One astounding fact mentioned in the extensive sleevenotes accompanying this retrospective compilation, is the fact that when The Beatles split in 1970, George Harrison was a mere 26 years old.
Barely legal when the Beatles hit the big time, it's incredible to think that as well as the Harrison Beatle classics such as Taxman, Something and Here Comes the Sun, George had also saved up enough unrecorded material to release the extensive and ambitious triple album All Things Must Pass, straight after the band's break up.
This DVD however, covers Harrison's lesser known output from mid-seventies to early nineties, long after the dust had settled from the Beatle fallout. Until 1976, his contractual obligations still tied him and his recordings to EMI, but the label Dark Horse was his own creation. So keen was he to get it off the ground, it had already been going for two years and put out records for several other artists by the time when he was finally able to release his own records on it.
Given the parameters in which it is set, no-one can deny that this compilation is a well-thought-out, thoughtful tribute to the 'quiet' ex-Beatle. Containing a booklet comprising explanatory articles by Harrison's widow Olivia and journalist/fan David Fricke, the package is clearly as much of a tribute to Harrison's personality and spirituality as his music.
Videos of all of his key singles made during those years are presented with interview footage from Harrison preceding each one, explaining the idea behind each song. They make interesting viewing - it's explained at length that Harrison had little patience in playing the egotistical rock star role - and he's clearly a little uncomfortable and self-conscious singing to camera. In fact, at one point he admits to being astonished that people though it was him doing the back flips and dancing in the video for Got My Mind Set On You (it wasn't).
The videos also display the famous Harrison wry and self-deprecating humour. The courtroom drama of This Song, his response to the My Sweet Lord plagiarism accusations, is as gutsy and confrontational as George Michael's video for Outside. There's the gentle humour of the Eric Idle-directed Crackerbox Palace, and the eccentric Beatles tribute When We Was Fab, in which he and Ringo attempt to deconstruct the Beatles' mythology with typical Harrison satire.
Elsewhere on the DVD, there is footage from a gig Harrison did in Japan with long-time pal Eric Clapton, which unfortunately includes a lame version of Taxman (some things really are best left alone). There are also selections from the much-panned Madonna/Sean Penn film Shanghai Surprise, for which Harrison did the soundtrack. Again, this is not quite Harrison at his best.
The Dark Horse Years' greatest hindrance is that it only tells part of a story. It's fair enough (not to say a relief) to leave out the Beatle years, which have been documented to death. But it seems pointless examining Harrison's solo career without including arguably his best album All Things Must Pass, his successful venture into film production, or even his participation in '90s supergroup the Travelling Wilburys.
Though successful, his musical output during the Dark Horse era is hardly classic Harrison. So although The Dark Horse Years does exactly what it says on the tin, it frustratingly falls short of what must have been an ideal opportunity to present a comprehensive documentary of George Harrison's life work.