Tuesday, 9 February 2016

"All Things Must Pass" by GEORGE HARRISON (2014 Apple 2CD Reissue - Gavin Lurssen Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Really Want To See You..."

When I bought the 2DVD set of 2002's "Concert For George" – the nearest a mere mortal like me was going to get to that stunning celebration of George Harrison's life and music/film legacy – I bawled my eyes out like a big girl's blouse. I can remember the whole sensory experience of music, emotion and video 'getting to me' on a level I found both profound and ultimately uplifting. I'd simply forgotten how good his songwriting was and I (like others) needed some reminding. Re-visiting his mammoth 3LP debut solo work "All Things Must Pass" on this definitive 2CD Apple Remaster has been the same. Wonder and awe...all over again. Here are the Apple Scruffs...

UK and USA released 22 September 2014 – "All Things Must Pass" by GEORGE HARRISON on Apple/George Harrison Estate 0602537914005 (Barcode is the same) is a 3LP Set onto 2CDs with Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (59:37 minutes):
1. I'd Have You Anytime
2. My Sweet Lord
3. Wah-Wah
4. Isn't It A Pity (Version 1)
5. What Is Life [Side 2]
6. If Not For You
7. Behind That Locked Door
8. Let It Down
9. Run Of The Mill
Tracks 1 to 9 make up Side 1 & 2 of the 3LP Box Set "All Things Must Pass" – released 27 November 1970 in the USA (30 November 1970 in the UK) both on Apple STCH 639

10. I Live For You [1970 Outtake]
11. Beware Of The Darkness (27 May 1970 Demo Version, Outtake]
12. Let It Down [Early Version, Remixed in 2000]
13. What Is Life [Backing Track]
14. My Sweet Lord (2000)
Tracks 10 to 15 first appeared as Bonus Tracks on the January 2001 "All Things Must Pass" 2CD Reissue – sanctioned by George Harrison. His son Dhani Harrison and UK singer Sam Brown added vocals to the 2000 Version of "My Sweet Lord" along with percussion from Ray Cooper. Dhani’s keyboards and vocals also bolstered up the remixed outtake "I Live For You".

Disc 2 (65:38 minutes):
1. Beware Of Darkness [Side 3]
2. Apple Scruffs
3. Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
4. Awaiting On You All
5. All Things Must Pass
6. I Dig Love [Side 4]
7. Art Of Dying
8. Isn't It A Pity (Version 2)
9. Hear Me Lord

10. It's Johnny’s Birthday
11. Plug Me In
12. I Remember Jeep
13. Thanks For The Pepperoni
14. Out Of The Blue
Tracks 1 to 14 are Sides 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the 3LP set "All Things Must Pass". NOTE: On original issues of the vinyl album the 11-minute "Out Of The Blue", the 50-second "It's Johnny's Birthday" and the 3:15 minutes of "Plug Me In" made up Side 5 - while "I Remember Jeep" (extended from 6:59 minutes to 8:05 on CD) and "Thanks For The Pepperoni" (5:26 minutes) made up Side 6. For both the January 2001 and September 2014 CD reissues – the tracks have been rejiggered as above. All songs on "All Things Must Pass" are Harrison originals except "I'd Have You Anytime" which is a co-write with Bob Dylan and "If Not For You" which is a Bob Dylan cover version.

Lead Vocals (All Tracks) – GEORGE HARRISON
Guitars - GEORGE HARRISON, DAVE MASON (of Traffic), ERIC CLAPTON (Derek & The Dominoes)
Pedal Steel Guitar - PETE DRAKE
Rhythm Guitars and Percussion – BADFINGER (featuring Pete Ham and Tom Evans)
Keyboards - BILLY PRESTON, BOBBY WHITLOCK (Derek & The Dominoes), GARY BROOKER (Procol Harum) and GARY WRIGHT (Spooky Tooth)
Saxophone and Trumpet – BOBBY KEYS and JIM PRICE
Bass – CARL RADLE (Derek & The Dominoes) and KLAUS VOORMAN
Drums – ALAN WHITE (Yes), JIM GORDON (Delaney & Bonnie, Derek & The Dominoes) and RINGO STARR (The Beatles)
Congas – PHIL COLLINS on "Art Of Dying" (uncredited)

The first thing you notice about the latest 2014 version is that the 'colourised' artwork of the January 2001 Mini Box Set has gone (as has the box) – we're now back to the more sombre original black and white artwork. I can't say I think the 3-way foldout hard card cover is an improvement on the 'colour' box of 2001 (which I rather liked) – but at least we get the fold-out lyric poster reproduced (with the colour shot of a bearded Harrison on the other side) and the three different colour inner sleeves for each album now get spread over two CD inners and the inside artwork. Harrison's own liner notes for the 2001 version return (reappraising the album from a 30-year distance - highlighting the large number of musicians involved) – but you have to go the bottom of the poster to get the real 'new' info...the AUDIO.

PAUL HICKS, GAVIN LURSSEN and REUBEN COHEN are the team of three who have handled the new '2014 Remaster' – done at Lurssen Mastering in California. His in-house team have won 3 Grammies and I've raved about Lurssen's work before on more than one occasion – see reviews for "Barnstorm" by Joe Walsh on Hip-O Select, "Gold" by The Crusaders on Universal, Stephen Bishop's "Careless" and "Bish" both on Hip-O Select and Terry Callier's "Occasional Rain" on Universal 'Originals'. His modern-day mastering work includes top name artists like John Mellencamp, Tom Waits, Roseanna Cash and even actor Jeff Bridges. Just to take a like-to-like comparison – the gorgeous Pedal Steel guitar work of Pete Drake on the 2014 Remaster of "Behind That Locked Door" is so much clearer and that rhythm section positively brimming with bass warmth and gentle snare shuffles. And when Phil Spector's typically OTT Production threatens to swamp everything on "Let It Down" with a Wall of Noise – they've somehow managed to make the overall soundstage clearer yet still keep it properly muscular. And the truly wonderful Version 1 of "Isn't It A Pity" sounds just glorious, as do the huge acoustic guitars and piano on "Run Of The Mill". After the 'all things louder than everything else' remaster of 2001 – this new 2014 version is a welcome controlled tone down - absolutely gorgeous stuff.

