Saturday, July 16, 2011

All Things Must Pass by George Harrison

George Harrison was the lead guitarist in The Beatles.

More can be found about him here.

This is his first solo album.  I am reviewing the reissued version from 2001.

When he first heard this record, my best friend Rusty Spell, exclaimed, "John and Paul should be ashamed of themselves!"  That pretty much sums it up.

Those familiar with later Beatles recordings know that George was held to some rule about only two of his songs per LP and only one Ringo tune.  I don't know who set this rule, but they held to it, by God.  It even held true of the double "White Album"  with only four "Harrisongs."  Most will also agree that his songs were a couple of the highlights of Abbey Road ("Here Comes The Sun" and "Something")  Needless to say, George came into his own as a songwriter.  And most will know that by the time The Beatles broke up in 1970, he had an enormous backlog of quality songs.  And here they all are.

There's no shortage of excellent material to be found spread across these discs (it was an originally three LPs).  From the time you press "play," you will be treated to a series of top-notch songs all dressed up in Phil Spector's famous Wall of Sound.  George and John must have been more than enamored by Spector as both worked with him during the 70s, along with John giving him the Get Back tapes, which became Let It Be.  In his notes on the reissue, George states that he was tempted to remove the big production which seemed appropriate at the time.  I'm usually the first one to jump on the anti-Spector train when it comes to Beatles, but I'm glad George left it alone.  It's not as overbearing as it could be.  While it seems just right for a song titled "Wah Wah", it's too much on "Awaiting On You All."  The vocals are just buried in all that sound.  Still, it works, for the most part.
Of course, this album's greatest strength is the songs.  What beautiful songs.  Most probably know the hits like "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life", but most everything is on even keel here.  There's honestly not a weak link to be found.  There's even a Bob Dylan song, "If Not For You", that fits so nicely that you would think George wrote it himself.  Maybe this was the precursor to the easy relationship they had in The Traveling Wilburys.

Quite a few of the lyrics have an overtly spiritual bent, but it never punches you in the face.  The arrangement are basic rock band with the additions of Spector's usual strings, horns, and echo.  All of the playing is pretty economic and tasteful throughout.  In other words, the songs are the focus...

Until you get to the fabled "third record."  Originally, this was called the "Apple Jam."  Long instrumental jams that would have felt like bonus tracks even back when it was originally released.  If you're listening to these in order on the disc, the proper album ends for me with "Hear Me Lord."  I'm not sure if these were just off-the-cuff jams recorded while everything was being set up or just to loosen the band up before they got down to recording the songs.  Either way, they are worth a couple of listens, but they don't even approach the revelations of the songs.  The fact they are tacked on to the very end of the record pretty much means that they never intrude and are easily skipped.  Remove them and you have a masterpiece.  Included, they just fade into the background. 

That leaves All Things Must Pass as a perfect collection of songs that gives George Harrison a deserved place in the greatest pop band of all time.  It may well be the best debut Beatles solo effort.

The resissue includes some new remixes and demos that are nice enough, but don't really add anything.  The only real gripe I may have will be in the sequencing.  These bonus songs are added to the end of the disc, therefore breaking up the flow of the original album.  I would have preferred them added to the end of the original tracks.  Certainly worth having if you are already a fan of the record, which you should be if you're not.


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