Greetings, Glancers! We’re several albums deep into my Non-Beatles journey and so far we’ve had two pieces of whimsy from Ringo, two pieces of experimental junk by George, one middling effort by Paul, and not a single word from John. I think we are past most of the arsing about and feet-finding now and we might actually get back to the dark art of making good songs. George Harrison’s 1970 effort All Things Must Pass is at least an album I’ve heard of, but I don’t know anything about it. A glance at the tracklist tells me there’s a few songs I know, and that it features a tonne of songs – there’s a lot to get through. It better be good, otherwise, well… nothing. I just want to year some sweet tunes, yo.
‘I’d Have You Anytime‘ opens with that near dreary swirl quality which features on many of Harrison’s Beatles works. The first thing to mention though, is that it’s an actual song, not some experimental guff. Solo guitar licks burn at the hairs and that mournful chord series underlays some classic downbeat Harrison vocals. A promising start then – not the best song I’ve heard by Harrison, but at least it’s a song.
‘My Sweet Lord‘ is of course one I know. I know a lot of… groups have claimed this song. Which doesn’t seem right. It is a lovely song – all the sweet melodies of harmonies of the best Beatles work, but with Harrison’s signature laid-back rhythm. It also follows his tendency towards the cyclical and repetitive, with only a few repeated lyrics and melodies, all which build as more vocals and instruments are thrown into the mix. I think if it went any longer it would begin to wear thin, but it stops at just the right time.
‘Wah-wah‘ brings the guitar and the latter day Beatles hippy psych sound. It could easily be a cut from one of their final records. It’s nicely chaotic too, and the main riff is groovy. The cyclical sound is present, the lyrics have definite frustration – perhaps at what was going on within The Beatles towards the end. It’s another good one, but I don’t know if it warrants going over the five minute mark.
‘Isn’t It A Pity’ is over the seven minute mark, so it better be good. It has that familiar Beatles sound, I don’t know if it’s the overall production, the combination of instruments and rhythm, but it feels like I know the song even though I’m certain this is the first time I’ve ever heard it. It builds in a similar way to some of their latter songs – particularly with respect to the drums. Melodically it’s more of the same from George – mellow, dreamy, no real peaks or wide range. There’s a sort of Eastern swelling of strings in the middle, along with a solo. The instrumental then covers most of the final three minutes, with assorted vocals moments. There’s a solid four minute track here, five at a push, but no real need to pass seven.
‘What Is Life‘ opens with a horn-like riff and a faster pace. This has a markedly, I guess that’s the right word, sound from everything else. It’s a few steps adjacent from the dreamy slow stuff, and instead sounds jubilant. Neat, tidy verses lead into a lovely, summery, hopeful chorus. There’s a slight Motown vibe in the midst too. I believe I’ve heard parts of this before, in Goodfellas, but this is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for in my journey through the Beatles’ solo work – great songs I had no idea existed.
‘If Not For You’ is apparently a Dylan song. I haven’t heard his version yet, but given what I think of his vocals I imagine this one is preferable. It’s somewhere in between the ethereal slow and more hopeful up-tempo prior songs. Sweet melodies, very simple, nice accompanying piano and strings – no need for the harmonica but it is Dylan after all.
‘Behind That Locked Door‘ is… Country? Please no. That pedal guitar sound is almost always instantly depressing to me. It’s unfortunate, because this is a genuinely gorgeous song emboldened by piano and backing vocals. Melodies and emotion… at least it does have some Caribbean flavour to bring down the Country a notch. I’d love to hear a version of this without the pedal guitar.
‘Let It Down‘ blasts into view like a Bond movie song. It’s huge, then it withdraws into a sweet spot between Floyd and trippy Beatles. The dreamy mellow vibe is there, but it’s countered by louder chaotic moments, swelling vocals and pointed guitars. George’s tone for his lead parts keeps a recurring theme through all the songs so far. This one warrants the five minutes, but could have faded out sooner.
‘Run Of The Mill‘ opens nicely, another sweet and gentle instrumental followed by a trademark vocal. I would do with a substitute for the horns, that’s just me of course. It feels a little like a Lennon song, lyrically and musically. It does feel slightly Run Of The Mill and doesn’t leave enough of an impression to differentiate it from the songs around it.
‘Beware Of Darkness‘ features another smooth opening. Lyrically and musically this is more up my alley. I like the switch between minor and major keys too mirror what he’s talking about – the inner struggle over depression and hope. I’d prefer a little more on the minor side, and the middle eighth doesn’t add a lot, but it’s still a good song which shows how much he had grown as an artist and writer.
