MUSIC MONDAY George Harrison’s best album is possibly ALL THINGS MUST PASS

 

George Harrison – ”All Things Must Pass” [Full Album]

All Things Must Pass

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This article is about the album. For other uses, see All Things Must Pass (disambiguation).
“Apple Jam” redirects here. For jam made from apples, see apple jam and apple sauce.
All Things Must Pass
All Things Must Pass 1970 cover.jpg
Studio album by George Harrison
Released 27 November 1970
Recorded 26 May–late October 1970
Studio Abbey Road Studios, London; Trident Studios, London; Apple Studio, London
Genre
Length 105:59
Label Apple
Producer George Harrison, Phil Spector
George Harrison chronology
Electronic Sound
(1969)
All Things Must Pass
(1970)
The Concert for Bangladesh
(1971)
Singles from All Things Must Pass
  1. My Sweet Lord
    Released: 23 November 1970 (US); 15 January 1971 (UK)
  2. What Is Life
    Released: 15 February 1971 (US)
Alternative cover

Album artwork of the 2001 re-release of All Things Must Pass

All Things Must Pass is a triple album by English musician George Harrison. Recorded and released in 1970, the album was Harrison’s first solo work since the break-up of the Beatles in April that year, and his third solo album overall. It includes the hit singles “My Sweet Lord” and “What Is Life“, as well as songs such as “Isn’t It a Pity” and the title track that had been turned down for inclusion on releases by the Beatles. The album reflects the influence of Harrison’s musical activities with artists such as Bob Dylan, the Band, Delaney & Bonnie and Billy Preston during 1968–70, and his growth as an artist beyond his supporting role to former bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney. All Things Must Pass introduced Harrison’s signature sound, the slide guitar, and the spiritual themes that would be present 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. Several 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 began at London’s Abbey Road Studios in May 1970, with extensive overdubbing and mixing continuing through 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 unissued.

All Things Must Pass was critically and commercially successful on release, with long stays at number 1 on charts around the world. The album was co-produced by Phil Spector and employs his Wall of Sound production technique to notable effect; Ben Gerson of Rolling Stone described the sound as “Wagnerian, Brucknerian, the music of mountain tops and vast horizons”.[1] Reflecting the widespread surprise at the assuredness of Harrison’s post-Beatles debut, Melody Makers Richard Williams likened the album to Greta Garbo‘s first role in a talking picture and declared: “Garbo talks! – Harrison is free!”[2] According to Colin Larkin, writing in the 2011 edition of his Encyclopedia of Popular Music, All Things Must Pass is “generally rated” as the best of all the former Beatles’ solo albums.[3]

During the final year of his life, Harrison oversaw a successful reissue campaign to mark the 30th anniversary of the album’s release. Following this reissue, in March 2001, the set was certified six-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Among its appearances in critics’ best-album lists, All Things Must Pass was ranked 79th on The Times “The 100 Best Albums of All Time” in 1993, while Rolling Stone currently places it 433rd on the magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“. In January 2014, All Things Must Pass was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Background[edit]

Music journalist John Harris has identified the start of George Harrison‘s “journey” to making All Things Must Pass as his visit to America in late 1968, following the acrimonious sessions for the BeatlesWhite Album.[4] While in Woodstock in November,[5] Harrison established a long-lasting friendship with Bob Dylan[4] and experienced a creative equality among the Band that contrasted sharply with John Lennon and Paul McCartney‘s domination in the Beatles.[6][7] Coinciding with this visit was a surge in Harrison’s songwriting output,[8] following his renewed interest in the guitar, after three years spent studying the Indian sitar.[9][10] As well as being one of the few musicians to co-write songs with Dylan,[4] Harrison had recently collaborated with Eric Clapton on “Badge“,[11] which became a hit single for Cream in the spring of 1969.[12]

Billboard ad for Harrison’s Wonderwall Music soundtrack (1968)

Once back in London, and with his compositions continually overlooked for inclusion on releases by the Beatles,[13][14] Harrison found creative fulfilment in extracurricular projects that, in the words of his musical biographer, Simon Leng, served as an “emancipating force” from the restrictions imposed on him in the band.[15] His activities during 1969 included producing Apple signings Billy Preston and Doris Troy, two American singer-songwriters whose soul and gospel roots proved as influential on All Things Must Pass as the music of the Band.[16] He also recorded with artists such as Leon Russell[17] and Jack Bruce,[18] and accompanied Clapton on a short tour with Delaney Bramlett‘s soul revue, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.[19] In addition, Harrison identified his involvement with the Hare Krishna movement as providing “another piece of a jigsaw puzzle” that represented the spiritual journey he had begun in 1966.[20] As well as embracing the Vaishnavist branch of Hinduism, Harrison produced two hit singles during 1969–70 by the UK-based devotees, credited as Radha Krishna Temple (London).[21] In January 1970,[22] Harrison invited American producer Phil Spector to participate in the recording of Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band single “Instant Karma![23][24] This association led to Spector being given the task of salvaging the Beatles’ Get Back rehearsal tapes, released officially as the Let It Be album (1970),[25][26] and later co-producing All Things Must Pass.[27]

Harrison first discussed the possibility of making a solo album of his unused songs during the ill-tempered Get Back sessions, held at Twickenham Film Studios in January 1969.[28][29][nb 1] At Abbey Road Studios on 25 February, his 26th birthday,[32] Harrison recorded demos of “All Things Must Pass” and two other compositions that had received little interest from Lennon and McCartney at Twickenham.[33][34] With the inclusion of one of these songs – “Something” – and “Here Comes the Sun” on the Beatles’ Abbey Road album in September 1969, music critics acknowledged that Harrison had bloomed into a songwriter to match Lennon and McCartney.[35][36] Although he began talking publicly about recording his own album from the autumn of 1969,[37][38] it was only after McCartney announced that he was leaving the Beatles, in April 1970, signalling the band’s break-up,[39] that Harrison committed to the idea.[40] Despite having already made Wonderwall Music (1968), a mostly instrumental soundtrack album, and the experimental Electronic Sound (1969),[41] Harrison considered All Things Must Pass to be his first solo album.[42][nb 2]

