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George Harrison

All Things Must Pass: 50th Anniversary Edition


Aug 02, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

As soon as I heard that CAPITOL/UMe was releasing a deluxe box set of George Harrison’s 1970 solo debut, All Things Must Pass, the first thing I did was go to the bookshelf and pull out my old copy of the original 3 LP set. Far from pristine, my copy suffers from a box that is in tatters, each corner broken, sides missing, and with an inexplicable heavy duty staple covering some tape in the upper left hand corner. Somehow, the giant poster seems to be the most intact piece of the old set. But in slowly removing the records from their jackets and putting them on the turntable again, many years after first discovering the album, what was crystal clear, despite a few pops and hisses from the well worn vinyl, was the magic contained in those grooves. Phil Spector’s production with Harrison’s vocals somewhat deep in the mix, lending the recording a certain mystical quality. The wealth of players contributing to the sonic landscapes, from Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, and Billy Preston to Eric Clapton, members of Badfinger, Dave Mason, and Bobby Keys among many others. But most of all the songs. Harrison’s spiritual, deep, and penetrating songs that embedded themselves in the psyche and captivated, while still leaving room for playfulness, perhaps most exemplified on the final LP, affectionately referred to as “Apple Jam.”

With 2020 marking the 50th anniversary of All Things Must Pass’s release, CAPITOL/UMe has pulled out all the stops for its reissue. Executively produced by Harrison’s son Dhani, the super deluxe anniversary reissue is comprised of either 5 CDs and 1 Blu-ray audio disc or 8 180g LPs, along with a 60-page “scrapbook” featuring photos, ephemera, a track-by-track guide, and interview commentary from Dhani Harrison and engineer Paul Hicks, who combed through old tapes to compile the mammoth additions to this set. Aside from the album(s) proper, the set features 47 additional tracks, 42 as yet unreleased, providing a heretofore unheard wealth of history, context, and augment to the original document.

The most evident sonic upgrade on the reissue is that Harrison’s vocals are noticeably more prominent in the mix and the reverb lessened. Harrison lamented upon the album’s 30th anniversary reissue, that he was less than fond of the original album’s production in retrospect. His son has attempted to rectify that with this set. And although bringing Harrison’s vocals more to the fore has the effect of demystifying what was to a certain degree enchantingly mysterious about the original album, hearing Harrison’s vocals so clear and forward now gives a new wrinkle to All Things Must Pass’s sonic experience. Things that were hidden or that may have been missed before are now ripe for enjoyment. And it’s this reviewer’s carefully considered assertion that the album is better for it.

Not much needs to be written about the album proper that hasn’t already been, so let’s suffice it to restate that All Things Must Pass should be considered Harrison’s masterwork and sounds as stunning today as it did upon original release in 1970. That said, the meat of this reissue is in its extensive exploration into the album’s creation. Harrison initially presented 30 demos to Spector on May 26 and 27 of 1970, songs that he had compiled from as far back as 1966 and which would ultimately make up the album. All of these songs are present here, mostly in first take form. Many provide significant context: a sparse version of “I’d Have You Anytime (Take 1),” different lyrics to “Awaiting on You All (Take 1)” a guitar-forward and horn-less “What Is Life (Take 3),” a spare, solo electric “Wah-Wah (Take 1),” and “Beware of Darkness (Take 1)” with the early “beware of ABKCO” lyric. Then there are songs not on the album proper: the bluesy work-up “Going Down to Golders Green” and the spiritual pop of “Dehra Dun” and “Om Hare Om (Gopala Krishna)” being relative highlights.

The reissue ends with what amounts to two additional albums of “Session Outtakes and Jams.” Take 14 of “Isn’t It A Pity” finds Harrison playfully altering the lyrics. One hears him instructing Ringo Starr at the beginning of “Art of Dying (Take 1).” He wonderfully covers the oldie “Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine).” There’s also a rhythmically reworked version of “What Is Life (Take 1)” and playful jams on “Get Back” (yes, that “Get Back”) and “Down to the River (Rocking Chair Jam).”

What this all amounts to is that All Things Must Pass, the expanded 50th anniversary reissue, is nothing less than essential. It takes one of the greatest works in popular music history (forgive me if you think this is hyperbole but let’s at least admit that if so, it’s only slight), and expounds upon its genius by exposing its creation. Consider similar reissue products that present their albums proper with some additional context in the form of a few outtakes or demos or some period concert audio. All Things Must Pass ditches the few enticing extras model and presents the whole kit and caboodle. It is where the album began and where it ended up, managing to correct a post-release complaint of its author to boot. Consider it the seminal reissue of a seminal original. You will find few done better.


Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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September 1st 2021

The first thing I did was go to the bookshelf and pull out my old copy of the original 3 LP set.” I will do the same.