Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dusting Off The Disc: All Things Must Pass

With the anniversary of John Lennon’s death last week I put together a list of my favorite Lennon solo tracks. I realized that the five year anniversary of George Harrison’s death was on November 29th and I really didn’t address this. In order to do so I dug through my CD binders and dusted off my copy of All Things Must Pass, Harrison’s first solo album. And because of that I bring you the second entry to the Dusting Off The Disc column. (To remind you of the rules please see the original Dusting off The Disc post).

In order to fully appreciate this album you have to understand the circumstances of Harrison’s career with the Beatles and what this album must have meant to him. He joined the Beatles at 16, the youngest of the Fab Four. Originally brought in just because he was an excellent guitar player (and the reason Paul switched to bass) his songwriting didn’t really come to the forefront until the end of the Beatles reign. Songs like “Within and Without You”, “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” are some of my favorite Harrison penned tunes. It’s a pretty amazing thing to realize that the Beatles, who already had two of the greatest songwriters of all time, also had an amazing songwriter just waiting in the wings. Apparently George had stockpiled a bunch of songs later in the Beatles career, which never really were recorded because Paul and John were in control of the band. Instead of fighting for his material to be included he would just go off on his own (usually collaborating with friends like Eric Clapton). So once the Beatles broke up he finally had the opportunity to express himself and show what he could do. That expression was the two-disc classic All Things Must Pass. Finally, George Harrison was recognized for being an incredible talent himself, and not just a token player in the band. In fact, All Things Must Pass outsold all the albums the other Beatles would ever issue. I’m sure this meant a lot given the friction between band members after the breakup. This is evident on the song on the album “Wah-Wah”, was apparently written about Paul McCartney (Lennon also had a song aimed at McCartney called “How Do You Sleep?”).

The album starts off beautifully with “I'd Have You Anytime”, Harrison’s collaboration with Dylan. Another Dylan collaboration “Run of the Mill” also appears on Disc 1, George even does a full cover of Bob’s “If Not For You”. While Dylan’s influence is certainly felt, this album really is all about George Harrison. From signature tunes like “My Sweet Lord”, “Beware of Darkness”, “What is Life” and “Isn’t It a Pity” you really get the absolute peak of his creativity.

Overall the album has a Beatles-esque sound to it with wonderful harmonies and a fantastic Phil Spector “Wall of Sound”. Some even claim its Spector’s finest production of his career. Despite this influence, the album still clearly George’s work. His attitude shines through in the lyrics, including the title track which was obviously referencing the Beatles breakup, as well as more religious songs like “My Sweet Lord”. My only complaint about the album is that it could have been pared down a bit to take out some of the more extraneous tracks. Perhaps this is exacerbated because I own the re-issue which includes a several bonus songs. Regardless, it’s still an excellent listen. The tracks still hold up today while reminding you of the time and place they were written. I can’t remember why I haven’t heard this album in such a long time.

Verdict: Dust off and listen to the entire album more often.

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