Content[edit]

Main body[edit]

I went to George’s Friar Park … and he said, “I have a few ditties for you to hear.” It was endless! He had literally hundreds of songs and each one was better than the rest. He had all this emotion built up when it was released to me.[47]

– Phil Spector, on first hearing Harrison’s backlog of songs in early 1970

Spector first heard Harrison’s stockpile of unreleased compositions early in 1970, when visiting his recently purchased home, Friar Park.[47] “It was endless!” Spector later recalled of the recital, noting the quantity and quality of Harrison’s material.[47] Harrison had accumulated songs from as far back as 1966; both “Isn’t It a Pity” and “Art of Dying” date from that year.[48] He co-wrote at least two songs with Dylan while in Woodstock,[49] one of which, “I’d Have You Anytime“, appeared on All Things Must Pass.[50] Harrison wrote “Let It Down” in late 1968 also.[51]

He introduced the Band-inspired[52] “All Things Must Pass”, along with “Hear Me Lord” and “Let It Down”, at the Beatles’ Get Back rehearsals, only to have them rejected by Lennon and McCartney.[53][54][nb 3] The tense atmosphere at Twickenham fuelled another All Things Must Pass song, “Wah-Wah“,[58] which Harrison wrote in the wake of his temporary departure from the band on 10 January 1969.[59]Run of the Mill” followed soon afterwards, its lyrics focusing on the failure of friendships within the Beatles[60] amid the business problems surrounding their Apple organisation.[61] Harrison’s musical activities outside the band during 1969 inspired other compositions on the album: “What Is Life” came to him while driving to a London session that spring for Preston’s That’s the Way God Planned It album;[62]Behind That Locked Door” was Harrison’s message of encouragement to Dylan,[63] written the night before the latter’s comeback performance at the Isle of Wight Festival;[64] and Harrison began “My Sweet Lord” as an exercise in writing a gospel song[65] during Delaney & Bonnie’s stopover in Copenhagen in December 1969.[66][nb 4]

I Dig Love” resulted from Harrison’s early experiments with slide guitar, a technique that Bramlett had introduced him to,[65] in order to cover for guitarist Dave Mason‘s departure from the Friends line-up.[69] Other songs on All Things Must Pass, all written during the first half of 1970, include “Awaiting on You All“, which reflected Harrison’s adoption of chanting through his involvement with the Hare Krishna movement;[70][71]Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)“, a tribute to the original owner of Friar Park;[72] and “Beware of Darkness“.[73] The latter was another composition influenced by Harrison’s association with the Radha Krishna Temple,[74] and was written while some of the devotees were staying with him at Friar Park.[75]

Shortly before beginning work on All Things Must Pass, Harrison attended a Dylan session in New York on 1 May 1970,[76] during which he acquired a new song of Dylan’s, “If Not for You“.[58] Harrison wrote “Apple Scruffs“, which was one of a number of Dylan-influenced compositions on the album,[77] towards the end of production on All Things Must Pass, as a tribute to the diehard fans who had kept a vigil outside the studios where he was working.[71][78]

According to Leng, All Things Must Pass represents the completion of Harrison’s “musical-philosophical circle”, in which his 1966–68 immersion in Indian music found a Western equivalent in gospel music.[79] While identifying hard rock, country and western, and Motown among the other genres on the album, Leng writes of the “plethora of new sounds and influences” that Harrison had absorbed through 1969 and now incorporated, including “Krishna chants, gospel ecstasy, Southern blues-rock [and] slide guitar”.[80] The melodies of “Isn’t It a Pity” and “Beware of Darkness” have aspects of Indian classical music, and on “My Sweet Lord”, Harrison combined the Hindu bhajan tradition with gospel.[81] The recurrent lyrical themes on the album are Harrison’s spiritual quest, as it would be throughout his solo career,[82] and friendship, particularly the failure of relationships among the Beatles.[83][84] Rob Mitchum of Pitchfork Media describes the album as “dark-tinged Krishna folk-rock”.[85]

Apple Jam[edit]

On the original LP‘s third disc, entitled Apple Jam, four of the five tracks – “Out of the Blue”, “Plug Me In”, “I Remember Jeep” and “Thanks for the Pepperoni” – are improvised instrumentals built around minimal chord changes,[86] or in the case of “Out of the Blue”, a single-chord riff.[87] The title for “I Remember Jeep” originated from the name of Clapton’s dog, Jeep,[88] and “Thanks for the Pepperoni” came from a line on a Lenny Bruce comedy album.[89] In a December 2000 interview with Billboard magazine, Harrison explained: “For the jams, I didn’t want to just throw [them] in the cupboard, and yet at the same time it wasn’t part of the record; that’s why I put it on a separate label to go in the package as a kind of bonus.”[90][nb 5]

The only vocal selection on Apple Jam is “It’s Johnny’s Birthday”, sung to the tune of Cliff Richard‘s 1968 hit “Congratulations“, and recorded as a gift from Harrison to Lennon to mark the latter’s 30th birthday.[92] Like all the “free” tracks on the bonus disc,[93] “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” carried a Harrison songwriting credit on the original UK release of All Things Must Pass,[94] while on the first US copies, the only songwriting information on the record’s face labels was the standard inclusion of a performing rights organisation, BMI.[95] In December 1970, “Congratulations” songwriters Bill Martin and Phil Coulter claimed for royalties,[92] with the result that the composer’s credit for Harrison’s track was swiftly changed to acknowledge Martin and Coulter.[88]

