After The Beatles finally ended it in the spring of 1970, three bandmembers soon followed up with solo albums and embarked on new and disparate careers.
Paul McCartney vanished to Scotland and cozied up to domesticity. John Lennon looked deep into his soul and screamed, while George Harrison, the former “quiet Beatle,” flourished in Wagnerian proportions with his triple album All Things Must Pass.
The English rock band’s 12th and final studio album, Let It Be, was released in May 1970. Six months later, Harrison released his magnum opus, hailed immediately as a modern rock classic.
The album has received a grand revisit for it’s 50th anniversary, remixed to adhere to Harrison’s own wishes before his death in 2001. It’s the second remix, following a similar release less than a year before Harrison’s death from cancer at age 58.
The critically and commercially successful All Things Must Pass is generally regarded among Beatle fans as the best solo debut outing.
George had started recording it in May, a month after the Beatles broke up and finished it by October. It marked an end to years of frustration and saluted his independence.
Every song had been rejected for inclusion on a Beatles album while the band was together, including hit singles “My Sweet Lord,” “What Is Life,” “Isn’t It a Pity” and the title track.
When “All Things Must Pass” was initially released as a single in 1970, it had been starkly homogenized by producer Phil Spector, who was famous–or infamous–for his “wall of sound” style.
Harrison hated Spector’s version. He tried to remix it before its release, but his version was vetoed by his label Epic Records, in favor of Spector’s, which was viewed as more commercially viable.
“He hated the reverb,” son Dhani Harrison said of the Spector mix in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
“He said this to me a million times: ‘God, that reverb!’ ”
Spector’s reverb is washed from the new remix, and George’s voice is brought to the forefront. Though his voice was never as strong as McCartney’s and he truly doesn’t belt out any of the songs, one can better hear nuances in George’s singing.
Even before Spector died of Covid-19–related conditions last December, Dhani said the overhaul did not require the producer’s approval: “Absolutely not,” he says firmly. “So we never asked.”
Dhani said the first time he played the remix of the opening song, “I’d Have You Anytime,” he wept.
“My mum heard it and she cried. We thought, ‘OK, this is doing the job.’ Someone like me, I’m impervious to hearing my dad’s music; I’ve heard it so many times.
“I have to hear it in business situations and I can’t be sitting there crying every time. But this time I couldn’t prevent it. It was very emotional,” he told Rolling Stone.
In addition to a remix of the original album, the new edition contains three discs of unreleased material.
The first is from the first day of recording with just Beatle Ringo Starr and session bassist Klaus Voormann. It includes all 15 of the album’s tunes played by the trio.
A second disc consists of Harrison solo demos of another 15 songs, including unplugged versions of “Wah-Wah” and “Beware of Darkness.”
The third features alternate takes, unheard jam sessions and studio chatter from Harrison and his horde of musician friends.
When it came time to choose alternate takes, Dhani says he purposely included ones that were very different from the known versions. “I didn’t want to do what they do on a lot of box sets, where you have eight takes of one song and eight takes of another.”
There are a few editions of the 50th anniversary reissue and the prices range from $15 to $1000.
One of the deluxe editions includes a 96-page scrapbook (with photos, Harrison diary entries, copies of Harrison’s handwritten lyrics, and more) as well as miniature figurine replicas of Harrison and the record’s iconic cover gnomes.
The new reissue shines just as brightly as the original album 50 years ago. Harrison soars once again, and we are reminded how much he could have added to the Beatles’ final years if he had been given more artistic freedom.
All Things Must Pass is so good is because Harrison had been working toward it for his entire career. The unsung Harrison was the most prolific member of the Beatles.
He wrote, co-wrote, produced and played on songs or albums by Cream, Billy Preston, singers Doris Troy and Jackie Lomax.
He experimented with Indian and electronic music and joined his best friend Eric Clapton for a brief tour with American combo Delaney & Bonnie.
Harrison’s pent-up inspiration bloomed on All Things Must Pass, and its simple black-and-white cover photo was a metaphor for his new career.
It was taken on the main lawn at Friar Park, the 120-room, 1889 Victorian, neo-Gothic mansion in Henley-on-Thames that Harrison bought in January 1970. The picture shows him seated and towering over four garden gnomes, which, oddly, are wildly popular in Britain.
Recorded from May to October 1970, All Things Must Pass utilized the talents of musicians like Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie’s Friends band, Starr, Preston, Voormann, Badfinger and Pete Drake.
The revolving door of musicians during the sessions added to the album’s communal vibe. Clapton would later describe the sessions as seemingly “hundreds of musicians in the studio, all hammering away like mad.”
“It was complete in his head before he even went in and got involved with Phil Spector,” says Harrison’s son Dhani, who was born eight years after the record’s release.
“He had thought about this for a long time and he’d been patient in the Beatles and patient as a person. When it was time to jump into action, he knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn’t walking in to show a producer what he was doing. He was ready.”
Harrison hits all of the marks and shows his versatility on this remarkable album, which was originally released as two vinyl LPs, along with a bonus disc of blazing instrumental jams.
He rocks out on “Wah Wah” and “Art of Dying,” shows his pop chops on “What Is Life,” gives a country feel on “Behind That Locked Door” and “Let It Roll.”
He sounds thunderous on “Hear Me Lord” and “Let It Down,” beautifully covers Dylan’s “If Not for You,” and tips his cap to the Beatle fans who’d wait outside Abbey Road in the joyful “Apple Scruffs.”
Harrison’s lyrics reflect both his notorious dark side as well as the spirituality he’d found in his embrace of Hinduism.
The word “lord” is heard frequently, and in a sneaky, yet clever move, the backing voices toward the end of the No. 1 single “My Sweet Lord” morph “Hallelujah” into the Hare Krishna mantra.
In his autobiography, “I Me Mine,” Harrison suggests that the two concepts mean “quite the same thing.”