Album in Depth: Ex-Beatle Debut Month: All Things Must Pass by George Harrison

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. Theme month continues, as it is the Ex-Beatle Debut Month!

#1 – Sentimental Journey by Ringo Starr

#2 – McCartney by Paul McCartney

#3 – All Things Must Pass by George Harrison

#4 – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon

The next album to be released in that fateful year of 1970 would be All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. Ah, come on… one of the greatest guitarists ever? You got to be kidding… okay, then, background.

George Harrison was the Beatles lead guitarist and the third one to join their ranks, meeting them before the name Beatles didn’t even exist. The major problem most Harrison fans have with the Beatles is that Lennon and McCartney shunned most of his songs, being that quite obvious, not like Ringo, where he didn’t have so many ideas. To be fair, one could say that he composed the best Beatles song: While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Something, Here Comes the Sun… however, in my opinion, for every hit he had a boring ass song, like Within You Without You and Old Brown Shoe. However, recordings show that some songs from the album in question, All Things Must Pass, were already played to the Beatles and they were cut off to give space to others, most prominently the title song All Things Must Pass, going to the extent of having a version in the Beatles Anthology 3 (which is a good collector edition and nothing more). I, myself, enjoy some of his work, but not everything: I don’t like when he gets too spiritual, thing that he really went after the great disunion. Also, to be completely honest, I don’t enjoy the Concert for Bangladesh musically: great idea, bad live album.

After the Beatles disunion, Harrison released 10 studio albums (including this one), created a supergroup called Traveling Wilburys, with such names as Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison, made a number of charities and the concert for Bangladesh, managing to raising 243,418.51 dollars… which nowadays wouldn’t feed anyone for anytime, but at that time, it was a huge amount of money (my dad used to joke about that: “We got 200,000! With this money, all we can do is remind ourselves how fucked we really are! Woohoo!”). Unfortunately, in 2001, he was one of the countless victims of cancer and died, although not clear, from metastases of a lung cancer that spread to his brain. Right before his death, many statements say that he did not have comfort, because his doctor was… what do you call people like this without sounding disrespectful? An asshole. The doctor was an asshole. But I digress.

The album cover is good, but with the whole idea, I would’ve preferred a drawing instead of a black and white photograph. It’s just George sitting in a field with garden gnomes. Granted: Harrison looks like a Gnome too, but that’s not exactly great. The elapsed time of the entire album is 101:06 and the… wait, what? 1 hour and forty minutes of music? That isn’t right… oh no… it is a triple album! Run for cover! Really? Three discs? Okay, there is actually two discs worth of new songs and one that are only jams. The longest song in the entire triple album (sigh…) is the first jam of the third disc, Out of the Blue, sporting 11:14 and an incredible cast (including Eric Clapton) and the shortest song, strangely enough, is the next song, “It’s Johnny’s Birthday”, with 0:49…

The album got six platinum albums and got really high with most of the music charts on the world, attaining a first place in the more important countries. It also is regarded as the best Beatle album post break-up and, obviously enough, the best Harrison album. It is considered a great album for all, and a must hear in life. Maybe it is, only one way to find out: All Things Must Pass by George Harrison.

1st track: “I’d Have You Anytime” – Surprisingly enough, the album starts with a somewhat of a ballad, which is incredibly strange, since Harrison was known for wanting to make less ballads (not so avert to the idea as Lennon, but still). I think the only complaint I have for this song is that Harrison is no singer. His voice is easily recognizable, but frankly, in my opinion, out of the four boys from Liverpool, he has the worst singing voice. However, the song is creepy and I enjoy that, really do. I guess what I could say is that this song was ahead of its time, with some of the best guitars I heard in a long time (he really does sing through the guitar) as the song closes to a fade out. Out of the three albums I reviewed as part of the theme month, comparing to Sentimental Journey and The Lovely Linda, this was the best opening.

2nd track: “My Sweet Lord” – Oh… with that name, goodie, a religious song. I love those. Okay… lyrically, this song is horrid. It is basically a cliché repeated over and over and over and over… you catch my drift (strangely enough, it mixes Sweet Lord with Hare Krishna, which is really strange. Musically, the song is upbeat, which is strange for most gospel songs (at least down here all religious songs are depressing) and a good guitar, beside a great riff at the start. The song loses more for repetitiveness because it only ends when it tires us. Overall, it deserves to be his first solo single, although I preferred the first track. So far, good.

3rd track: “Wah-Wah” – This song is a Beatles’ song, and a pretty good one at that. Although it is pretty much “I bought a wah-wah pedal and I want to make a song for it”, it reminds me a lot of Wild Honey Pie and some other songs of the Beatles, but it has a feel good feel to it. The nice touch of guitar plus brass also gives the song a special touch and the song is pretty good… to be honest, I think it would deserve a better spot than My Sweet Lord, with some clever lyrics, although let’s be honest are strange as fuck, and a great melody.