Demo tracks and outtakes[edit]

Aside from the seventeen compositions issued on discs one and two of the original album,[96] Harrison recorded at least twenty other songs – either in demo form for Spector’s benefit, just before recording got officially under way in late May, or as outtakes from the sessions.[97][98] In a 1992 interview, Harrison commented on the volume of material: “I didn’t have many tunes on Beatles records, so doing an album like All Things Must Pass was like going to the bathroom and letting it out.”[99][nb 6] As well as “Wah-Wah”, “Art of Dying” and others that would soon be developed in a band setting, Harrison’s solo performance for Spector included the following songs,[100] all of which remain unreleased:[29][nb 7]

  • “Window, Window” – another composition turned down by the Beatles in January 1969[102]
  • “Everybody, Nobody” – the melody of which Harrison adapted for “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp”[100]
  • “Nowhere to Go” – a second Harrison–Dylan collaboration from November 1968, originally known as “When Everybody Comes to Town”[103]
  • “Cosmic Empire”, “Mother Divine” and “Tell Me What Has Happened to You”.[29][104]

Also from this performance were two tracks that Harrison returned to in later years.[97]Beautiful Girl” appeared on his 1976 album Thirty Three & 1/3,[29] and the Dylan-written “I Don’t Want to Do It” was Harrison’s contribution to the soundtrack for Porky’s Revenge! (1985).[58]

During the main sessions for All Things Must Pass, Harrison taped or routined early versions of “You“, “Try Some, Buy Some” and “When Every Song Is Sung“.[105][106] Harrison offered these three songs to Ronnie Spector in February 1971 for her proposed (and soon abandoned) solo album on Apple Records.[107] After releasing his own versions of “Try Some, Buy Some” and “You” between 1973 and 1975,[108] he offered “When Every Song Is Sung” (since retitled “I’ll Still Love You”) to former bandmate Ringo Starr for his 1976 album Ringo’s Rotogravure.[109]Woman Don’t You Cry for Me“, written in December 1969 as his first slide-guitar composition,[110] was another song that Harrison revisited on Thirty Three & 1/3.[69] Harrison included “I Live for You” as the only all-new bonus track on the 2001 reissue of All Things Must Pass.[111] “Down to the River” remained unused until he reworked it as “Rocking Chair in Hawaii[112] for his final studio album, the posthumously released Brainwashed (2002).[113]

Harrison recorded the following compositions during the All Things Must Pass sessions but they have never received an official release:[106]

Contributing musicians[edit]

That was the great thing about [the Beatles] splitting up: to be able to go off and make my own record … And also to be able to record with all these new people, which was like a breath of fresh air.[29]

– George Harrison, December 2000

The precise line-up of contributing musicians is open to conjecture.[116][117] Due to the album’s big sound and the many participants on the sessions, commentators have traditionally referred to the grand, orchestral nature of this line-up.[118][119][120] In 2002, music critic Greg Kot described it as “a who’s who of the decade’s rock royalty”,[53] while Harris writes of the cast taking on “a Cecil B. De Mille aspect”.[58]

Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton formed Derek and the Dominos while participating in the sessions for All Things Must Pass.

The musicians included Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Keys, Jim Price and Dave Mason,[121] all of whom had recently toured with Delaney & Bonnie.[122] Along with Eric Clapton, there were also musicians whose link with Harrison went back some years, such as Ringo Starr and Billy Preston, and German bassist Klaus Voormann,[123] formerly of Manfred Mann and a friend since the Beatles’ years in Hamburg.[124] Handling much of the keyboard work with Whitlock was Gary Wright,[116] who went on to collaborate regularly with Harrison throughout the 1970s.[125]

From within Apple’s stable of musicians, Harrison recruited the band Badfinger, future Yes drummer Alan White, and Beatles assistant Mal Evans on percussion.[126][127] Badfinger drummer Mike Gibbins‘ powerful tambourine work led to Spector giving him the nickname “Mr Tambourine Man”, after the Dylan song,[58] while bandmates Pete Ham, Tom Evans and Joey Molland provided rhythm acoustic-guitar parts that, in keeping with Spector’s Wall of Sound principles, were to be “felt but not heard”.[71] Orchestral arranger John Barham also sat in on the sessions, occasionally contributing on harmonium and vibraphone.[128] Other guests included Nashville pedal steel player Pete Drake, Procol Harum‘s Gary Brooker and a pre-Genesis Phil Collins.[129] An uncredited Peter Frampton played acoustic guitar on the country tracks featuring Drake.[130]

For contractual reasons, on UK pressings of All Things Must Pass, Clapton’s participation on the first two discs of the album remained unacknowledged for many years,[119][131] although he was listed among the musicians appearing on the Apple Jam disc in Britain.[132][133][nb 8] Harrison was unaware of Collins’s contribution until putting together the 30th anniversary reissue of the album in 2000,[139] at which point he offered Collins his belated thanks.[140] Clapton’s former bandmate in Cream and Blind Faith, Ginger Baker, participated in the session for “I Remember Jeep” only, according to the album’s sleeve notes.[106]

Simon Leng consulted Voormann, Barham, Molland and Delaney Bramlett for his chapter covering the making of All Things Must Pass and credits Tony Ashton as one of the keyboard players on both versions of “Isn’t It a Pity”.[141][nb 9] Unsubstantiated claims exist regarding possible guest appearances from John Lennon,[144] Maurice Gibb[145] and Pink Floyd‘s Richard Wright.[146][147] In addition, for some years after the album’s release, rumours claimed that the Band backed Harrison on the country-influenced “Behind That Locked Door”.[148]

