Thursday, November 25, 2010

all things must pass










The quiet Beatle surprised everyone when he released this triple album (the first from a solo artist) masterpiece. All Things Must Pass is a lot to digest. George Harrison's songwriting talent had long been suppressed in the shadow of Lennon and McCartney; and so, he had a lot of material saved up that didn't make it onto any of the fab four's releases. There are numerous in-jokes and even more guest appearances. throughout the six sides, the playing is masterful. The sweeping, orchestral majesty of the ballads is balanced by the rawness and spontaneity of the apple jams. What I like most is that you can get lost in the individual songs, each of which is excellent in its own right. This album rewards repeated listens. It's message of love unfolds by degrees as you open to it, much like the spiritual quest it describes. It is a statement of the spiritual power of music, an enlightening and inspiring tour de force that stands as the pinnacle of Harrison's artistry. It topped the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic, sold six times platinum, and is the best selling solo Beatle record.







From the opening appeal of "let me in here, I know I've been here" in 'I'd Have You Anytime' (co-written with Bob Dylan) you know you are being brought into something very warm and intimate. I like to think that it's a message to all of us from God; not an angry or judgmental God, but a loving and accepting God.





The title track is a mystical ballad inspired by the Tao Te Ching that uses sweeping horns and strings to describe the cycles of life: "daylight is good at arriving at the right time." As the sun sets in one place, it rises in another: "it's not always going to be this grey."




'Run of the Mill' is a horn-driven call for spiritual responsibility. It seems to take on the perspective of God, gently reminding us the karmic lesson: "only you'll arrive at your own made end, with no one but yourself to be offended. It's you that decides."




'What Is Life' kicks off with an upbeat guitar and a driving horn section. When the chorus asks "what is my life without your love?", it's unclear whether it is romantic or spiritual love or even whether it is from the perspective of man or God. In any case, it's one of the most immediately catchy songs on the album. As the second single, it made it to number ten on the U.S. charts.







'The Art of Dying' is a hard rocking treatise on the cycle of reincarnation and karma: "living through a million years of crying." The soaring guitar borders on acid rock and takes everything up a notch, spiraling out of control in a dizzying wail.






George advises us to seek the light in 'Beware Of Darkness'. "Sadness", "hopelessness", "greedy leaders", and "Maya" all tie into the same pernicious sense of despair that will "take you where you should not go."






The rollicking wall-of-sound (this is the one song that doesn't sound any different on the cd version) of 'Awaiting On You All' reminds us that God is there waiting for us to connect with him, and that we don't need a lot of the things we are led to believe we need to do so. There is a controversial couplet that you have to listen hard to decipher (since it isn't included in the printed lyrics): "the Pope owns fifty one percent of General Motors; the stock exchange is the only thing he's qualified to quote us." There is no monopoly on God.





The instrumental jam 'Out of the Blue' starts suddenly; and it sounds much better on the reissue following the abrupt finish of 'Pepperoni' than it did on the original release starting side five. My favorite of the apple jams; it is also the longest and the most intriguing. It gallops along and gradually slows down to a thoughtful and atmospheric walk that builds up again to charge through to a dynamic conclusion that closes the new version of the album.







All Things Must Pass
full album:




1, 00:00:00 "I'd Have You Anytime"
2, 00:03:00 "My Sweet Lord"
3, 00:07:39 "Wah-Wah"
4, 00:13:20 "Isn't It A Pity (Version One)"
5, 00:20:34 "What Is Life"
6, 00:25:02 "If Not For You"
7, 00:28:37 "Behind That Locked Door"
8, 00:32:08 "Let It Down"
9, 00:36:04 "Run Of The Mill"
10, 00:38:59 "Beware Of Darkness"
11, 00:42:52 "Apple Scuffs"
12, 00:46:02 "The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)"
13, 00:49:53 "Awaiting On You All"
14, 00:52:42 "All Things Must Pass"
15, 00:56:30 "I Dig Love"
16, 01:01:31 "Art Of Dying"
17, 01:05:15 "Isn't It A Pity (Version Two)"
18, 01:10:02 "Hear Me Lord"
19, 01:15:53 "Out Of The Blue (Apple Jam Sessions)"
20, 01:27:10 "It's Johnny's Birthday (Apple Jam Sessions)"
21, 01:28:02 "Plug Me In (Apple Jam Sessions)"
22, 01:31:22 "I Remember Jeep (Apple Jam Sessions)"
23, 01:39:32 "Thanks For The Pepperoni (Apple Jam Sessions)"

4 comments:

  1. all things must pass is a lot to digest, in scope and content. this is a dense album that i've had for years; but had never really gotten into it as a whole until recently. it's the kind of album that you have to be ready for. its spiritual message is powerful and positive; yet it is more than many are willing to hear. i have come to love it as i have come to think more like the most quiet and spiritual of the beatles. i don't believe that a spiritual perspective is necessary for enjoyment of this magical artistic statement; but it certainly helps. george's songwriting talent had long been suppressed in the shadow of lennon and mccartney; and so, he had a lot of material saved up that didn't make it onto any of the fab four's releases. there are numerous in-jokes and even more guest appearances. my wife and i enjoy this album so much that we decided to get the excellent thirtieth anniversary remastered cd edition. i will point out the differences between this newer version and the original vinyl release as i go, song-by-song through this triple album/double cd.

