All Things Must Pass

George Harrison

Apple / Capitol Records, 1970

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Sometimes I feel like a gadfly when it comes to certain classic albums deemed to be good listening by other reviewers, even among my colleagues here at the Daily Vault. You can see my reviews of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and Neil Young's After The Gold Rush as examples. I feel I must add George Harrison's All Things Must Pass to my list of overrated albums.

By 1970, Harrison had proven that he was a decent songwriter with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Something," and "Here Comes The Sun," among other late Beatle examples. But he was still prone to oddities like "Within You Without You" and "Only A Northern Song."  After the Beatles disintegrated, Harrison was free of the filter that had been placed on him by Lennon and McCartney, who could write quality songs more consistently.  In fact, it could be argued that while Harrison was a fine guitarist and musician, it was to his benefit that he had to compete with Lennon and McCartney for space on Beatles albums, because only best songs would be released to the public. But with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 All Things Must Pass, he only had Phil Spector to hold him back, who seems to have had about as much effect on Harrison’s artistic excesses as a dam made out of sugar.

The result was an over-produced pile of too many songs. Songs are buried under a deluge of echo, strings, and what sounds like 20 guitars backed by 10 drummers. And two versions of "Isn't It A Pity?" Pitiful. The two versions are spaced out so far on the album that differences between them are hard to notice except for their length. They are certainly not "versions" in the same sense that Eric Clapton has done different versions of "Layla" throughout his career, or in the way that “Revolution 1” and “Revolution 9” differ. One does get the sense that some songs could have been okay if the retaining wall had not broken on the Spector slurry pond, but others like "Wah-Wah" are just annoying and may not have been better stripped of the production fluff.

The expansiveness of the album was tacitly acknowledged by Harrison in the sense that the third disc of jam songs was given a separate label and designed to be thought of separately from the other two discs. That's all well and good -- but even if we lay the jams aside, would the other two discs have served as a solid double album? I argue that they do not. In fact, in my view there is barely enough on the two discs to constitute one quality album. That album would consist of "I'd Have You Anytime," the subconsciously plagiarized "My Sweet Lord," "What Is Life," the catchy "If Not For You," the Dylanesque "Apple Scruffs," the title track, "Behind That Locked Door," "Awaiting On You All," and "Art Of Dying."  Since that barely gets you past 31 minutes, pick a version of "Isn't It A Pity" to fill time. 

Let us remember that Harrison himself compared All Things Must Pass to a musical bowel movement. So the mound left behind is a triple album, with producer Phil Spector's wall of sound serving as the bran flakes. Harrison’s urge to relieve himself after his tenure with the Beatles is understandable, but the result is just too much on many levels.

Rating: C

User Rating: B


Completely agree. George was always good for 2-3 good songs per cd and no more. Add in the horrible production job here and the unchanging tempo and speed and feel of the songs and it makes for a very dull listen. Get his greatest hits and maybe his 'George Harrison' cd from the late 70's and you're good.
Keep in mind that George was only "good for 2-3 good songs per cd" (or album if you will) because that is all John and Paul would allow, and he often had to fight for that. Part of the problem with this album is it's the opening of a floodgate of suppressed creativity. He was under the thumb of 2 stubborn guys with huge egos for a decade. It's well documented how controlling J&P were, and how it affected George over the years.
Perhaps. But my '2-3 good songs' comment also applies to his solo albums. John and Paul certainly were controlling but one could argue they also showed good judgment by leaving most of these songs off Beatle albums. Only a couple could have realistically made the cut.
I see Bruce's point, but just because it was in George's vault during the Beatle years doesn't mean it was a good song. He had certainly Judging from the few solo albums right after the Beatles, it looks like the checks in the Beatle system worked. I think they held back alot of George and Paul's bad stuff, while maybe suppressing some of John's good stuff.

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