Production[edit]

Initial recording[edit]

You could feel after the first few sessions that it was going to be a great album.[149]

– Klaus Voormann, 2003

The date for Harrison’s run-through of songs for Spector, at Abbey Road Studios, is generally thought to have been 20 May 1970, the same day as the Let It Be film’s world premiere,[150] with recording sessions beginning on 26 May.[29][98][151][nb 10] With assistance from former Beatles engineers Ken Scott and Phil McDonald,[126] Spector recorded most of the album’s backing tracks live,[153] in some cases featuring multiple drummers and keyboard players, and as many as five rhythm guitarists.[58][139]

Abbey Road Studios, where Harrison recorded much of All Things Must Pass

According to authors Chip Madinger and Mark Easter, the majority of these backing tracks were taped on 8-track at Abbey Road, with the first batch of sessions taking place from late May through to the second week of June.[154] The first song recorded was “Wah-Wah”;[155] “What Is Life”, versions one and two of “Isn’t It a Pity”, and the songs on which Drake participated, such as “All Things Must Pass” and “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp”, were among the other tracks taped then.[156][nb 11] The Apple Jam instrumentals “Thanks for the Pepperoni” and “Plug Me In”, featuring Harrison, Clapton and Mason each taking extended guitar solos,[160] were recorded later in June, at the Beatles’ Apple Studio, and marked the formation of Clapton, Whitlock, Radle and Gordon’s short-lived band Derek and the Dominos.[161] Harrison also contributed on guitar to both sides of the band’s debut single, “Tell the Truth[162] and “Roll It Over”,[163] which were produced by Spector and recorded at Apple on 18 June.[161][164] The eleven-minute “Out of the Blue” featured contributions from Keys and Price,[165] both of whom began working with the Rolling Stones around this time.[166]

Although Harrison had estimated in a New York radio interview that the solo album would take no more than eight weeks to complete,[167][168] recording, overdubbing and mixing on All Things Must Pass lasted for five months, until late October.[161][169] Part of the reason for this was Harrison’s need to make regular visits to Liverpool to tend to his mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer.[170][171] Participants at the recording sessions identify Spector’s erratic behaviour as another factor affecting progress on the album.[58][161][172] Harrison later referred to Spector needing “eighteen cherry brandies” before he could start work, a situation that forced much of the production duties onto Harrison alone.[58][171] In July 1970, by which time sessions had resumed at Trident Studios,[97] Spector fell over in the studio and broke his arm.[149] Early that month, work on All Things Must Pass was temporarily brought to a halt as Harrison headed north to see his dying mother for the last time.[173][nb 12] EMI‘s growing concerns regarding studio costs added to the pressure on Harrison,[149] and a further complication, John Harris notes, was that Clapton had become infatuated with Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, and adopted a heroin habit as a means of coping with his guilt.[58][nb 13]

Overdubbing[edit]

In Spector’s absence, Harrison had completed the album’s backing tracks and preliminary overdubs by 12 August.[161] He then sent early mixes of many of the songs to his co-producer, who was convalescing in Los Angeles,[126] and Spector replied by letter dated 19 August with suggestions for further overdubs and final mixing.[161] Among Spector’s comments were detailed suggestions regarding “Let It Down”,[60] the released recording of which Madinger and Easter describe as “the best example of Spector running rampant with the ‘Wall of Sound'”, and an urging that he and Harrison carry out further work on the songs at the superior, 16-track Trident Studios facility.[178] Spector then returned to oversee conversion of the 8-track recordings to 16-track masters,[171] a process that allowed for more freedom when overdubbing new instruments.[126]

John Barham’s orchestrations were recorded during the next phase of the album’s production,[155] starting in early September, along with many further contributions from Harrison, such as his lead vocals, slide guitar parts and multi-tracked backing vocals (the latter credited to “the George O’Hara-Smith Singers”).[179] Leng recognises Barham’s arrangements on “pivotal” songs such as “Isn’t It a Pity”, “My Sweet Lord”, “Beware of Darkness” and “All Things Must Pass” as important elements of the album’s sound,[115] while Spector has praised Harrison’s guitar and vocal work on the overdubs, saying: “Perfectionist is not the right word. Anyone can be a perfectionist. He was beyond that …”[47] Harrison’s style of slide guitar playing incorporated aspects of both Indian music and the blues tradition;[52] from its introduction on All Things Must Pass, Leng writes, Harrison’s slide guitar became his musical signature – “as instantly recognisable as Dylan’s harmonica or Stevie Wonder‘s”.[180]

Mixing and mastering[edit]

If I were doing [All Things Must Pass] now, it would not be so produced. But it was the first record … And anybody who’s familiar with Phil [Spector]’s work – it was like Cinemascope sound.[42]

– George Harrison, January 2001

On 9 October, while carrying out final mixing at Abbey Road, Harrison presented Lennon with the recently recorded “It’s Johnny’s Birthday”.[181][nb 14] The track featured Harrison on vocals, harmonium and all other instruments, and vocal contributions from Mal Evans and assistant engineer Eddie Klein.[92] That same month, Harrison finished his production work on Starr’s 1971 single “It Don’t Come Easy“, the basic track for which they had recorded with Voormann in March at Trident.[183] Aside from his contributions to projects by Starr, Clapton, Preston and Ashton during 1970, over the following year Harrison would reciprocate the help that his fellow musicians on All Things Must Pass had given him by contributing to albums by Whitlock, Wright, Badfinger and Keys.[184][nb 15]