4th track: “Isn’t It a Pity (Version 1)” – This song could fool anyone. It starts slow and could be considered so far the less impressive song in the bunch, with some bad choices harmonically and beat that reminds me of sad country songs. However, the songs has more in common with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road than any other thing that comes to mind, as the bittersweet tone of it all makes you enjoy this song more and more, until a synths strings section, followed by a trademark Harrison guitar solo, that lasts forever (not a bad thing, though) as the addition of more vocals and more… stuff, like Billy Preston on the keyboards, and the outro is just the same thing repeated ad infinitum on a fade out… and for the first time I think ever, the fade out works. I mean… honest to god? Impeccable first side. I mean… fucking perfect. This album has the power to be one of my favorites of all time.

End of First Lp Side One. Flip it over, kick it.

5th track: “What is Life” – This song will never get old. That’s kind of all I can say. I mean… this song could’ve been released in the last five years… or maybe in the eighties… or late nineties… Lennon once said “Revolution 9” would be the type of music of the future… George Harrison knew the future. It was there to be read. The guitar riff is just great, the song is upbeat, a love ballad of all things, and is done greatly. The only thing I have to point out is that this song could have half of his running time, because it kinds of repeats itself a lot… of course, every time with something different (trumpets, string, more vocals), but still. I wasn’t expecting that the standards would meet the standards of the side one, but it keeps on going. Beatles was one of the best bands ever… but it could’ve been better if Harrison was a little bit more accepted in the group. Damn you Paul McCartney… (and to some extent Lennon, but he’s my favorite Beatle, so I don’t blame him that much)

6th track: “If Not For You” – This is a Dylan song, however, I don’t know if it has been already recorded by him, or he gave the song to Harrison, or anything, so I won’t compare it. I know Bob Dylan… I dislike him a lot, but I know Bob Dylan. Harrison had the worst singing voice out of the Beatles, Bob Dylan had the worst singing voice out of the sixties. The song has the Dylan feel to it (and believe me, as a composer he is great) and Harrison tries to make a blues voice, but to be honest, let’s just forget the singing… the keyboards and the guitar are just epic, as is the harmonica near the end. It is, again, a love ballad and it should’ve been in the Beatles catalogue. To be honest, so far the song that least impressed so far was “Sweet Lord”, but I’ve got to say, I’m a little biased since I’m not into that whole religious stuff.

7th track: “Behind That Locked Door” – George Harrison wrote a Cat Stevens song. How is that even possible? It is another guitar based sort of country love ballad, in which Harrison, knowing he isn’t Mercury, keeps his voice low and without strains, and it works. The lyrics are straightforward but it is another song that should be commended for the filling of soul and feelings. This song will make you feel shivers on your neck. The guitar solo is not the guy’s finest, but it works well with the keyboards, that are discrete, albeit hard to do. This song is another that goes within the hall of great songs. This album is rocking.

8th track: “Let It Down” – George Harrison… why did you deliver such a great intro if the song is going to change completely and become a slow ballad? Okay… this song sounds like a Pearl Jam’s Black, but really slow. It’s more focused on the keyboards and strings this time, with a more oldies feel to it, and… after seven great tracks, the slow one kills the streak. Maybe it is because the other songs are gloriously great and this one is just incredible, but it falls short in comparison with the rest of the album so far, and I hope it is not a trend of losing quality. I hope the rest of the album is as good as the start, not as good as this one. Near the end, the song goes back to sounding like the intro, but… the song should be all like the intro… I don’t even know why he changed it.

9th track: “Run of the Mill” – The shortest song so far brings with it more of a message than a good song, with the idea being “no one can suffer for you, but I can help you pass through if you are my friend” done right. The song has a kick ass piano and some great use of brass instruments make the song worthwhile without any major problems. Discrete, yes, but I will say that it is a good follow-up to what has been a great intro to this triple album experience. The song should be listened to at least once.

End of the first disc. I would just like to say that this album, so far, is being pretty great. As a triple album, I hope the rest of it isn’t completely wretched and the standards keep the album high on my list of favorites, as this disc is pretty much a solid favorite on my collection. Let’s get it one with Disc 2.

10th track: “Beware of Darkness” – This song is tame, and is that type of song that gets likeable depending on your mood. The song doesn’t change as the song crawls his way to the end, with being just a tame song with a creepy although interesting melody, discrete strings and a cool guitar, as usual, leading the song along. I hope this disc is not like this song… the lyrics are good as it is a somewhat optimistic, saying to take caution of the things out there, and the singing, I believe for the first time, is really good, and the solo reminds of the Beatles (Something, mostly). Even with that, the song fails to convince me.

