Sadly, All Things Must Pass

If George Harrison had done nothing except release All Things Must Pass — no Beatles, no subsequent solo career — he would be an important figure.

The album has everything: There is all the great music, of course. But it also is special in the way it marks the transition from the crucible of being a Beatle to being George Harrison again. He celebrated this rebirth not by releasing a pop album, but instead a document that is as deeply philosophical and literate as it is musical. It shows very clearly that Harrison knew exactly what he wanted to do with his fame — and that the goal was enlightenment. It is, in my opinion, easily the greatest of any post-Beatle album and can hold its own against anything the band produced.

Here is Wikipedia’s entry on the album:

All Things Must Pass is a triple album by English musician George Harrison, released in November 1970 following the break-up of the Beatles seven months earlier. It includes the hit singles “My Sweet Lord” and “What Is Life”, as well as songs such as the title track and “Isn’t It a Pity” that were turned down by the Beatles. The album reflects the influence of Harrison’s musical activities outside the group in 1968–70 – with Bob Dylan, the Band, Delaney & Bonnie, Billy Preston and others – and his growth as an artist beyond his allotted, junior role to bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney during that time. The album introduced Harrison’s signature sound, the slide guitar, and the spiritual themes that would be implicit throughout his subsequent solo work. The original vinyl release consisted of two LPs of songs and a third disc of informal jams, titled Apple Jam. It was the first studio triple album by a single rock act and the first box-set studio album in the history of rock music. Commentators interpret Barry Feinstein’s album cover photo, showing Harrison surrounded by four garden gnomes, as a statement on his independence from the Beatles.

Production on the album began at London’s Abbey Road Studios in May 1970, with extensive overdubbing and mixing lasting through to the end of October. Among the large cast of backing musicians were Eric Clapton and Delaney & Bonnie’s Friends band – three of whom formed Derek and the Dominos with Clapton during the recording – as well as Ringo Starr, Gary Wright, Preston, Klaus Voormann, John Barham, Badfinger and Pete Drake. The sessions produced a double album’s worth of extra material, most of which remains unreleased. (Continue Reading…)

Ben Gerson’s review in Rolling Stone was mixed to positive and thoughtful. It was published on January 21, 1971:

Not surprisingly, his ambitions have remained unfulfilled by this role and what presumably has been welling up in him since at least Let It Be, perhaps since Meet The Beatles, comes pouring out on All Things Must Pass. It is both an intensely personal statement and a grandiose gesture, a triumph over artistic modesty, even frustration. In this extravaganza of piety and sacrifice and joy, whose sheer magnitude and ambition may dub it the War and Peace of rock and roll, the music itself is no longer the only message.

The lyrics are central. They are displayed prominently on the album sleeves and appear to have been written before the music. Often there are more syllables than notes, and lines have to be hurried in order to get it all in. Often too, there are unresolved sentence fragments (“Eyes that shining full of inner light”), funny word uses (“Another day for you to realize me”), and conscious attempts at literary effects (“beware of soft shoe shufflers/dancing down the sidewalks”). His words sometimes try too hard; he’s taking himself or the subject too seriously, or, if the subject is impossible to take too seriously, he doesn’t always possess the means to convey that impression convincingly. (Continue Reading…) 

Jim Beviglia’s retrospective at American Songwriter also is interesting. The story is notable for the the back-lit, George-as-Jesus photo.

Above is Beware of Darkness from the concert for Bangladesh. He is accompanied by Leon Russell. I get tired of referring to him as the great Leon Russell, but it’s the truth. The version of All Things Must Pass below is way out of sync, but just great. It was his last public performance and, according to the comments, played on a guitar borrowed from somebody at VH1. Harrison hadn’t expected to play and didn’t bring one.