On 28 October, Harrison and Boyd arrived in New York, where he and Spector carried out final preparation for the album’s release, such as sequencing.[126] Harrison harboured doubts about whether all the songs they had finished were worthy of inclusion; Allan Steckler, Apple Records’ US manager, was “stunned” by the quality of the material and assured Harrison that he should issue all the songs.[29] Spector’s signature production style gave All Things Must Pass a heavy, reverb-oriented sound, which Harrison came to regret with the passage of time.[186][187][188] Outtakes from the recording sessions became available on bootlegs in the 1990s.[189] One such unofficial release, the three-disc The Making of All Things Must Pass,[190] contains multiple takes of some of the songs on the album, providing a work-in-progress on the sequence of overdubs onto the backing tracks.[155]

Artwork[edit]

Harrison commissioned Tom Wilkes to design a hinged box in which to house the three vinyl discs, rather than have them packaged in a triple gatefold cover.[88] Apple insider Tony Bramwell later recalled: “It was a bloody big thing … You needed arms like an orang-utan to carry half a dozen.”[134] The packaging caused some confusion among retailers, who, at that time, associated boxed albums with opera or classical works.[134]

The stark black-and-white cover photo was taken on the main lawn at Friar Park[71] by Wilkes’ Camouflage Productions partner, Barry Feinstein.[88] Commentators interpret the photograph – showing Harrison seated in the centre of, and towering over, four comical-looking garden gnomes – as representing his removal from the Beatles’ collective identity.[191][192] The gnomes had recently been delivered to Friar Park and placed on the lawn;[193] seeing the four figures there, and mindful of the message in the album’s title, Feinstein immediately drew parallels with Harrison’s former band.[134] Author and music journalist Mikal Gilmore has written that Lennon’s initial negativity regarding All Things Must Pass was possibly because he was “irritated” by this cover photo;[170] Harrison biographer Elliot Huntley attributes this reaction to envy on Lennon’s part during a time when “everything [Harrison] touched turned to gold”.[194][nb 16]

Apple included a poster with the album, showing Harrison in a darkened corridor of his home, standing in front of an iron-framed window.[198] Wilkes had designed a more adventurous poster, but according to Beatles author Bruce Spizer, Harrison was uncomfortable with the imagery.[199][nb 17] Some of the Feinstein photographs that Wilkes had incorporated into this original poster design appeared instead on the picture sleeves for the “My Sweet Lord” single and its follow-up, “What Is Life”.[88]

Release[edit]

Music should be used for the perception of God, not jitterbugging.[170]

– George Harrison, January 1971

EMI and its US counterpart, Capitol Records, had originally scheduled the album for release in October 1970, and advance promotion began in September.[161] An “intangible buzz” had been “in the air for months” regarding Harrison’s solo album, according to Alan Clayson, and “for reasons other than still-potent loyalty to the Fab Four”.[200] Harrison’s stature as an artist had grown over the past year through the acclaim afforded his songs on Abbey Road,[201][202] as well as the speculation caused by his and Dylan’s joint recording session in New York.[203] Noting also Harrison’s role in popularising new acts such as the Band and Delaney & Bonnie, and his association with Clapton and Cream, NME critic Bob Woffinden concluded in 1981: “All in all, Harrison’s credibility was building to a peak.”[201]

Trade ad for the “What Is Life” single, February 1971

All Things Must Pass was released on 27 November 1970 in the United States, and on 30 November in Britain,[197] with the rare distinction of having the same Apple catalogue number (STCH 639) in both countries.[93] Often credited as rock‘s first triple album,[170] it was the first triple set of previously unissued music by a single act, the multi-artist Woodstock live album having preceded it by six months.[171] Adding to the commercial appeal of Harrison’s songs, Clayson writes, All Things Must Pass appeared at a time when religion and spirituality had become “a turn-of-the-decade craze” among Western youth, just as the Twist had been in 1960.[204] Another factor behind the album’s first weeks of release was Harrison’s meeting with McCartney in New York,[197] the failure of which led to McCartney filing suit in London’s High Court to dissolve the Beatles’ legal partnership.[205]

Apple issued “My Sweet Lord” as the album’s first single, as a double A-side with “Isn’t It a Pity” in the majority of countries.[206] It was highly successful,[202] topping singles charts around the world during the first few months of 1971,[71]on its way to becoming the most performed song of that year.[207][nb 18] Discussing the song’s cultural impact, Gilmore credits “My Sweet Lord” with being “as pervasive on radio and in youth consciousness as anything the Beatles had produced”.[170] Issued in February 1971, the second single, “What Is Life” backed with “Apple Scruffs”,[209] was also successful.[210]

All Things Must Pass was number 1 on the UK’s official albums chart for eight weeks, although until 2006, chart records incorrectly stated that it had peaked at number 4.[211][nb 19] On Melody Makers national chart, the album was also number 1 for eight weeks, from 6 February to 27 March, six of which coincided with “My Sweet Lord” topping the magazine’s singles chart.[212] In America, All Things Must Pass spent seven weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Top LP’s chart, from 2 January until 20 February, and a similarly long period atop the listings compiled by Cash Box and Record World;[213] for three of those weeks, “My Sweet Lord” held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.[214] Writing in the April 2001 issue of Record Collector, managing editor Peter Doggett described Harrison as “arguably the most successful rock star on the planet” at the start of 1971, with All Things Must Pass “easily outstripping other solo Beatles projects later in the year, such as [McCartney’s] Ram and [Lennon’s] Imagine“.[215] Harrison’s so-called “Billboard double” – whereby one artist simultaneously holds the top positions on the magazine’s albums and singles listings – was a feat that none of his former bandmates equalled until Paul McCartney and Wings repeated the achievement in June 1973.[216][nb 20] At the 1972 Grammy Awards, All Things Must Pass was nominated for Album of the Year and “My Sweet Lord” for Record of the Year, but Harrison lost out in both categories to Carole King.[218][219]

