Tuesday, February 2, 2010

437 All things must pass- Isn’t it a pity


Album: All things must pass.

Artist: George Harrison.

Year: 1970

Genre: Rock


Tracks.


1. I'd Have You Anytime
2. My Sweet Lord
3. Wah-Wah
4. Isn't It a Pity (Version 1)
5. What Is Life
6. If Not for You
7. Behind That Locked Door
8. Let It Down
9. Run of the Mill
10. I Live for You
11. Beware of Darkness
12. Let It Down
13. What Is Life
14. My Sweet Lord (2000)

Disc Two

1. Beware of Darkness
2. Apple Scruffs
3. Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
4. Awaiting on You All
5. All Things Must Pass
6. I Dig Love
7. Art Of Dying
8. Isn't It a Pity (Version 2)
9. Hear Me Lord
10. It's Johnny's Birthday
11. Plug Me In
12. I Remember Jeep
13. Thanks for the Pepperoni
14. Out of the Blue

The Beatles were the biggest thing in popular music because they were so much greater than the sum of their parts. Lennon and McCartney brought out the best in each other, they both brought out the best in George Harrison, producer George Martin brought out the best in all of them and Ringo brought his drums along. They were a finely balanced collection of talents whose egos were all kept in check and adequately counter-weighted until Yoko Ono slithered into the picture and buggered everything up with a level of incandescent pratness which the pop world had hitherto not seen contained in an individual person.

Yoko really did upset the entire Apple cart. Prior to her appearance John Lennon sought the musical opinions of Paul who was his musical equal and George Martin who was a wise and impartial observer. When Yoko, who was as talentless as she was opinionated, entered John’s life she became his primary sounding board and he lost all sense of perspective. The balance broke down and sadly the Beatles collapsed like a teenage jam session when the pizza arrives. Separate ways were gone and solo careers pursued, none of which came anywhere near approaching the levels that the Fab Four and Martin achieved together.

Harrison was the immediate winner when the three Beatles songwriters were released from Beatledom and allowed to go their separate. Because he came quite late to the songwriting game, and even later to the actually-worth-hearing-songwriting-game (his early efforts were pretty average) George was the Beatle who had the biggest backlog of unrecorded songs to get out of his system. While Paul and John’s work made up 90% of the later Beatles efforts, George could only get one or two of his songs on every album, even though he had enough material to make a single album of his own. So when it came time to release a solo project George had three discs of songs to release… actually that’s not true he only had two but he cobbled together a third just for the hell of it.

Some of the songs that finally found there way onto All Things Must Pass had been hanging around in George’s song drawer for nearly four years. Truly great songs like Isn’t it a pity were put forward by the quiet Beatle for consideration on Beatle’s albums but rejected by the two noisy Beatles in favour of their own work.

For me this is a shame on two levels- partly because (and I know it’s sacrilege to say this) late-era Beatles albums could have been much better if George had been allowed more material. The White album is a classic release but if it had been allowed to replace some of it’s dead wood (Revolution 9, the two Honey Pies, Bungalow Bill, the slow version of Revolution) and replace them with some of George’s better tracks the album would be even greater. But John and Paul weren’t having it.

The other pity about All Things Must Pass is that it was produced by Phil Spector, a man who deserves as much contempt, scorn and vitriol as Yoko Ono. While all but one of the Beatles albums were produced by the incomparably angelic and perfect George Martin one release was spewed forth by the creeping horror that is Phil Spector- a small worm-like creature who is the exact opposite of Martin in every way. The two individuals are like polar opposites: Martin understands the value of a song and does what he can to make it achieve all it can- Spector sees songs as raw material to be transformed into one of his overblown monstrosities; Martin’s personality created an atmosphere in the studio that bought out the best in his artists, Spector turned up with fire arms, threw tantrums and issued death threats; Martin recently celebrated his 43rd wedding anniversary- Spector is currently serving a prison sentence for murdering his girlfriend.

While they later went on to regret the decision, the Beatles collectively and individually, became involved with Spector and let him produce and subsequently ruin their work. He was responsible for turning Let it Be, the final album from the Fab Four into a travesty that subsequent reissues were thankfully able to save. He was also responsible for producing All Things Must Pass and made it an overblown mess which George felt the need to remix years later in order to create a version that was much truer to his original intention than what was originally released on vinyl.

All Things Must pass is marred by Spector’s trademark overproduction: voices and instruments are treated to unnecessary echo and reverb, there are loads of overdubs that don’t need to be there and songs tend to hang around long after they’ve worn out their welcome. The most famous single to come out of this sessions was My Sweet Lord, which you will recognise as that song you hear on the radio and enjoy for the first few minutes but wish would bugger off a lot earlier. Sadly this is typical of a lot of songs on this release. All things must pass but on this album they don’t pass nearly quickly enough. Otherwise great songs like Wah Wah, What is life and especially Isn’t it a pity have long and drawn out codas as Spector attempts to turn them from good pop songs into symphonic movements.

If you’re going to listen to this album, and I recommend you do, make sure you check out the remixed version that George himself put together a few years before his death. It strips back some of Spector’s damage and reveals a great set of songs, many of which would have been good enough to grace an album by the Beatles. There’s even a lot of joy to be had in the third disc on this set which is made up of jam sessions recorded by some of George’s friends in the studio.

I recommend this and I’d go on record as saying it’s the best solo release by a former Beatle. And I really recommend the recently released Let It Roll, a dud-free George Harrison greatest hits compilation which makes for a fantastic listen.

Influenced by: The Beatles, Ravi Shankar and Eastern Spiritualism.

Influenced: Not sure. I’ll say Belle and Sebastian and defy you to contradict me.

Highlight: Wah Wah.

Lowlight: Those long drawn out codas.

Favourite Amazon customer review quote: “there's so much you don't know about George Harrison, after listening to this album everyday when I woke up all the way through each and every morning for seventy seven days, jams and bonus tracks included, there is even more I don't know about George Harrison, God help me this album contains secrets”

-Wow, that’s a truly creepy level of dedication.

So do you wish the quiet Beatle would stay silent or did you enjoy all the things that passed by your ears when you heard this? Let me know below.

2 comments:

  1. By George, What a great review, Three cheers for George Martin too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dave,

    Beautiful... A great review... George's songs on the Beatles' releases are amongst my favourites so this album is a must listen in my view. I actually went home and rewatched th Concert For George after reading this review - fabulous stuff.

    Cheers,

    Steve (Chaos Agent #2)

    ReplyDelete