The Quiet Beatles' Finest

Author: Bruce Jenkins   Date Posted:5 September 2018 

ALL THINGS MUST PASS

 

In 1970, the year the Beatles finally separated, all four members produced solo albums. Whose came first?

Sounds like something from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, doesn’t it?

So, was it:

  1. John Lennon
  2. Paul McCartney
  3. George Harrison
  4. Ringo Starr

 

If you answered Ringo, upload your smug smile immediately. The humble drummer was the first out of the solo gates with Sentimental Journey, an album of mushy standards from his mother’s playlist of favourites, in March.

Paul followed soon after with the self-titled McCartney. Then—astoundingly—Ringo produced a second album (Beaucoups of Blues). George was third in late November and John released John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (the one with the couple sitting under a tree) in December 1970.

So much for the facts.

Which of these, you might well ask, holds up the best nearly fifty years later?

For this music lover, the answer is clear. The quiet Beatle’s All Things Must Pass takes the gong.

 

George’s frustration with getting his songs onto Beatle albums is well documented. This resulted in the backlog of outstanding music that cascaded onto All Things Must Pass, filling four sides with such variety and quality that picking highlights is a challenge.

The singles were the dreamily spiritual “My Sweet Lord” and invigorating “What is Life”, but there is much more to savour.

…A plaintive plea for heart-opening in “Behind That Locked Door”

…Joy and rapture in “Awaiting on you All”

…Some existential pondering in “Art of Dying”

…The riffing anger of “Wah-Wah”

There’s plenty more, almost all of it top shelf.

But All Things Must Pass is a three record set and we’ve only mentioned two discs.

The final LP is called Apple Jam and is distinguished from the well-produced song-sides by having a different label: a jar of, er, apple jam. The contents are different too, being exactly what the label suggests… a compote of instrumental jams that many listeners only play a couple of times before hiding it under the giant poster of a very hairy George (beautifully re-produced, as is the whole box, in the 2016 re-issue). Although there is some uncertainty around who played on which tracks, it is known that three of the four the jams included Eric Clapton (who played on the album proper as well), Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle and Bobby Keys. All but the last of these were in the process of forming Derek and the Dominos. But that’s another story.

All Things Must Pass boasts a big sound and songs both powerful and plaintive. George Harrison never bettered his first studio release. Some would argue none of his former band mates did either.

 

© Bruce Jenkins 2018

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