All Things Must Pass was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America on 17 December 1970[220] and it has since been certified six times platinum.[213][221] According to John Bergstrom of PopMatters, as of January 2011, All Things Must Pass had sold more than Imagine and McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run (1973) combined.[222] Also writing in 2011, Lennon and Harrison biographer Gary Tillery describes it as “the most successful album ever released by an ex-Beatle”.[223] In his 2004 book The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, Hamish Champ ranks it as the 36th best-selling album of that decade.[224]

Critical reception[edit]

Contemporary reviews[edit]

All Things Must Pass received almost universal critical acclaim on release – as much for the music and lyrical content as for the fact that, of all the former Beatles, it was the work of supposed junior partner George Harrison.[2][187][225] Beatles author Robert Rodriguez has written of critics’ attention being centred on “a major talent unleashed, one who’d been hidden in plain sight all those years” behind Lennon and McCartney.[226] “That the Quiet Beatle was capable of such range,” Rodriguez continues, “from the joyful ‘What Is Life’ to the meditative ‘Isn’t It a Pity’ to the steamrolling ‘Art of Dying’ to the playful ‘I Dig Love’ – was revelatory.”[226] Most reviewers tended to discount the third disc of studio jams, accepting that it was a “free” addition to justify the set’s high retail price,[86][132]although Anthony DeCurtis recognises Apple Jam as further evidence of the album’s “bracing air of creative liberation”.[227]

Ben Gerson of Rolling Stone deemed All Things Must Pass “both an intensely personal statement and a grandiose gesture, a triumph over artistic modesty” and referenced the three-record set as an “extravaganza of piety and sacrifice and joy, whose sheer magnitude and ambition may dub it the War and Peace of rock and roll”.[1] Gerson also lauded the album’s production as being “of classic Spectorian proportions, Wagnerian, Brucknerian, the music of mountain tops and vast horizons”.[1] In the NME, Alan Smith referred to Harrison’s songs as “music of the mind”, adding: “they search and they wander, as if in the soft rhythms of a dream, and in the end he has set them to words which are often both profound and profoundly beautiful.”[94] Billboard magazine hailed All Things Must Pass as “a masterful blend of rock and piety, technical brilliance and mystic mood, and relief from the tedium of everyday rock”.[228]

Melody Makers Richard Williams summed up the surprise many felt at Harrison’s apparent transformation: All Things Must Pass, he said, provided “the rock equivalent of the shock felt by pre-war moviegoers when Garbo first opened her mouth in a talkie: Garbo talks! – Harrison is free!”[2] In another review, for The Times, Williams opined that, of all the Beatles’ solo releases thus far, Harrison’s album “makes far and away the best listening, perhaps because it is the one which most nearly continues the tradition they began eight years ago”.[225][nb 21] William Bender of Time magazine described it as an “expressive, classically executed personal statement … one of the outstanding rock albums in years”, while Don Heckman wrote in The New York Times: “If anyone had any doubts that George Harrison was a major talent, they can relax … This is a release that shouldn’t be missed.”[231]

That the album sounded so contemporary in 1970 contributed to All Things Must Pass seeming dated and faddish later in the decade.[131] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau, having bemoaned in 1971 that the album was characterised by “overblown fatuity” and uninteresting music,[232] wrote in a 1981 review of its “featurelessness”, “right down to the anonymity of the multitracked vocals”.[233] In their book The Beatles: An Illustrated Record, Roy Carr and Tony Tyler were likewise lukewarm in their assessment, criticising the “homogeneity” of the production and “the lugubrious nature of Harrison’s composing”.[132] Writing in The Beatles Forever in 1977, however, Nicholas Schaffner praised the album as the “crowning glory” of Harrison and Spector’s careers, and highlighted “All Things Must Pass” and “Beware of Darkness” as the “two most eloquent songs … musically as well as lyrically”.[234]

Retrospective reviews and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[45]
Blender 5/5 stars[235]
Christgau’s Record Guide C[233]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[236]
Mojo 5/5 stars[188]
MusicHound 5/5[237]
Pitchfork Media 9.0/10[238]
Q 5/5 stars[239]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[227]
Uncut 5/5 stars[240]

AllMusic‘s Richie Unterberger views All Things Must Pass as “[Harrison’s] best … a very moving work”,[45] while Roger Catlin of MusicHound describes the set as “epic and audacious”, its “dense production and rich songs topped off by the extra album of jamming”.[237] Q magazine considers it to be an exemplary fusion of “rock and religion”, as well as “the single most satisfying collection of any solo Beatle”.[239] Filmmaker Martin Scorsese has written of the “powerful sense of the ritualistic on the album”, adding: “I remember feeling that it had the grandeur of liturgical music, of the bells used in Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies.”[241] Writing for Rolling Stone in 2002, Greg Kot described this grandeur as an “echo-laden cathedral of rock in excelsis” where the “real stars” are Harrison’s songs;[53] in the same publication, Mikal Gilmore labelled the album “the finest solo work any ex-Beatle ever produced”.[242] In his July 2001 feature for Mojo, John Harris called it “the inaugural solo album that still stands as the best Beatles solo record”,[4] while earlier that year the magazine’s album review read in part: “This remains the best Beatles solo album … oozing both the goggle-eyed joy of creative emancipation and the sense of someone pushing himself to the limit …”[243]

George Harrison confronted the breakup head-on, with the graceful, philosophical All Things Must Pass. A series of elegies, dream sequences, and thoughts on the limits of idealism, it is arguably the most fully realized solo statement from any of the Beatles.[244]

– Author Tom Moon, in 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die (2008)