‘Apple Scruffs‘ starts with harmonica, which is never good. It’s pleasing enough filler which begins to wear thin long before it ends, but is short enough to not cause too much damage.
‘The Ballad Of Frankie Crisp‘ surely can’t be good with a name like that. It starts promisingly, with an organ led stomp, ably built up by piano and guitar. The wall of sound production brings more of the dreamlike sensations lending this one a drift away quality – though the same can be said for many of the songs so far. The danger with that tactic is of course that you lose melody, and while the melodies here are light and distant they are still tactile. I’m enjoying the inspirational messages flowing through the album.
‘Awaiting On You All‘ starts quickly, like a jaunty Swinging Sixties song. I’m not sure about the production on this one, maybe it’s the copy I’m listening to. No, the comments say the same. There is a lot – too too much reverb – to the point that it’s hissing all over the place. A pity as the song is fun, a bit of entertaining pop fluff raised by lyrics and ideas.
‘All Things Must Pass‘ is one of the few songs I’m familiar with here. The title track and focal point, it’s a good one. I never ranked it as high as others have, but there’s no doubting its quality. The message fits perfectly with what he has spoken about elsewhere and the music echoes the tone and feel of the album.
‘I Dig Love‘ starts with an amusing down scale piano which makes me think of Boris The Spider. It then climbs up, which also adds to the humour. The opening melodies are fine, but it opens up once the familiar beat and tambourine kick in. It’s another song which could have had a minute or so shaved off to keep the repetition at bay, but that’s a minor quibble.
‘Art Of Dying‘ is a return to the reverb. Then it suddenly explodes in a glorious fusion of noise, beats, guitars, and if this doesn’t sound like it was recorded today and not 50 years ago, then I’m a monkey’s uncle’s arse. I had no clue this existed, and it’s wonderful. It also has a slight 007 vibe, but it’s a fine blend of rock and dance. Then he pauses in the middle for a bit of metal guitar, which continues as the din rejoins. Great stuff.
‘Isn’t It A Pity Two‘ is another version of a song that was already three minutes too long. Maybe this is completely different though. It is shorter, and it does feel quieter, less concerned with the wall of sound, more sedate. This allows the vocal melody to come through with more potency. It’s still a little too sleepy and lacking in those peaks I mentioned before.
‘Hear Me Lord‘ continues with the gentle rock – plenty of piano and horn, plenty of layered vocals and solo guitar lines. This one is a little too slow for me, but it does remind me of some entries from Dark Side Of The Moon. Melodically it’s a little hit and miss for me – the best moments when George really pushes his vocal, but in other places it’s a little too mellow, verging on stagnant. Overall, no doubting it’s yet another good song.
‘Out Of The Blue‘ is almost 12 minutes long, so I’m going to guess it’s a bit of an experimental mess. It begins in that fashion, an instrumental jam. A touch of blues, some distortion, some funk. It’s not empty, there is a beat and some attempt at coherence. And it goes on like this. And on. With only slight variance. Every band does this stuff. No need to release it, other than as a bonus or hidden track.
‘It’s Johnny’s Birthday‘ is Congratulations but sung to the name of the track, with added zaniness.
‘Plug Me In‘ continues as we left off. Another loose instrumental slice of trickery. Some neat guitar, plenty of piano. But it’s an excuse to arse about.
‘I Remember Jeep‘ goes even more experimental, with hissing and swirling and noise giving way to more standard jam fare.
‘Thanks For The Pepperoni‘ recalls a bunch of well known rock standards. It’san other instrumental jam. It’s fine.
Well, that was easily the best non-Beatles album so far, though we are fairly early in the journey. It certainly makes up for the prior experimental guff and Ringo’s attempts. Is it overlong? For fans, obviously not, but for me coming to it for the first time there are a few songs I would strip away. Probably that final side would be dropped. It’s not as poppy as The Beatles biggest hits – that was never George’s game, but it succeeds in many ways over what they tried to do from an ethereal, worldly, wall of sound perspective. It sounds like a dude finally releasing what he had known was inside him, and it’s at worst joyous, at best transcendent. A load of these songs already make my playlist, and I’ll certainly listen to the whole thing again to fully absorb the lyrics and allow the music to grow on me. It’s a positive, mature outing, and while I’ve seen many commentators saying it’s the best of all the post Beatles albums, I’m hoping there’s plenty more to come from George, and from the others.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: My Sweet Lord. Wah Wah. What Is Life. If Not For You. Behind That Locked Door. Awaiting On You All. All Things Must Pass. Art Of Dying.