George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (STCH 639) (1970)

By common consent (but not actually) the best Beatles solo album*, All Things Must Pass promises and delivers on a grand scale. That the scale tends to overwhelm the quiet Beatle’s voice is one of the record’s main faults.

However, I don’t care to review George’s first proper solo album, rather, I want to discuss a peculiar phenomenon I, and perhaps I alone, associate with the Lp, viz. the way the tempo of various songs seem to slow down and speed up.

Between the ages of 11 and 18, I cleaned the second floor of the Dowds-Rudin office building. For my pocket-money, I mopped, waxed, vacuumed, cleaned sinks, toilets, &c. I had a tick list and could, as long as I did everything on the list, take as long as I wanted.

Usually, I gave myself a long break, which consisted of fetching a large Sprite from the lunch counter at SS Kresge’s downstairs, returning to my dad’s studio office (yes, I got the job through nepotism) to pore over bound volumes of late 60s/early 70s Rolling Stone at length while listening to either No Dice by Badfinger, Harvest by Neil Young or All Things Must Pass on a vintage solid state console. All three Lps (and likely the record player) had come from the local Goodwill. My copy of Pass was slightly warped giving it a slightly lurching feel, enhanced by the extensive use of George’s slide and Pete Drake’s pedal steel guitar. I assumed it was a unique fault.

And yet, years later, I sensed this same warped effect, though perhaps not as pronounced, on my 2001 CD re-issue, especially on “Awaiting On You All” and the title track. I thought maybe this was some sort of aural hangover. But when listening this morning to yet another second-hand boot faired vinyl copy (without the poster, dammit!), the characteristic wooziness reared its head. The records are in VG+ condish, not warped, nor did the Lps cause the tone arm to wobble at all.

So…am I unlucky? Is it in my head? Or was this a designed effect**?

*that would be Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, by several kilometres.

**I’m not counting the novelty song, “It’s Johnny’s Birthday”, on the Apple Jam disc, whose mechanical tempo changes are obvious and deliberate; however, this does suggest the variable-tape-speed card was in the deck.

Published in: on September 19, 2012 at 8:33 am  Comments (11)  

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ll have to give my copy, with poster, a listen and see if I can detect this lurching phenomenon.

  2. i feel much the same about george harrison as i do about ringo i.e. an ordinary guy and average (at best) musician who was fortunate to cross paths with perhaps the two most revered figures in popular music (regardless of what i think of them), but one word perhaps sums up his own musical efforts: yawn!

    presumably the reason for this deluge of material was because he barely got any of his stuff on the beatles’ albums, but perhaps that in itself should have told him that his songwriting was second-rate. however, just like ringo, i suppose in the wake of the split their fans were happy to lap up whatever the fragmented parts offered, regardless of quality…

  3. Can’t say I agree with the sentiments here. I think All Things Must Pass is a great album (a great double album, that it – Apple Jam is pointless). And I would definitely put it above Plastic Ono Band, although that would be my second Solo Beatle choice, followed by Imagine. (Pretty stuck after that!)

    Anyway, I’ve never noticed the pitch wandering. I have had other LPs like this in the past, but as far as I can tell, my CD of ATMP is spot on.

  4. I like All Things (and the man’s work in his former band), but Spector’s homogeneous production over-sells the songs here, running roughshod and trampling everything in its path; I can’t listen to more than a couple sides before ear fatigue sets in. I know that Harrison felt he had to make a bold statement as he stepped out of the relative shadows, but a more modest record would’ve dated less badly.

    Other Beatles solo best albums: Band on the Run, Walls & Bridges, maybe Tug of War, Venus & Mars and Material World. After that the trail goes a bit cold, though there are lots of really good singles.

  5. my choice of ex-beatles’ tracks worth giving a listen to if i’m stuck for nothing better:

    lennon – “jealous guy” (although i prefer roxy’s version), “dream #9”
    macca – “coming up”
    ringo – “photograph”
    harrison – nothing (as opposed to “something” ha ha)

    • “Photograph” was a Harrison co-write on which he sings and plays guitar. Wilber’s virtual George single.

  6. aha! got me there!

  7. Just a few weeks ago I bought a cheap portable turntable to spin a bunch of old records I had stored in my garage decades ago. One of the singles I played was My Sweet Lord and I experienced exactly what you recall. It had that wobbly sound as if the hole in the record was off-center.

  8. Proof positive. 🙂

  9. I have heard the slight tempo changes all along…. And also in another copy I obtained….. Makes you think something is dragging on the turntable!!!!!

    • I am not alone. 🙂

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