Some people saw the breakup of the Beatles as a tragedy, and it's easy to understand why. But it's also possible to see it as an opportunity, albeit a mostly squandered one. Realistically, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were not going to do anything apart that they couldn't do together. Ringo never really had the voice or the vision to make it as a solo artist. But George Harrison, now he had potential. A talented guitarist and songwriter, and an okay singer, he was routinely overshadowed in the Beatles by his two more gifted colleagues. If anyone was going to make it on his own, George was.
All Things Must Pass is probably George's most realized work as a solo artist, with a star-studded cast of musicians, and three LPs worth of space to stretch out on. And while it's not the kind of thing I would normally spend much time on, it's a pretty inspired effort, at least in places.
Before I get to the songs, let's talk about the team Harrison has surrounded himself with here. There are the obligatory Beatles alumni, including Ringo, Billy Preston, and Klaus Voorman (whose bass playing is some of the best, although rarely appreciated.) Then there are guests like Alan White (one of the drummers from Yes), Peter Frampton, Ginger Baker, and of course, Eric Clapton. I'll say it right here, I don't like Clapton's playing. Never have. I don't know what it is, but his tone is annoying to me, and I remain mystified as to why so many people list him as a favorite guitarist. I would much prefer to hear George throughout, but that's only my opinion.
Then there's the most controversial figure on the record, Phil Spector, the bombastic producer known for girl groups of the 60s. A lot of people hate his production here, as it is admittedly over the top, with all the sound pushed right to the front of the mix so that it will sound good on AM radio. This was a technique he pioneered known as the "wall of sound." Personally, I think it really works. I don't want this kind of record to sound stripped down, I want a full, excessive sound that compliments that amount of space and the diversity of the material, and I think Spector delivers admirably.
The songs themselves are a bit uneven, but there are quite a few standouts, mostly those to why Harrison's friend Bob Dylan lent a hand. If Not For You, while performed better by Dylan himself, is still a great song in anybody's hands. Other fine tracks include Beware of Darkness, What Is Life, I Dig Love, Art of Dying, and My Sweet Lord, obvious plagiarism notwithstanding.
The third disc is unfortunately disposable, consisting mainly of studio experiments and jam sessions lacking any real form or structure. It feels a bit like a wasted opportunity, honestly.
Like most double albums, All Things Must Pass could have benefitted from an editor, but you have to admire its exuberance and effort. Of all the post-Beatles offerings from the Fab Four, it reamins one of the best, and is certainly better than anything Wings ever did.