Song of the Week – All Things Must Pass, George Harrison

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the release of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.  The timing of the release ensured that the 3 disc, boxed set would be found under the Christmas tree of Beatles fans all over the world.

ATMP may be the best Beatles’ solo album.  OK, John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band (1970) and Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run (1973) may give it a run for that claim.  ATMP was the result of compiling a backlog of great songs after many years of being “subtly sat on” by Lennon, McCartney, and George Martin, as Harrison described his situation to Dick Cavett in a 1971 interview that can be seen on YouTube.  In a June 1970 interview with Al Aronowitz, of Rolling Stone, Harrison said “I thought after I moved into my new house, I’d take a year off and do nothing, but here I am getting ready to make my own album in two weeks.  The point is that we’re all of us writing too much now to put it all onto one Beatle record anyway.”

The album used a who’s who of session musicians including Klaus Voorman, Gary Wright, Billy Preston, Dave Mason, Bobby Keys, Pete Drake, Gary Brooker, Badfinger, Ringo Starr, Derek (Eric Clapton) and his future Dominoes – Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock – coming off tour with Delaney and Bonnie.

Phil Spector co-produced the album with Harrison, so it is predictably drenched in reverb.  Cal Poly’s Professor James Cushing said “The album’s blend of an epic Phil Spector orchestral sweep and the intimacy of Harrison’s voice is the key to the album’s paradox, and why the music holds up (mostly) after a half century, because it’s as big as the Beatles ever wanted to be, bigger than Shea Stadium, while it’s also George taking you aside and speaking to you privately about important matters.”

That brings me to today’s SotW – the album’s title song, “All Things Must Pass.”

A Let It Be reject, “All Things Must Pass” contains some very nice guitar work.  Harrison said, “I wrote it after [The Band’s 1968] Music From Big Pink album; when I heard that song in my head I always heard Levon Helm singing it!”

It also has some of Harrison’s wisest lyrics.

All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So I must be on my way
And face another day

While often interpreted as a statement about the Beatles’ break-up, I think it is much deeper than that.  It reflects Harrison’s spirituality and being mindful and present in the “now” because everything is impermanent – even life.

It’s a song that is very meaningful to me today.

Enjoy… until next week.

Note:  Several of the quotes above are from an article by Harvey Kubernik that was published in Music Connection.

Song of the Week – Tired of Midnight Blue, George Harrison

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

In late 1974, George Harrison released Dark Horse, his fifth solo album that coincided with a concert tour.  Anyone who is familiar with this album or witnessed the tour knows that Harrison sounded different than he had ever sounded before.  His voice was suffering from laryngitis, the result of alcohol, drugs and over working.

His next album, Extra Texture, has often been considered as an inconsequential effort that was produced with little focus simply to take advantage of time available in A&M studios that would otherwise have gone unused (and to satisfy his contractual commitment to Apple/EMI).

But Extra Texture has a few highlights, like its lone single, “You,” that reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Another is today’s SotW – “Tired of Midnight Blue.”

The song’s backstory is that Harrison wrote the it after a night out in LA where he was bored with the phony club scene and wished he had simply stayed at home instead.

The sun came into view 
As I sat with the tears in my eyes 
The sun came up on you 
And as you smiled, the tear-drop it dried.

I don’t know where I had been 
But I know what I had seen 
Made me chill right to the bone 
Made me wish that I’d stayed home – along with you 
Tired of midnight blue.

The track has a beautiful piano intro, played by Leon Russell.  In fact, it has one of Russell’s finest performances throughout.  Jim Keltner was on drums (and cowbell) and session man Paul Stallworth played bass.

Even Harrison’s least important records had some very worthwhile music to hear, and “Tired of Midnight Blue” is a textbook example.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – The Holdup, David Bromberg

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

I was looking for something to watch on TV a few weeks ago and stumbled upon a David Bromberg documentary called David Bromberg Unsung Treasure. It was a pretty good show and can be streamed online here:

I remember seeing Bromberg live for the first time at the famous Passim’s coffeehouse in Cambridge’s Harvard Square back in the mid 70’s. I got to see him again a 5-6 years later at a free summer concert at Rogers Park in Brighton, MA.

Bromberg’s proficiency in all of the sub-genres of American roots music (blues, bluegrass, gospel, R&B), combined with his wicked sense of humor, always made his performances worth attending. Plus he’s a virtuoso on just about every instrument that has strings.

Today’s SotW is “The Holdup”, a song co-written with George Harrison. It appeared on two different Bromberg albums. It was originally on Bromberg’s first album in what’s come to be known as the “Harrison version” because George added his slide guitar to it. The one on Wanted Dead or Alive is known as the “Dead version” because several members of The Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia, Keith Godchaux and Bill Kreutzmann) played on it. I favor the Wanted Dead or Alive version (plus that album had one of the greatest album covers of all time!).

“The Holdup” opens with an intro of piano, guitars and percussion that sounds Spanish influenced. It romps along with high energy before mariachi horns begin to blare.

The lyrics are cousin to Harrison’s “Taxman” (US Revolver) in that “the holdup” refers to the government tax thugs coming to take your money.

STICK UP YOUR HANDS, YOU MUST STAND AND DELIVER,
MY STOMACH’S EMPTY, MY CLOTHES ARE ALL TORN.
OPEN YOUR HEARTS TO THE JOYS OF THE GIVER,
ALL OF YOUR POCKETS ARE TERRIBLY WORN.

THIS IS A HOLDUP, NO WAY TO MISTAKE IT,
WE’RE MEN OF VIOLENCE SO DON’T FOOL AROUND.
IF YOU HAVE MONEY, WE’RE GOING TO TAKE IT,
YOU’LL TRY AND STOP US, YOU’LL END UNDERGROUND.

SO HAND US THE MONEY, DON’T STAND THERE AND SHIVER,
TAX TIME IS COMING, GIVE ALMS TO THE POOR.
OR I´LL PUT A BULLET RIGHT THROUGH YOUR BEST LIVER,
WEALTH IS DISEASE AND I AM THE CURE.

Bromberg has played on the albums of a who’s who of great artists – Bob Dylan, Al Kooper, Ringo, Bonnie Raitt, etc. It’s worth checking out his work with all of these artists and more. He also still performs live in small venues, mostly up and down the east coast. Go see this “unsung treasure” while you have the chance.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Full Moon, Woods and Give Me Love, George Harrison

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

It’s the end of another year, so I’ve been sorting through a lot of the new music I was exposed to this year, trying to compile my favorites. One song I’ve been listening to often is “Full Moon” by Woods, yet another Brooklyn based band. It’s from their 8th album of Americana, With Light and With Love.

“Full Moon” has a breezy Southern California feel. The intro has a strummed acoustic guitar, a wah-wah and a cool slide guitar that sounds like something from a George Harrison solo album. The lyrics are sung by Jeremy Earl in a high register that may remind you a little of Wayne Coyne’s work with The Flaming Lips.

The George Harrison comparison now has “Give Me Love” stuck in my mind.

That song, from 1973’s Living in the Material World, was a #1 hit when it was released. Its lyrics espousing peace and love and freedom and good karma are perfect concepts to think about as we approach the end of another year. And it still sounds great to me after all these years.

Happy New Year!

Enjoy… until next week.