11th track: “Apple Scruffs” – Apple Scruffs, for those who aren’t aware, was the name given (or self-given) by hard core fans of Beatles, that reunited outside of the Apple building while they were recording (and for what I could gather, even sometimes when they weren’t). The song itself, if you ignore the horrible horrible harmonica sections (that are jarringly bad, but I guess it is maybe production gone wrong) is a pretty happy bouncy tune, telling about the apple scruffs and praising them for their devotion, with some cute guitar and some well used back vocals. The guitar solo is inspired, and it redeems the last song, even with the harmonica bugging the hell out of it. Another thing I must commend is Harrison signing: it isn’t the best singing voice ever, but there is a verse where he sings on a strange modulation and it works, even at first sounding as a mistake. I would say this song must be listened at least once.

12th track: “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let it Roll)” – Okay… another tribute song… sort of. Frankie Crisp was a lawyer and thus deserves all disrespect possible. Just kidding, Harrison bought on 1970 the house where Frankie Crisp lived and left a number of quotes spread throughout the terrain, which Harrison inserted in some of his songs. The song is folkish and with the addition of a piano to the song, that already had some olde instrumentation, makes the song a bit enjoyable. As I don’t know anything about the life of Frankie Crisp, I do not know if it has any relation with his life. What I can say, however, is that he used sort of an Elizabethan language, with the use of “ye”. The song is good, but as this disc is going further, I can see that his songwriting ability was taken away after the disc 1 was completed.

13th track: “Awaiting on you All” – This song has such a bad quality (I don’t even know if it is on purpose, but still…), this song is definitely the worst song already. It is sort of upbeat, but you can’t really say what the hell is going on. Maybe there are brass, but this song, for me, shows Dylan influence: you can’t understand the lyrics, you can’t understand the instruments… it kind of tries to win you over with the feel and spirit of an upbeat song but… I don’t know… this song is so confusing… this song just seems like filler to me, and it saddens me that a Beatle that was able to give so much quality on one disc is able to deliver… this… on this disc… Come on, Harrison, I know you could do better than this. When the only thing working for your song is that it is a short one, you need to rework it.

14th track: “All Things Must Pass” – I can see what you tried to do there, but… this song is boring, with the only redeeming factor being the lyrics, the strings section on the back and the guitar sections, although the riff sounds like it has been bad recorded. I don’t know why the album was named after this song and why this song has a huge accolade, but I can understand that the lyrics are deep and interesting. Maybe is just that the tame rhythm broke me or the singing just seems uninspired and considering the song doesn’t have anything left, the song falls short. It only fails more than normal because of the first disc that was so awesome…

…sigh… second side of the second disc.

15th track: “I Dig Love” – See? George Harrison still got something going on for him. Just to set the records straight: this song is strange and if I was a producer, I would’ve crossed it real quick. The song starts with some great guitar, a sort of blues drums, a cool gospel keyboard and, of course, the coarse singing of Harrison. The song is strange, as I’ve said before, as I don’t get the lyrics and the way he decided to record it are incredibly unusual. This song should be looked as an island in the sea of mediocrity that the second disc is being, even though it is strange as fuck.

16th track: “Art of Dying” – Oh my god. I mean… what is your problem? Did you left the side one of the second disc to be the part portion of the album and just injected awesomeness in the rest of it? This song is simples awesome. A funky guitar intro connecting to a somewhat disco with some of the best guitar section of Harrison’s life… this song is a 007 song, simple as that. It has that spy feel to it, and is one of the best songs on the album, with the guitar working out and the singing is just spot on: he did a song that accommodates his singing without problem. My only complaint is the song is too short. Even the guitar solo rocks socks out more than any other Harrison song I’ve heard, at least.

17th track: “Isn’t It a Pity (Version 2)” – Again, this song fools you into believing that this and the other are the same song with some minor variances, and, well… you’re right. But to be honest, I think they both deserve their places on the album: the song is strong and they are basically different, with this one reminding me of Pink Floyd’s “The Show Must Go On” and “Summer ’68”, while the other was great but didn’t remind me of anything. I guess in the end it is worth to hear both of them, even knowing deep down, the only difference is the time span (the version 1 had 7 minutes, this one had 5) and the guitar, which is a little more present in this one. Don’t think because you listened to the version 1 you listened to them all.

