Beatles solo albums can be variable things; sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful and sometimes plonked firmly in the middle of both extremes. Like every other major artist you could care to name the solo Beatles don't hit the bullseye everytime.
However, when they do hit the bullseye, the result is usually a piece of musical magic. This is definitely true of 'All Things Must Pass', my favourite album by George and perhaps my favourite solo album of all time. The word masterpiece springs to mind, and in this case it isn't an overstatement.
Back in 1970, 'All Things Must Pass', must have come as a major suprise to rock critics. During the Beatles years, George had provided a number of classic songs but, for the most part, he was kept in the shade of Lennon & McCartney. That George would go it alone, in the shape of a treble set, and of such high quality, was one of the ground breaking musical events of 1970. The critics could hardly have predicted it.
Of course , the signs were always there. On the Beatles very last album, George provided the best two songs on it, 'Something' and 'Here Comes the Sun'. Yes, the McCartney medley on Side two is brilliant, but it was George who had written the two future standards. Even Frank Sinatra would agree with that! In the final days of the Beatles, George had come up with two of the best songs they were ever to record. No mean achievement!
In other words, George had a definite musical genius and one that was just looking for the right time to flower, 'All Things Must Pass' wasthat time. Like any other record it has it's faults, 'Isn't It a Pity' is a great song but do we really need two versions of it? Version one should have remained the definitive and singular statement.
The albums biggest fault, however, is it's inclusion of a certain third LP. Yes, I do mean 'Apple Jam'! What was George thinking of? After two records without a bad track, why end it all on such a lacklustre and self indulgent note? 'Apple Jam' is a mess and a long one at that. It's half an hour of rambling instrumental knock about, with only a passing nod to melody & structure. Like most fans I don't bother to play the third LP. It's a mystery why George included it, particularly when he had so many other 'proper' songs available and unreleased. That said, the fine qualities of 'All Things Must Pass' far outweigh its faults.
The first two LP's do not contain one bad song. I fact, every song is a winner. The lyrics are excellent, the melodies are well crafted, George is in fine voice and the musicians, everyone from Ringo, to Billy Preston, to Klaus Voorman, all put in top notch support. One should never under estimate the contribution of a genius like Phil Spector either.
For me, personally, another very important aspect of 'All Things Must Pass' is it's spiritual and philosophical nature. Whether you're into Krishna, Christ or neither, George manages to sing deeply religious issues without alienating a mass audience. The message is an intrinsic part of the music, but even atheists can enjoy the album! It manages to preach in a totally honest, frank, entertaining, multi cultural and multi-denominational way. A very difficult achievement.
I can't end without singling out 'My Sweet Lord'. In my opinion, it's one of the finest records ever made. The message, music, majestic guitar playing, rising crescendo of the backing vocals... what a piece of work! It's a shame the subsequent court case deprived the song the status of a genuine original, and no doubt robbed it of elavation to the ranks of all time classic. Unfortunately mud sticks, despite the fact, in my opinion, George is not guilty of plagiarism.
'All Things Must Pass' was, of course, his first proper solo album. He set a high standard for all the other Beatles to try to live up to, including George himself. George peaked with a genuine masterpiece in 1970 and, despite many wonderful albums afterwards he was never to write another 'All Things Must Pass'. Great albums followed, 'Thirty Three & a Third', 'George Harrison', etc, but none can quite scale the dizzy heights of 1970.