RECORDS / The ego-friendly approach: Andy Gill reviews new releases from George Harrison, Henry Kaiser & David Lindley, Clint Black and Mariah Carey

GEORGE HARRISON

Live In Japan

(Warner Bros/Dark Horse 7599- 26964-2)

MORE AND more often these days, big stars behave like corporations, allying and combining to maximise reputations. Eric Clapton is a case in point: sharing a bill with Elton at Wembley, sharing a stage with George Harrison in Tokyo and Osaka.

It's not just a stage he's sharing here, either; Eric's entire band has gone along for the ride, which must have saved George the trouble of putting his own band together and running them through 'Here Comes The Sun' a dozen times. After all, that must be a pretty thankless task even if you are getting the royalties. A pity, then, that Eric didn't save George the bother of turning up at all. For if not entirely old rope, it must be said that the greater part of Live In Japan consists of fairly threadbare twine. Songs are ground out, steamrollered with professionalism; dull craft prevails where a little sparkle is called for; and even George himself seems hard-pressed to summon up much enthusiasm - he comes close to impassioned just once on 'My Sweet Lord', extended here with a coda of Indian deities' names.

Leading off with a trio of Beatles oldies such as 'I Want To Tell You' and 'Taxman', the set is soon languishing in solo-land, a long haul through minor Harrisongs 'Cheer Down', 'Devil's Radio' and 'Dark Horse', before climaxing with that founding statement of the Harrison / Clapton partnership, 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', complete with typically tasty Clapton guitar break. The project feels tired and lazily self-aggrandising, and that's two CDs worth of tired, too. George might well have considered whether this is a proper use of the Earth's resources.

HENRY KAISER & DAVID LINDLEY IN MADAGASCAR

A World Out Of Time

(Shanachie 64041)

IF CLAPTON and Harrison represent the corporate celebrity structure, this alliance between avant-rock guitarist Henry Kaiser and Jackson Browne's slide guitarist David Lindley offers a cottage-industry perspective on matters musical, especially since it features them in collaboration with leading lights of the Malagasy music scene. Originally intending simply to record native musicians, the pair threw off their pith helmets and went native, adding their own parts to the indigenous music where they felt it would help, and teaching the locals songs such as 'I Fought The Law'; at one point, they even have a Malagasy pop group playing an Okinawan folk song.

On one level, the album is an invaluable addition to the Madagaskira compilations of a few years back, presenting the island's rich variety of music, from the poetic public-speaking form, Kabary, to the eclectic African pop of a group such as Rossy. More fascinating, however, are the results of the Malagasy / California collaborations. Kaiser and Lindley's imaginative contributions liven up what might otherwise be just another set of ethnic- music cliches. Particularly effective are the combination of Lindley's distinctive slide guitar with Tarika Sammy's valiha (a kind of tubular zither made of bamboo), and Kaiser's typically oddball solo on Rossy's 'Ambilanao Zaho', which, it is claimed, duplicates the song of the indri lemur, one of the island's native animals. Well I never.

CLINT BLACK

The Hard Way

(RCA 07863660032)

THE UNPRECEDENTED - frankly, absurd - success of Garth Brooks has raised stakes enormously in country music; so instead of merely doing multi- platinum business like his last two albums, Clint Black might reasonably expect The Hard Way to go through the roof. His problem is that he's probably the most talented of the new 'hat acts', and in country, sentimentality has it over quality every time.

Not that Clint's a slouch as regards sentiment; The Hard Way is replete with regret, broken hearts, long hard roads and other staples of the genre, presented with a practised stiff upper lip and lump in the throat. Black's speciality, signified in his debut album title Killin' Time, is in songs that deal with resignation and failure, usually bittersweet bar-room ballads; here, the song 'Buying Time' applies the same principles to marital infidelity, with lines that mash together cliches: 'Maybe we were dealt a losing hand / I'll have to let the cards fall where they may'. It looks like sloppy writing, but in a genre as reliant on commonality as country music is, the closer a song sails to cliche, the better it works: a line such as 'A man has his will but a woman has her way' carries suitcases full of cultural presumptions, but totes them with a jaunty, undercutting irony.

MARIAH CAREY MTV*

Unplugged EP

(Columbia 471869 2)

THESE SEVEN tracks were recorded as part of an MTV* series in which well-known musicians forgo the use of electric instruments, a winnowing-out process alleviated here by Mariah's use of a seven-piece band abetted by a string quartet, five-piece horn section, and choir.

Basically, the EP serves as an excuse for Mariah to prove it really is her, rather than a studio engineer, doing those stratospheric falsetto squeaks that constitute her Unique Selling Point. It's an impressive little trick, certainly, but is it really necessary to do it quite so often? Likewise, there's no denying the sheer technical facility brought to bear on the set - which includes 'Emotions', 'Vision Of Love' and her latest single, a cover of the old Jackson 5 hit 'I'll Be There' - though its clinical nature is ultimately off-putting: this is the least emotional of supposedly 'emotional' singing and playing. Like the navel-gazing end of jazz- rock fusion, all the emphasis is on technique rather than interpretation, embellishment rather than evocation. So while one can admire her admittedly extraordinary gift, it's hard to be moved by her singing.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?