18th track: “Hear Me Lord” – Oh, good… another religious themed song. Well… it is way better than My Sweet Lord, even though the lyrics seem repetitive as hell, it is the piano that propels the song forward, Billy Preston really knows how to work that thing. The guitar is again, amazing, however, the singing is… distractingly… bad. Is that constant back vocal… sorry… it is something you don’t do; back vocals are a weapon best used as a surprise. Like “Hey, good back vocals!”. Besides that, this side of this disc is redeeming itself, only if for just Art of Dying, which was complete and utter awesomeness. I really could’ve made an album 150% betterjust taking away the first side of this disc… Just saying…

So, the “regular” discs are over. Now, the third disc was just jams. 5 jams, to be exact, all with a butt load of people working, like Eric Clapton and, of course, Billy Preston. Let’s dive right into the last third of the review. Most reviewers agree that the third disc is not on par with the rest of it… let me be the judge of that.

19th track: “Out of the Blue” – The longest song in the album is, as I said, a jam with a more jazzy feel to it and a Pink Floyd side to it, reminding me a lot of songs like “Echoes”, but to be fairly honest, Pink Floyd was loosely based on two hot shots from the Jazz world that might’ve been the inspiration to this song. As it is a long ass jam, it is really hard to detail it: it works as ambient music, but I guess it isn’t exactly great, although miles better than the Damned Side of the second disc. The song is your basic “everyone shows their ability one at a time”, and although somewhat enjoyable, can tire before the end. It is definitely a piece that should be more played by people around the world (as I never heard this tune anywhere else and it is a soft song). I think the third disc will be a little harder to work than the rest of the album.

20th track: “It’s Johnny Birthday” – It is a jam based on the popular Congratulations song… it is creepy, comes out of nowhere, isn’t enjoyable with the changes of rpm effect and should be disregarded. But to be honest, it has its psychedelic value, so somewhere there is someone who will say “this song is great under influence”.

21th track: “Plug Me In” – Ah, I’ve seen this already. See, I kind of sing and kind of play keyboards, and there is sometimes Jam sessions in my college, a pretty cool idea. And sometimes, great things happen. And sometimes, we need to stop before the shit gets even shittier. This song is pure cacophony: it is noise. The guitar is just in all the places without any moderation and the piano is just trying to do something. The worst part is that you can hear what they were striving for (which would’ve been great) and they fail at it miserably. It is just a bad song, and never should’ve been on a studio album of this magnificence. It gets points only if it was made on one take, as jams should be, but it is just… bad. I’m beginning to think that maybe this album will have a shitty ending.

Let’s see if I was right, end of side 1 of disc 3, start of side 2.

22th track: “I Remember Jeep” – So this was the song Lynyrd Skynyrd improved. It is the ending of Free Bird, you know, that kick ass 8 minute guitar solo, tame as hell. And you can’t blame the times, since Free Bird was released 4 years after it, and the rock and roll scenario changed from 70 to 74 vastly, but not enough so that people would’ve considered it bad. It is bad and has some value, but not enough to be listened more than once… and really, ending with applause is one of the worse ideas ever for a track that isn’t a live song. The only good thing about this song, again, is the piano, which keeps the thing going on, because the drums sure as hell aren’t.

23th track: “Thanks for the Pepperoni” – The last tracks brings back rock and roll from before Beatles (mostly the fifties) and it rapidly plunges itself into chaotic mess again… why? This is not a jam made by talented people in the end: the production quality is absurd for people shitting with instruments, and this time even the piano, an instrument that I think can be added to anything resulting mostly of improvement (more so if it is Billy Preston), doesn’t save this one. I wish I could’ve been the only critic to say it was good and be all avant-garde, but I can’t do that. This disc was piss poor excuse for a vinyl press, except for Out of the Blue, which was something almost enjoyable.

So, how does it all hold up? Well, it is a bipolar recording and definitely should be listened to once in your life, but with some regards. The first disc, mostly the first side, can be described as pure awesomeness in the long play format, however, it suffers afterwards with a boring side 1 of disc 2 and a disc 3 made out of good ideas done wrongly. The side 2 of the second disc can be enjoyable as well, with some great tunes. In resume, exactly half of the three discs are songs that should’ve been immortalized in any peoples collection, with songs like “Isn’t it a Pity”, “What is Life”, “Art of Dying”, “Wah-Wah”, “Behind that Locked Door”, and half is possibly unredeemable trash (the third disc and the first side of disc 2). And by the way, instead of 105 minutes of music, I would’ve preferred a double album without the jam… maybe if the jam disc was released on its own later (with some other jams, maybe) it would’ve been a whole complete story.

This is JotaKa, signing off.

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1 Response to Album in Depth: Ex-Beatle Debut Month: All Things Must Pass by George Harrison

  1. Pingback: Album in Depth: Ex-Beatle Debut Month: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon | Jotaka's Studio

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