George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
If you want to get into The Beatles, get into The Beatles. Start with Please Please Me and don’t stop until you’ve gotten to Abbey Road. After that, if your head hasn’t exploded, you’ve got nearly 70 solo albums from John, Paul, George, and Ringo to choose from, so go listen to all of them!
Just kidding; that is a very patchy field to walk into. The four were never as good alone as they were together; particularly Lennon and McCartney. For that reason, the best Beatles solo album of all is likely George Harrison’s 1970 album All Things Must Pass; his first proper release (he’d put out two experimental albums previously). For the Beatles’ entire run, Harrison had been allowed to contribute one, maybe two songs per album. Harrison later told Rolling Stone, “It was like having diarrhea and not being allowed to go to the toilet.” This isn’t the most appealing way to describe one’s music but it came out here; 23 tracks spread over three discs that came in a box set. It’s difficult to know where to start unpacking all this; two-dozen musicians back him and this includes names like Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and even Ringo Starr, along with some of the most famous session musicians around. Oh, and it was produced by Phil Spector.
The main event is the 18 songs on the first two discs. Throughout, Harrison sounds resolute and invigorated. Love and lust are frequent topics, when he’s not searching for the meaning of life itself. It all starts with a song co-written with Bob Dylan, “I’d Have You Anytime” – elsewhere Harrison does a great cover of Dylan’s recent composition “If Not For You” The rest really runs the gamut. “Wah-Wah” is a stinging jab at John, Paul, and Yoko Ono, while he’d demoed the title track for the Beatles. The hit “My Sweet Lord” is the first big indication of the spirituality that would come to permeate, then dominate his later work. “Let It Down” alternates between gorgeously balladry and the type of a big chorus possible when you have both Badfinger and Derek and the Dominos backing you on a song. “Apple Scruffs” is a blast of acoustic guitar, harmonica and pop harmonization that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the White Album. “Art of Dying” should have been a Bond theme.
It all ends with four self-indulgent jams spread over the third disc that somewhat detracts from the album, but it didn’t matter. Harrison had made his point. Just as the Beatles were collapsing, he released a wealth of proof that he was as good a songwriter as the other two.