In his PopMatters review, John Bergstrom likens All Things Must Pass to “the sound of Harrison exhaling”, noting: “He was quite possibly the only Beatle who was completely satisfied with the Beatles being gone.”[222] Bergstrom credits the album with heavily influencing bands such as ELO, My Morning Jacket, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, as well as helping bring about the dream pop phenomenon.[222] Another Rolling Stone critic, James Hunter, commented in 2001 on how All Things Must Pass “helped define the decade it ushered in”, in that “the cast, the length, the long hair falling on suede-covered shoulders … foretold the sprawl and sleepy ambition of the Seventies.”[245] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Mac Randall writes that the album is exceptional, but “a tad overrated” by those critics who tend to overlook how its last 30 minutes comprise “a bunch of instrumental blues jams that nobody listens to more than once”.[246] Unterberger similarly cites the inclusion of Apple Jam as “a very significant flaw”, while recognising that its content “proved to be of immense musical importance”, with the formation of Derek and the Dominos.[45] Writing for Pitchfork Media in 2016, Jayson Green said that Harrison was the only former Beatle who “changed the terms of what an album could be” since, although All Things Must Pass was not the first rock triple LP, “in the cultural imagination, it is the first triple album, the first one released as a pointed statement.”[247]

Among Harrison’s biographers, Simon Leng views All Things Must Pass as a “paradox of an album”: as eager as Harrison was to break free from his identity as a Beatle, Leng suggests, many of the songs document the “Kafkaesque chain of events” of life within the band and so added to the “mythologized history” he was looking to escape.[248] Ian Inglis notes 1970’s place in an era marking “the new supremacy of the singer-songwriter”, through such memorable albums as Simon & Garfunkel‘s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Neil Young‘s After the Gold Rush, Van Morrison‘s Moondance and Joni Mitchell‘s Ladies of the Canyon, but that none of these “possessed the startling impact” of All Things Must Pass.[249] Harrison’s triple album, Inglis writes, “[would] elevate ‘the third Beatle’ into a position that, for a time at least, comfortably eclipsed that of his former bandmates”.[249]

All Things Must Pass features in music reference books such as The Mojo Collection: The Greatest Albums of All Time,[250] Robert Dimery’s 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[251] and Tom Moon’s 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die.[252] In 1999, All Things Must Pass appeared at number 9 on The Guardians “Alternative Top 100 Albums” list, where the editor described it as the “best, mellowest and most sophisticated” of all the Beatles’ solo efforts.[253] In 2006, Pitchfork Media placed it at number 82 on the site’s “Top 100 Albums of the 1970s”.[85] Six year later, it was voted 433rd on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“.[254] According to the website Acclaimed Music, All Things Must Pass has also appeared in the following critics’ best-album books and lists, among others: Paul Gambaccini‘s The World Critics Best Albums of All Time (1977; ranked number 79), The Times “100 Best Albums of All Time” (1993; number 79), Allan Kozinn‘s The 100 Greatest Pop Albums of the Century (published in 2000), Qs “The 50 (+50) Best British Albums Ever” (2004), Mojos “70 of the Greatest Albums of the 70s” (2006), the NMEs “100 Greatest British Albums Ever” (2006; number 86), Paste magazine’s “The 70 Best Albums of the 1970s” (2012; number 27), and Craig Mathieson and Toby Creswell‘s The 100 Best Albums of All Time (2013).[251] In January 2014, All Things Must Pass was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame,[255] an award bestowed by the Recording Academy “to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old”.[256]

Subsequent releases[edit]

2001[edit]

Front cover of the 2001 album booklet, reflecting Harrison’s environmental concerns at the start of the 21st century; copyright Gnome Records

To mark the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, Harrison supervised a remastered edition of All Things Must Pass, which was issued in January 2001, less than a year before his death from cancer at the age of 58.[257][nb 22] The reissue appeared on Gnome Records, a label specifically set up by him for the project.[259] Harrison oversaw revisions to Wilkes and Feinstein’s album artwork,[140] which included a colorised “George & the Gnomes” front cover[140]and, on the two CD sleeves and the album booklet, further examples of this cover image showing an imaginary, gradual encroachment of urbanisation on the Friar Park landscape.[91][nb 23] The latter series served to illustrate Harrison’s dismay at “the direction the world seemed headed at the start of the millennium”, Gary Tillery observes, a direction that was “so far afield from the Age of Aquarius that had been the dream of the sixties”.[260][nb 24] Harrison launched a website dedicated to the reissue, which offered, in the description of Chuck Miller of Goldmine magazine, “graphics and sounds and little Macromedia-created gnomes dancing and giggling and playing guitars in a Terry Gilliam-esque world”.[262] As a further example of his willingness to embrace modern media,[263] Harrison prepared an electronic press kit, which he described as “not exactly an EPK but it is a threat to world order as we know it”.[264]

Titled All Things Must Pass: 30th Anniversary Edition, the new album contained five bonus tracks, including “I Live For You”,[265] two of the songs performed for Spector at Abbey Road in May 1970 (“Beware of Darkness” and “Let It Down“) and “My Sweet Lord (2000)“, a partial re-recording of Harrison’s biggest solo hit.[266] In addition, Harrison resequenced the content of Apple Jam so that the album closed with “Out of the Blue”, as he had originally intended.[90][140] Assisting Harrison with overdubs on the bonus tracks were his son, Dhani Harrison, singer Sam Brown and percussionist Ray Cooper,[90] all of whom contributed to the recording of Brainwashed around this time.[267]

