All Things Must Pass…but apparently not this great album. It’s been 51 years since George Harrison’s best post-Beatles album was released, and now it sounds better than ever!
George Harrison said he was tempted to remix the album to lose some of the reverb and “wall of sound” production techniques used by Phil Spector. George’s son Dhani and mixer/engineer Paul Hicks have made that happen. The 50th Anniversary remix of All Things Must Pass lets us hear George Harrison’s vocals much better than previously, yet the the songs retain the feel of the original arrangements. Paul Hicks was able to do the same thing for John Lennon’s best songs with last year’s collection Gimme Some Truth.
Despite all the extra demos and outtakes, the most important recordings are the ones on the original album that we’ve known for over 50 years. The improvement in those recordings is impressive. From the first track, the Harrison/Dylan song “I’d Have You Anytime”, the depth and clarity of the voices and instruments are so much better. “My Sweet Lord” let’s you hear George’s voice and the background chorus like never before.
The new remix of “Isn’t It A Pity” is especially revealing. Now we can hear the individual instruments, and how brilliantly they were used to build up the song as it progresses. We’re fully hearing the song for the first time. By the way, like many of these songs, “Isn’t It A Pity” was written during The Beatles’ time together, but wasn’t seriously worked on by the band. It may be better that George was able to keep these songs for his personal vision.
Following “Isn’t It A Pity” are three more of the album’s best songs… “What Is Life”, “If Not For You”, and “Behind That Locked Door”. They all sound great, especially the last one. The remix sounds like George and the band are in the room with you. A surprise for me was “Let It Down”. The remix sounds so much better that it elevates my opinion of the song. “Run Of The Mill” (which every common sense person knows should have been titled “It’s You That Decides”) is perfection. On the outtakes CD, there’s an alternate version with dual guitars that are a bit reminiscent of the style used by The Allman Brothers Band.
The third side of the original album started with one of the album’s very best tracks, “Beware Of Darkness”, and that side’s lineup is strong all the way through to the excellent title track “All Things Must Pass”. The point is, if you liked the songs before, you’re going to enjoy them even more with the greatly improved mixes. Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks deserve high praise for their years of work on this project. Their goal was to improve the sound of these recordings so they will be enjoyed for another 50 years and beyond. Mission accomplished.
There are a bunch of different CD and vinyl versions available. This is my three CD version. It includes the remixes of the original three record set, plus a full CD of outtakes and alternate versions. You can click and zoom the photo to see the songs on each CD sleeve. The set also has a nice colorful 20-page booklet, and a folded poster with the lyrics on the back. There’s a five CD version that has two discs of demos, which I listened to on streaming. A complete list of the songs and the descriptions of the various CD & Vinyl versions (with prices) are available in an earlier article on this site.
The outtakes disc starts with a short verse that shows George’s sense of humor about how long it takes to get a song right. He sings… “Isn’t it so shitty, isn’t it a shame. How we do so many takes, and we’re doing it again.” The outtakes are interesting, but like nearly every box set, you’ll hear why the versions ultimately chosen are better. There’s a new track on the disc that’s an enjoyable eight-and-a-half-minute blues jam, “Almost 12-Bar Honky Tonk”. George recruited top musicians for this album, and they played great together.
The two demo CD’s are divided into Day 1 and Day 2. It’s striking how many songs George Harrison had available to record just six months after The Beatles broke up. He had obviously been writing the songs for years, and now he could bring them to life for the public. Even though the produced versions are better than the demos, you may enjoy hearing how the songs began.
Additional test: After loading the CD’s into my computer at the highest quality possible, I made a playlist of the songs from the 2001 remaster. Then immediately followed each song with the same song from the 2021 remix…in order to get a good comparison. The audio was played on a high-quality stereo system. The simplest explanation of the result is that the 2001 remaster sounded like it was playing on smaller speakers than the 2021 remix. Even though the volume levels were the same, the new remix definitely lets you hear the bass and drums more like the instruments really sound (full & clear). Besides the clarity of all the instruments, the biggest improvement is that the remix sounds more like George is right there with you.
There are always some people who are going to prefer the version they’ve known for 50 years, and that’s okay. But I can only imagine the screams that would have happened if this new remix had been the original version, and Apple later released that thinner sounding version with vocals more buried, and an over abundance of reverb.
I bought the original 3-record set on sale for $6.50 the week it came out in 1970. The album was extremely popular. It went to #1 for seven weeks, and by some counts is the biggest selling solo album by any of The Beatles. Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run may have actually sold more copies, but a 3-record set counts as three sales.
It’s obvious George Harrison would have loved the new mix of All Things Must Pass, and would have been proud of his son for making his wish come true. There’s no other solo album by an ex-Beatle that contains so many great songs. The new remix deserves as many stars as reviewers are allowed to give.
Update: All Things Must Pass won Best Box Set at the 2022 Grammy Awards. That makes Dhani the first Beatles’ son or daughter to win a Grammy. His mom, Olivia, also won as a co-producer. She joins Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono who won Grammys with their husbands.
Extra: Wanted to share this photo from the booklet.