Most fans have a favorite Beatle, but there isn’t much debate about which Beatles solo album is best: George Harrison’s epic “All Things Must Pass”.
Released in November 1970, just seven months after the late confirmation of the band’s breakup, it has become synonymous with the concept of Suppressed Brilliance. Ever since he first landed a line-up on a Beatles album with “Don’t Bother Me” in 1963, Harrison had struggled, largely unsuccessfully, to get his songs onto the band’s records, finally obtaining one per LP and finally one per vinyl side. So, he had a huge backlog of material, and his deep frustration of trying to break John Lennon-Paul McCartney’s grip on songwriting was one of the many factors in the band’s disbandment. Yet this is also the reason why “All Things Must Pass” is such a masterpiece: he has worked on it his entire career.
The eternally underrated Harrison was by far the most prolific Beatle extracurricularly. He has written, produced and / or performed on songs or albums by Cream, Billy Preston, vocalists Doris Troy and Jackie Lomax and others; dabbled in Indian and electronic music; and even joined his best friend Eric Clapton for a brief barnstorming tour with the American combo Delaney & Bonnie. (He would continue this streak after the release of this album, writing and producing the great singles “It Don’t Come Easy” for Ringo Starr and “Try Some, Buy Some” for Ronnie Spector.) He was invited to Woodstock to visit the Band in 1968 and ended up hanging out with Bob Dylan, with whom he co-wrote “I’d Have You Anytime,” the opening track here.
All of that preparation and pent-up inspiration came to fruition on this remarkable album, which was originally released as two vinyl records, as well as a bonus record of Jams by the row of musicians from The Murderers that Harrison assembled: in plus Clapton, Starr and Preston were guitarists Dave Mason and Peter Frampton, bassist Klaus Voorman, keyboardists Gary Wright and Gary Brooker, drummer Alan White, all Badfinger and the musicians who would join Clapton in Derek and the Dominos – and all the shebang was produced by Harrison with “Wall du son”, maestro Phil Spector. (Surprisingly, this row of murderers included two future convicted murderers: Spector and drummer Jim Gordon.)
The result is a glorious, heavenly roar, spanning rock (“Wah Wah”, “Art of Dying”), folk (a cover of “If Not for You”) by Dylan, pop (“What Is Life”) , country (“Behind That Locked Door”), towering epics (“Hear Me Lord”) and even a hymn to Beatles fans waiting outside Abbey Road (“Apple Scruffs”). The massed legions of guitars, keyboards, vocals, horns, tambourines, bells, shakers – all echoed and crowned by Harrison’s alternately prickly and soaring slide guitar – evoke visions of a giant caravan of traveling musicians adorned with bells and sleds hurtling down a country road. Yet this is actually the ultimate evolution of the sound barrier: the dozen musicians often performed live, and the thunderous din over songs like “The Lord Loves the One Who Loves the Lord” shows that the distance with a Spector’s classic like “Da Doo Ron-Ron” isn’t that far away. But like Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, many of these songs have been painstakingly constructed to sound big and detailed on both small and small. AM radios and everything passed for a state-of-the-art hi-fi stereo system in 1970. Needless to say, that magnificent cacophony sounds more incredible than ever in this revamped sound edition.
Thematically, the album’s lyrics reflect both Harrison’s notorious mistrust as well as the spirituality he found in his embrace of Hinduism. The word “lord” appears frequently, and in an impressive movement, the backing vocals towards the end of the No. 1 single “My Sweet Lord” chant “Hallelujah” twice, then transform into the Hare Krishna mantra – expected, as Harrison wrote in his autobiography, to suggest that the two concepts mean “quite the same thing”. He probably didn’t have a little satisfaction knowing that the words that thousands of fans were trying to sing along were “Hare Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Gurur Brahma” and so on. (He later slips a “Hare Krishna” into the backing vocals of “It Don’t Come Easy”, too.)
Unsurprisingly, this meticulously curated 50th Anniversary Edition showcases the album more gloriously than ever, with an all-new pristine remix included in several different packages ranging from standard vinyl or CDs to Super Deluxe to the all-crazy $ 1,000, literally 50 pounds. Uber Deluxe, which includes stacks of vinyl records, two lavish books, and other ephemera (including the plastic scale models of the gnomes featured on the iconic album cover that Variety made famous). There’s a lavish, heavy table book filled with gorgeous photos, many of which have never been circulated, and the estate has dived deep into the archives and reproduced handwritten lyrics sheets for almost every song, as well as entries. journal (“January 10, 1969: Left The Beatles,” regarding his brief departure during the “Let It Be” sessions) and other items.
Musically speaking, along with the high-resolution audio and Blu-ray versions of the album and other sound stuff, there are 47 demos and takes, most of them unreleased – none are holy grails, but several are fascinating. Most interesting are the demos: Many of Harrison’s raw acoustic takes have been circulated on bootlegs over the decades, but far more interesting are the raw versions of several songs where he is accompanied by Starr and Voorman, which are heart-warming in their simplicity. Familiar versions of the album are so big, but here there is a humility that is completely masked in the glorious grandiloquence of the album. We hear them relax through a radically different ‘What Is Life’, an easygoing ‘Isn’t It a Pity’ and – most strikingly – ‘My Sweet Lord’ as a loose half-beat groove. Elsewhere, Harrison hilariously ends the “Art of Dying” demo with a clip from “Hernando’s Hideaway” (revealing an unobvious influence for the song), and the latest demo included is a joke take on “Isn’t It. a Pity “called” Isn’t It Shitty “, with Harrison comically complaining about spending two long days recording demos.
The alternate takes are less revealing and lack the brilliant Spector, although they do provide some insight into the recording process. This segment ends with several jams, which incorporate a fun cover of “Get Back” by The Beatles and “Almost 12 Bar Honky Tonk”, with Clapton solo on a smoky groove. Notably, several of the players on the album happen to be southerners and, especially here, bring a bit of courage and fat to the debates. And throughout, even though this is his first solo album, Harrison is generous with the spotlight: Clapton does more solos than Harrison on the album (even on his opening notes), he doesn’t do any doubts what songs Starr plays, and keyboardists, bassists, and horn players – even tambourine player, Mike Gibbons from Badfinger – all get their moments in the sun.
Even amid the bounty of the Beatles’ releases that emerged in the months following their split, “All Things” topped the charts across the world and spawned two hit singles – “My Sweet Lord” and “What Is Life “- as well as a precedent. plagiarism lawsuit, also for “My Sweet Lord”, which ruled he had unwittingly borrowed from the 1963 Rags hit “He’s So Fine” (an unfazed Harrison later said he was aiming for “Oh Happy Day”) .
Some would argue, not without reason, that McCartney’s “Band on the Run” or Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band” or “Imagine” is actually the Beatles’ best solo album, but this 50th anniversary edition lovingly pleads for “All Things Must Pass” in great detail. Sadly, Harrison’s creative spurt didn’t last longer – none of his subsequent albums came close to the greatness of it. But to be fair, few do. .