Released in November 1970, All Things Must Pass was George Harrison’s first solo album and represented an album of mammoth proportions in the form of a triple album, as much a rarity then as it is now. The decision to release the album in the form of three discs was in many ways down to the backlog of songs Harrison had developed during the last years of The Beatles, many of which were demoed for possible release on Beatles albums but were eventually turned down in favour of Lennon/McCartney compositions. Harrison’s desire to record and hence release many of these songs meant his first solo album was more than likely going to be a lengthy album and eventually totalled eighteen songs and five studio jams, twenty-three tracks in total. Harrison’s disappointment at not being given more of a chance to showcase himself as a songwriter in The Beatles ensured this first up solo effort would be a magic collection of songs, as he put his heart and soul into the recording process in an effort to prove people of his worth as a songwriter, and to show that he could survive on his own as a musician.
Musically, All Things Must Pass is quite a varied album and encompasses a wide range of styles from folk, rock, pop, soul and country. In summing up the sound of the album Rolling Stone described it as “Wagnerian, and the music of mountain tops and vast horizons”, an interesting description but probably fitting for the music on display. To achieve this sound Harrison drew on an impressive array of musicians (twenty-five in all) to record this album and included Eric Clapton on guitar, Ringo Starr on drums, Billy Preston on keyboards, and members of Delaney & Bonnie. The influence of The Band is quite prominent in some areas, with many of the songs having a loose rootsy feel to them thanks largely to the appreciation Harrison had gained of their music when he spent time with them during 1968 and 1969. The songs on the album tend to fall between beautiful melodic ballads and folk tunes “I’d Have You Anytime” and wall of sound rock epics “Let It Down”, the latter down to the influence of Phil Spector who produced the album. Spector’s influence looms large across the album with the rock heavy songs tending to be overproduced with massive amounts of reverb and layers upon layers of horns and guitars, something Harrison was indifferent towards considering many of the songs started off as simple acoustic based pieces.
What makes this a great album for me is the underlying melodic beauty of the songs many of which just hum to you as you listen, offering a chance to reflect whilst also warming the soul. I say this without meaning to be pretentious as this exactly the feeling you get when listening to this album, it is an utterly beautiful piece of music pretty much all the way through with little things such as George Harrison’s slide guitar sounding actually rather comforting. I was also taken back by the quality of Harrison’s song writing and his own personal musical style as a solo artist. It was significant to me to see how he would sound on his own as he had shown glimpses of quality song writing in The Beatles but had always remained in the shadows of Lennon and McCartney. Luckily he passed this hurdle with more than flying colours showing that maybe his fellow Beatles should have given him more scope to show off his song writing than they did, particularly in the later years.
The quality of this album is such that the only real criticism I have of the album is the third side of jams which to me appear unnecessary and do not compliment the rest of the album in any way. They really are for fans only, and you would only really listen to them once or twice especially given that one of the jams comes in at over eleven minutes. Apart from this minor criticism every song on the album is a beauty and not skippable by any stretch.
All Things Must Pass is an amazing musical statement by an often underrated musician. It is beautifully melodic in some places, hard edged and fierce in others, representing a musical journey of spiritual proportions through rock, pop, folk, soul and country. It is one of my favourite albums, one of the best 70s albums, the best Beatles solo album, and a must for any Beatles fan. So my advice would be to get it, GET IT NOW.