With Harrison undertaking extensive promotional work, the 2001 reissue was a critical and commercial success.[268] Having underestimated the album’s popularity, Capitol faced a back order of 20,000 copies in America.[269] There, the reissue debuted at number 4 on Billboards Top Pop Catalog Albums chart[270] and topped the magazine’s Internet Album Sales listings.[271] In the UK, it peaked at number 68 on the national albums chart.[272] Writing in Record Collector, Doggett described this success as “a previously unheard-of achievement for a reissue”.[273]

Following Harrison’s death on 29 November 2001, All Things Must Pass returned to the US charts, climbing to number 6 and number 7, respectively, on the Top Pop Catalog and Internet Album Sales charts.[274] With the release on iTunes of much of the Harrison catalogue, in October 2007,[275] the album re-entered the US Top Pop Catalog chart, peaking at number 3.[276]

2010[edit]

For the 40th anniversary of All Things Must Pass, EMI reissued the album in its original configuration, in a limited-edition box set of three vinyl LPs.[277][278] Available via participating Record Store Day retailers, with each copy individually numbered,[279] the release took place on 26 November 2010.[280] In what Bergstrom notes as a contrast to the more aggressive marketing campaign run simultaneously by John Lennon’s estate, to commemorate Lennon’s 70th birthday,[222] a digitally remastered 24-bit version of the album was made available for download from Harrison’s official website.[277][278] The reissue coincided with the Harrison estate’s similarly low-key[281] release of the Ravi Shankar–George Harrison box set Collaborations[282] and East Meets West Music‘s reissue of Raga, the long-unavailable documentary on Shankar that Harrison had helped release through Apple Films in 1971.[283][284]

2014[edit]

All Things Must Pass was remastered again for inclusion in the eight-disc Harrison box set The Apple Years 1968–75,[285] issued in September 2014.[286] Also available as a separate, double CD release, the reissue reproduces Harrison’s 2001 liner notes[287] and includes the same five bonus tracks that appeared on the 30th anniversary edition.[285] In addition, the box set’s DVD contains the promotional film created for the 2001 reissue.[288]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by George Harrison, except where noted.

Original release[edit]

Side one

  1. I’d Have You Anytime” (Harrison, Bob Dylan) – 2:56
  2. My Sweet Lord” – 4:38
  3. Wah-Wah” – 5:35
  4. Isn’t It a Pity (Version One)” – 7:10

Side two

  1. What Is Life” – 4:22
  2. If Not for You” (Dylan) – 3:29
  3. Behind That Locked Door” – 3:05
  4. Let It Down” – 4:57
  5. Run of the Mill” – 2:49

Side three

  1. Beware of Darkness” – 3:48
  2. Apple Scruffs” – 3:04
  3. Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)” – 3:48
  4. Awaiting on You All” – 2:45
  5. All Things Must Pass” – 3:44

Side four

  1. I Dig Love” – 4:55
  2. Art of Dying” – 3:37
  3. Isn’t It a Pity (Version Two)” – 4:45
  4. Hear Me Lord” – 5:46

Side five (Apple Jam)

  1. “Out of the Blue” – 11:14
  2. “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” (Bill Martin, Phil Coulter, Harrison) – 0:49
  3. “Plug Me In” – 3:18

Side six (Apple Jam)

  1. “I Remember Jeep” – 8:07
  2. “Thanks for the Pepperoni” – 5:31

2001 remaster[edit]

Disc one

Tracks 1–9 as per sides one and two of original issue, with the following additional tracks:

  1. I Live for You” – 3:35
  2. Beware of Darkness” (acoustic demo) – 3:19
  3. Let It Down” (alternate version) – 3:54
  4. What Is Life” (backing track/alternate mix) – 4:27
  5. My Sweet Lord (2000)” – 4:57

Disc two

Tracks 1–9 as per sides three and four of original issue, followed by the reordered Apple Jam tracks, for which all participants are believed to now be credited as composers also.[nb 25]

  1. “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” (Martin, Coulter; new lyrics by Mal Evans, Harrison, Eddie Klein) – 0:49
  2. “Plug Me In” (Eric Clapton, Jim Gordon, Harrison, Dave Mason, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock) – 3:18
  3. “I Remember Jeep” (Ginger Baker, Clapton, Harrison, Billy Preston, Klaus Voormann) – 8:07
  4. “Thanks for the Pepperoni” (Clapton, Gordon, Harrison, Mason, Radle, Whitlock) – 5:31
  5. “Out of the Blue” (Al Aronowitz, Clapton, Gordon, Harrison, Bobby Keys, Jim Price, Radle, Whitlock, Gary Wright) – 11:16

Personnel[edit]

The following musicians are either credited on the 2001 reissue of All Things Must Pass[289] or are acknowledged as having contributed after subsequent research:[292]

Accolades[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
1972 All Things Must Pass Album of the Year[218] Nominated
“My Sweet Lord” Record of the Year[218] Nominated
2014 All Things Must Pass Hall of Fame Award[256] Won

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Original release
Chart (1970–71) Position
Australian Kent Music Report[295] 1
Canadian RPM 100 Albums[296] 1
Dutch MegaCharts Albums[297] 1
Italian Albums Chart[298] 2
Japanese Oricon LP Chart[299] 4
Norwegian VG-lista Albums[300] 1
Spanish Albums Chart[301] 1
Swedish Kvällstoppen Chart[302] 1
UK Albums Chart[272] 1
US Billboard Top LP’s[271] 1
West German Media Control Albums Chart[303] 10
Reissue
Chart (2001) Position
French SNEP Albums Chart[304] 68
Japanese Oricon Albums Chart[299] 46
UK Albums Chart[272] 68
US Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums[276] 3

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1971) Position
Australian Kent Music Report[295] 5
Dutch Albums Chart[305] 11
Italian Albums Chart[298] 18
US Billboard Year-End[306] 18

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[307] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[308] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[309] 6× Platinum 6,000,000^
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

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