    from the opening appeal of "let me in here, i know i've been here" in 'i'd have you anytime' (co-written with dylan) you know you are being brought into something very warm and intimate. i like to think that it's a message to all of us from god; not an angry or judgmental god, but a loving and accepting god. the next song, 'my sweet lord', then, is a response of sorts. the guitar riff and chanting background vocals are dynamic and uplifting. it is liberating in its use of religious terminology from judeo-christian and hindu practice, uniting all faiths as one universal connection with deity. the wailing feedback in 'wah wah' plays with the notion of the source of his fame and his misery. his guitar (or perhaps too much distortion in general) has caused him to gently weep for his stardom has left him feeling "cheaper than a dime." he has, however found his inner joy: "i know how sweet life can be, so i'll keep myself free of wah wah." the first side of the record ends with the aching 'isn't it a pity'. it beautifully bemoans the pain we cause each other by taking and "forgetting to give back" the love we all need from each other, when in fact "we're all the same." it is a long and stirring cry for love, the thesis of the album. it ends up sounding something like pink floyd with droning voices chanting and falsettos chirping.

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  2. side two kicks off with the upbeat guitar and horn section of 'what is life'. when the chorus asks "what is my life without your love?", it's unclear whether it is romantic or spiritual love or even whether it is from the perspective of man or god. in any case, it's one of the most immediately catchy songs on the album. likewise, with the beautifully played cover of dylan's 'if not for you'. "without your love i'd be nowhere at all" could mean all sorts of love in the context of this album. what follows is a sweet country tune with steel guitar that calls us to "let out your heart please from behind that locked door." 'let it down' starts out with a taste of the powerful refrain before settling into the soft and romantic verses. it portrays a struggle with self-consciousness "should someone be looking at me." the first record ends with the horn-driven call for spiritual responsibility 'run of the mill'. it seems to take on the perspective of god, gently reminding us the karmic lesson: "only you'll arrive at your own made end, with no one but yourself to be offended. it's you that decides."

    the first disk of the cd reissue adds five extra tracks to the original program. 'i live for you' is another lovely country ballad with steel pedal guitar. there are two acoustic demo versions of songs from the album that showcase george's singing very well without the phil spector wall of sound production that dominates the record: 'beware of darkness' and 'let it down'. there is also an instrumental version of 'what is life' with trumpet flourishes and a remake of 'my sweet lord' that starts out softer and builds to a more dramatic ending than the original.

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  3. george begins disk two and side three by advising us to seek the light in 'beware of darkness'. "sadness", "hopelessness", "greedy leaders", and "maya" all tie into the same pernicious sense of despair that will "take you where you should not go." next comes the staggered and sweet 'apple scruffs'. some wild harmonica playing and warbled singing characterizes this goofy little tune about the fans that continued to follow him around in the wake of the beatles. 'the ballad of sir frankie crisp (let it roll)' is a beautiful piano ballad describing the mystical atmosphere and landscape of "perpetual mirth" and "inner light" around harrison's friar park estate, which was designed by crisp and is pictured on the album cover. the rollicking wall-of-sound (this is the one song that doesn't sound any different on the cd version) of 'awaiting on you all' reminds us that god is there waiting for us to connect with him, and that we don't need a lot of the things we are led to believe we need to do so. there is a controversial couplet that you have to listen hard to decipher (since it isn't included in the printed lyrics): "the pope owns fifty one percent of general motors; the stock exchange is the only thing he's qualified to quote us." there is no monopoly on god. side three ends with 'all things must pass', another mystical ballad with sweeping horns and strings describes the cycles of life: "daylight is good at arriving at the right time." as the sun sets in one place, it rises in another: "it's not always going to be this grey."

    side four begins with 'i dig love'. george almost sounds like john lennon as a catchy climbing and falling piano riff underlines the thesis that "you should give love and try to live love." 'the art of dying' is a hard rocking treatise on the cycle of reincarnation and karma: "living through a million years of crying." the soaring guitar borders on acid rock and takes everything up a notch, spiraling out of control in a dizzying wail. in its wake, a shorter, more stripped down version of 'isn't it a pity' follows. the stirring blues of 'hear me lord' is a heartfelt prayer: "forgive me lord please those years that i ignored you." we are left with a sense of longing, a need for god's grace "to burn out this desire."

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  4. the cd reissue changes things around a bit from the original sequence of the album, to great effect. rather than break the flow of the apple jam instrumentals, the new order wisely starts out with the wacky circus romp 'it's johnny's birthday' at the beginning allowing a healthy reverent silence between it and 'hear me lord'. 'plug me in' doesn't begin so much as explode out of the gate in the middle of a short-lived, yet mind-blowing rock jam. 'i remember jeep' starts out with a building hiss that morphs into a goodtimey stomp that ends with applause and joyful shouts. 'thanks for the pepperoni' is a chuck berry tribute/ripoff that wails for a while and stops short. this was the original ending for the album. and it was rather anticlimactic. 'out of the blue' starts suddenly; and it sounds much better following the abrupt finish of 'pepperoni' than it did on the original release starting side five. it is the longest of the apple jams and the most intriguing. it gallops along and gradually slows down to a thoughtful and atmospheric walk that builds up again to charge through to a dynamic conclusion.

    throughout the six sides, the playing is masterful. the sweeping orchestral majesty of the ballads is balanced by the rawness and spontaneity of the apple jams. what i like most about this album is that you can get lost in the individual songs, each of which is excellent in its own right. this album rewards repeated listens. it's message of love unfolds by degrees as you open to it, much like the spiritual quest it describes. it is a statement of the spiritual power of music, an enlightening and inspiring tour de force that stands as the pinnacle of harrison's artistry.

    ReplyDelete