‘All Things Must Pass (50th Anniversary)’ provides thrilling insight into George Harrison’s artistic process

The remaster of George Harrison’s solo debut demonstrates the benefits of extended albums.


50 years after its original release, artist George Harrison has re-released his album “All Things Must Pass.” “All Things Must Pass (50th Anniversary)” remixes and remasters the original, while also providing fans with outtakes and additional tracks. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, Staff Photo by Jake Capriotti)

Ana Cubas, Arts Editor

“All Things Must Pass” finally achieves the emotional impact it initially set out to create. The remastered album is gracefully dense, with oozing, pulsating bass and divine serenades throughout. 50 years ago it asked for the listener’s attention; now, it demands it.

George Harrison’s gloriously successful post-Beatles solo debut “All Things Must Pass” is a wistful blend of Hindu influence and Western music, religion and romance, meditation and thrill. The sheer talent on the album alone — Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, Billy Preston, Gary Wright, Klaus Voormann and more — could not produce bad work.

The original album, released in November 1970, is heavily layered in producer Phil Spector’s signature Wall of Sound style. This results in a reverb-heavy, compressed-sounding album where each component vies to be heard while simultaneously blending effortlessly into the whole.

A remixing is a reminder of the talent necessary to create an album pivotal enough to be reviewed and restored years later, while also showcasing the intricacies of the work itself. This 50th-anniversary version was engineered by Dhani Harrison, George Harrison’s son, and Paul Hicks, who worked on remixing and remastering the Beatles’ catalog and the expanded edition of The Rolling Stones’ “Goats Head Soup.” “All Things Must Pass” has been given a pleasing facelift, along with 47 fresh goodies for Harrison fans to fawn over.

In “All Things Must Pass (50th Anniversary),” vocals and instruments are cleansed, revived and amplified, where each pick of a string on Harrison’s signature slide guitar playing is heard. Harrison’s vocals are crisp, emotions spewing out of him with each note more clearly than ever, each crack in voice or change in pitch obvious, no longer overshadowed by the instruments around him. The instruments and vocals stand alone, rather than melting into each other. Appreciation for each sound was sacrificed in the original version in favor of one holistic sound — here, though, you can have both.

If “My Sweet Lord” could have sounded any more like a celebration, with the remixing it does. Harrison’s heightened vocals are beaming, the rounded bass making the song more resonant and danceable. Even the background vocals are intensified and lack the fuzz of the original. It now has the force of gospel music. “Apple Scruffs” sounds more playful, with the polished instruments and separation of each sound adding a bounciness to the track. These remixes and remasters bring to mind the complexities of molding all of a track’s layers into one concrete, comprehensive sound. That is the beauty of successful remixing.

While the original album tracks are so substantial, the outtakes and additional tracks on “50th Anniversary” are quite the opposite. Now, the album includes demos and early takes of the original songs. Listening to those is like peering into an alternate universe, where “Awaiting On You All” is soft and dainty, almost a foil of the original album track. The jubilant track takes on a lower register, emulating a light rockabilly sound rather than the shimmery joy of the original. The early version of the album’s title track is a more naked take on the song, detailing a more arduous journey of accepting that things will pass.

Yet some tracks, like “Behind That Locked Door,” changed very little from its initial recording. In the latter half of the song, Harrison improvises with vocables and signals band members to improvise.

The joy of a re-released album, with all the new, indulgent gifts, is a broader understanding of the artist and their artistic process. “All Things Must Pass (50th Anniversary)” does what Taylor Swift is doing now with her re-releases or what Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young did with the “Déjà Vu Alternates.” No first take and original album track from “50th Anniversary” sound the same. Some don’t even sound like Harrison had the same idea throughout the recording process. The unreleased or unchosen tracks now included in the album share more about Harrison, his process and his influence more than ever before.

While blues and country influence were trickled throughout “All Things Must Pass,” tracks like “Sour Milk Sea,” “Down To The River (Rocking Chair Jam)” and “Almost 12 Bar Honky Tonk” all show the extent in which they influenced his work. “Get Back” is almost satirical, poking fun at Harrison’s past while still reminiscing. “Cosmic Empire (Day 2 Demo / Take 1)” would have been the most fitting of the unselected tracks for the original album — an acoustic, mystic track that had the potential to be a calmer “Awaiting On You All.”

So much of the beauty in “All Things Must Pass (50th Anniversary)” lies in sharing this artistic process and further understanding Harrison’s mind through music. The songs linger with the listener longer than the originals, each emotion extracted to its full potential. It’s difficult to see a downside to the increasing prominence of extended releases in the music world — regardless of era, they provide an even stronger connection between artists and fans.

Email Ana Cubas at [email protected].