George Harrison — All Things Must Pass (50th Anniversary / Super Deluxe)
Qobuz reissue review (August 2021)
When it was originally released in 1971, George Harrison’s first solo rock album managed the impressive feat of being both expansive and consistent. With four LP sides of gentle, spiritual, and highly melodic songcraft and two more of loose, muscular rock jams, it was a consummate expression of everything that Harrison had creatively held onto during the Beatles years. But for an album that was already seen as sprawling on its original release, it’s simultaneously surprising and appropriate that there was enough unreleased and complementary material to fill up this expansive new edition beyond what had already been included on the 30th anniversary edition. That earlier edition tweaked the album’s running order for the sake of CD sequencing, tacked on a good selection of bonus tracks, and was remastered under Harrison’s guidance, making it feel like a definitive statement. However, it was again remastered 10 years later, and now, a half-century after it was originally released, we are getting even more bonus tracks, another remastering, and, perhaps most notably, a brand new mix.
The album’s original running order is restored here, but that’s where fealty to the original All Things Must Pass ends. All of the studio recordings have been dramatically remixed, dialing back the overwrought reverb from Phil Spector’s original production (an approach that Harrison wanted for the 30th, but demurred on) and making numerous other tweaks throughout. Of course, as with anything related to the Beatles, these changes are not without controversy. Some fans will love them, some fans will hate them, but to anyone coming to this album with no preconceptions, the new mixes evoke the warmth and spaciousness of the original album without some of the touches that now sound quite a bit dated.
Beyond the new mix though, there’s lots more to dig into. The 30 demo versions reveal these songs in their most simple forms, and while many of them may give some diehard fans the fully de-Spectored version of these songs they’ve been clamoring for, the truth is, the true power of this work came from the combination of songwriting, playing, and studio care that went into it. Far more illuminating and enjoyable is the final disc of alternate takes. Yes, there are some goofy asides — “Isn’t it so shitty/ Isn’t it a pain/ How we do so many takes” from “Isn’t It A Pity (Take 14)” — and (amazingly!) a Lennon/McCartney number (“Get Back”). But among those bits of studio detritus are nestled gems like take 27 of “Isn’t It A Pity,” which presents the song in a slower version that is dirgelike in its intensity, yet still possessed of its innate ethereality. The fact that a cut like this was kept in the vault all this time either means that this edition is indeed the final word on this classic album or that there’s even more in store for the centennial edition that will be downloaded straight into our brains. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz