Thursday, March 4, 2010

'All Things Must Pass' gave George Harrison the spotlight alone

In 1969, George Harrison had to have been one of the most frustrated musicians in the world. He had the good fortune of being in The Beatles. However, he had the misfortune of being a good songwriter in a band with two great ones (John Lennon and Paul McCartney). By the end of the 1960s, Harrison had a large stack of songs he had written but knew most would not see the light of day with The Beatles.

In April 1970, the band officially broke up (though the real break up happened late in '69). Despite being overshadowed by his former bandmates, Harrison had a distinct advantage over Lennon and McCartney as their solo careers began. He had a pile of songs ready to go, and he immediately went to work. Working with producer Phil Spector, Harrison created one of the first triple albums of the modern rock era. Though one of the records was just a jam session, the other discs were crammed with great music.

Titled All Things Must Pass, the album's name seemed to put The Beatles passing in a proper philosophical and spiritual perspective. It served well as the title song of the album, but it had actually been written while The Beatles were still together and was among the songs rehearsed for the Let It Be album.

Of course, the big hit from this set was 'My Sweet Lord.' It went to number one, meaning Harrison had a chart topping single before Lennon and McCartney did. A second single, the excellent 'What Is Life' also made the top ten.

The standout song of this set is likely 'Isn't It A Pity.' It's a seven-minute song, and its arrangement is reminiscent of 'Hey Jude.' The song begins softly, builds to a crescendo, and has a long, slow fade out. In the song, Harrison lamented how people break each others hearts and cause so much pain when it comes to love. That theme is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.

Unfortunately, this album was the high point of Harrison's solo career. Though he had other successful albums, All Things Must Pass was the top when it comes to creativity. Though he became uneven as an artist, he left a musical legacy that dwarfs most musicians.

1 comment:

Mister Jimmy said...

I gave that multi-LP album in vinyl to my brother for Christmas the year it came out. He's dumped most of his vinyl over the years but last time I was there he still had it. It's a fine work that can stand on its own, with a classic cover.