My Favorite Albums: #87 George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass”

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7 mai 2009, 5h28m

Picking your favorite member of The Beatles can be easy. But now that I come to my favorite Beatles’ solo album, I was quite tried in my attempts to pick. Obviously all the Beatles had a great deal of individual talent, but when it came time for their solo work, they were all so different. John Lennon’s “John Lennon/ Plastic Ono Band” has its brilliant pretention, loaded to the brim with great musicians. Paul McCartney & The Wings’ “Band On The Run” is an album of great fun, where pop music is done at its best. But I think for me, George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” is my favorite of the Beatles solo works. Although he recorded some songs for the Beatles (ad they were all quite excellent) he was under represented overall in their catalog and listening to this album, we have to wonder why.

If you had trouble with any of the other two solo albums I mentioned, this one seems to place itself in the middle. It’s music is very solid, at times pop leaning in nature, but Harrison still manages to put plenty of contemplation into the song’s lyrics. Let’s start with “My Sweet Lord” a staple from the album. Written on one of Harrison’s favorite subjects, religion, it tells of Harrison’s desire to really experience God in this world, rather than the disconnected silence man normally encounters. Harrison does a good job arranging this musically, avoiding the obvious composition of a mourn like hymn and instead keeps it upbeat, but with downbeat singing playing against it. Add the triumphant choir and the well-toned guitar and you have a song that is joyful and sad at the same time. “Wah Wah” the track that follows, uses a greater degree of studio work and layering to bring itself together. It has an interesting dynamic of playing Harrison’s guitar against the saxophone. The song’s chorus , essentially a single word, is layered in a way reminiscent of many novelty songs of the doo wop era, played against the rush of George Harrison’s lyrics, adding to what is a very big song. Another song in this vein is “What Is Life?” which again uses layering to create a wall of sound. The song continues one of the best guitar tones on the album and has a good beat to it. I also enjoy the use of trumpets as a lead in to the chorus as it builds anticipation and the chorus itself, well it’s catchy and that’s what choruses should be.

Run of the Mill” uses a simpler composition, which I suppose, is meant to draw one to the lyrics. Harrison writes of the need of the individual to help change the world. The lyrics are written in a very personal way, as if two friends are talking, bringing to mind the ways the individual has been helped himself in the past. “Beware of Darkness” is a song in a similar vein, telling of the need to keep oneself away from our own inner darkness. “Watch out now, take care/ Beware of the thoughts that linger/ Winding up inside your head/ The hopelessness around you/ In the dead of night” Harrison things in a very flat and clear way, bringing the idea that Harrison himself feels this way. The song expands outward to the darkness of the world itself, but it still remains very personal in its delivery and can be powerfully moving. “If Not for You” which was written by Bob Dylan combines music and singing a simple manner that works, as the bend of the guitar works with Harrison’s best twang. It’s also nice to see one of the slower numbers on the album not be a sad cry but instead a nice love song.

I could go on and do more songs, including all the ones on the bonus disk, but I think I’ll stop here by saying that the album works so well as a whole. Harrison’s vision is very clear and the music never radically jumps away from itself from track to track so the listener doesn’t feel jarred when listening. Harrison is my favorite Beatle and I think this is the best solo album a Beatle could produce. It was sad to see him pass a few years back, but he left us such a great legacy, especially this album.

Favorite Track: “Wah Wah”

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