If I'm truthful I've never really thought much of the Dylan collaboration song "I'd Have You Anytime" which always felt to me like a poor man's version of the genuinely lovely "If Not For You". But what you can't fault is the audio wallop of both it and "My Sweet Lord" – the only solo Beatles single to hit the Number 1 spot on the UK charts twice – the original Apple 7" on R 5884 in January 1971 and on reissue in January 2002 after his awful and tragic passing in late November 2001. The huge electric guitars and layered vocals of the manic "Wah-Wah" attack your speakers like its "Helter Skelter Part 2" – while the already mentioned "Isn't It A Pity" is surely his greatest solo song (check out the Eric Clapton and Billy Preston live version in HD on YouTube).

The Bonus Tracks (tagged on once again at the end of Disc 1) are shockingly good and I'd argue better than some of the indulgent fluff on the original release. Dhani Harrison's subtle but beautiful vocal and keyboard contributions to "I Live For You" make the outtake sound like a lost gem and will thrill fans. The "Beware Of Darkness" demo is an acoustic ditty and strips the finished track of its bombast. Having been used to the doomy studio swagger of the final version for so long – this wonderfully barebones "Beware Of Darkness" is unplugged - stark - his Liverpool nasal/vocal phrasing filling the speakers as the strings rattle. And that jab at Klein's Abkco – what a hoot. But best of all is "...this is called "Let It Down"..." – a truly beautiful early version of the second last song on Side 2. Frankly this is way better than the finished version for me – the feel and melody is fabulous – containing a prettiness that got strangled on the LP version. The 'Backing Track' of "What Is Life" is a busy Spector affair chugging along as the guitars and brass jab. The sitar-introduced '2000' version of "My Sweet Lord" is a strange beast – liable to be viewed as lovely by some and a 'should have left it alone' travesty by others. I like it and Dhani Harrison, Sam Brown and Ray Cooper all add something to the mix this time around.

Disc 2 opens with a huge "Beware Of Darkness" – the guitars and strings swirling into one collective sound. "...Beware of mire..." Harrison sings and you know he means every word of it. The washboard shuffle of "Apple Scruffs" has that harmonica warbling with renewed clarity and the "...perpetual mirth..." of the strange-odd "Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp..." has those acoustic guitars peeping up above the piano and pedal steel. Once again Spector smothered "Awaiting On You All" with so many instruments and voices that it's hard to work out where the song is at times. But then we're hit with his melancholic masterpiece title track "All Things Must Pass" – a song so lovely in melody that surely it would have had a shot a second No. 1 (the USA issued "What is Life" b/w "Apple Scruffs" on Apple 1828 in February 1971 and that achieved a No. 10 placing). It's still got that slightly excessive hiss present as it opens – but the warmth of the song takes over and the remaster is genuinely subtle with the instrumentation (so touching). That drum roll opening on "I Dig Love" has real clout now, as does the keyboard funk that anchors the song throughout. The guitars crash in on "Art Of Dying" (sounds like Clapton) as it races along with that Rubber Soul vocal Spector gives Harrison's lead. The double-LP proper ends on a real musical high – "Hear Me Lord". Sounding at times almost like the Faces circa "Long Player" - big guitars vie with big vocals and even bigger ideas – his personal struggle with faith filling the song with sincerity as that huge organ note lingers in the background while someone fills the whole six minutes with sweetly soulful piano fills. The remaster is a lot less bombastic than the really loud 2001 version too...and very much the better for it.

The placing of the "Johnny's Birthday" ramshackle 50-second snippet first (Phil Coulter's "Congratulations" sung under another guise) in the "Apple Jam" LP portion makes more than sense – it works. We then get four guitar battles – all instrumentals. First up is "Plug Me In" which has the feel of a Derek & The Dominoes "Layla" outtake – all soloing and no vocals – searching for a riff and not quite finding it. The 8:08 minutes of "I Remember Jeep" was fun at the time and that soulful piano interlude towards the end still makes it a cool listen. The Johnny B. Goode grunge boogie of "Thanks For The Pepperoni" is yet another guitar strut that feels like you're eavesdropping on a particularly rocky Blind Faith session. But my poison in the bunch has always been the 11:14 minutes of "Out Of The Blue" (Bobby Keys on Sax) that feels like the Faces with too many beers and one too many amps in the studio. I’m always reminded of The Rolling Stones guitar juggernaut "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" from 1971's "Sticky Fingers". I suspect like so many fans – I haven't played this stoner jam for decades...and I'd actually forgotten just how good it is...

George Harrison would return with the more tempered "Living In A Material World" single LP in 1973 and score another No. 1 with "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" – but many remember him for ATMP. Post Beatles - he splurged - the public loved it then and have held it in affection ever since. And on re-hearing this wonderful remaster of "All Things Must Pass" – is it any wonder.

The quiet and contemplative Beatle passed too damn quickly (aged only 58 in 2001) – I can still feel the shock and hurt of it. Re-listening to this sprawling solo 'White Album' of 1970 has only made me want to re-visit the rest of his recorded legacy – and that's got to be the best Remaster compliment of them all...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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