cut from high resolution sources it will sound much better than CD!
kozakjj's picture

Sorry i meant to say Another Digital Vinyl release. It is isn't the The Vinyl resurgence. It'd the DIGITAL Vinyl Resurgence. Please keep that distinction. It is a shame that MOST LP's are cut from digital sources. I would like Analogue Productions cut all new LP's AAA. Just a fantasy i know. I am glad that i do have all my original LP's cut before Digital was a thing.

Grant M's picture

I don't care what the source is, as long as the record sounds great. I have lots of horrible sounding AAA records from the 70s and 80s. It's far too easy to blame digital for bad sounding vinyl, since I have many fantastic sounding records that are not AAA, like everything recorded since studios went digital!

Michael Fremer's picture
JR465's picture

I have Good sounding records that were mixed to digital, and cut to vinyl using the digital master. However, speaking for myself, if a perfectly good analog master exists and a digital source is used for cutting that's when I will pass.

Michael, thanks for the reviews. I appreciate that you call them as you hear them.