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George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary, Part 1: The High Resolution Stereo Remix

Mark Smotroff takes a fresh look at an album he’s heard most of his life…

There is no question that George Harrison’s 1970 release All Things Must Pass is a classic collection of outstanding song-craft. It was an exuberant and emotional release for the then newly ex-Beatle after years of toiling in the shadows of primary songwriters John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The album is also widely considered by many to be the best of the post break-up solo albums issued by any of the solo Beatles in the wake of the band’s break-up. 

In 2017 a fine new remaster of the original All Things Must Pass album as co-produced by infamous – but legendary and undeniably influential — producer, Phil Spector was released. This was a significant reissue, a marked improvement over the original domestic U.S. pressings in many ways. Please click here to read my review of that still important release.

Despite that fine release’s stature, one of the most anticipated new reissues from the Beatle universe is the newer still expanded 50th anniversary edition of All Things Must Pass  coming out this week on a multitude of formats. Included amongst the many options is a tasty five CD plus Blu-ray Disc compact boxed set as well as a luscious eight-LP vinyl version.

Over the next several articles I’ll be exploring those sets in semi-microscopic, quasi-forensic detail. Today we explore the new Stereo remix which was crafted by Paul Hicks of Abbey Road Studios who worked with George’s son Dhani to create a compelling new vision for what All Things Must Pass could be.

Most audibly in general — and this is in keeping with the work Hicks did on John Lennon’s sets of the past several years — the new 50th Anniversary version of All Things Must Pass feels like several layers of gauze and remnant ‘60s haze have been removed. The resultant mix delivers much clearer vocals, more distinctive bass and drum parts as well as increased detailing on sometimes significant melodic parts which somehow were buried in the wake of Phil Spector’s legendary “Wall of Sound” mix design. 

Inevitably some of Spector’s imprint will remain on the album since he drove the recording process. I suspect that there are very likely certain techniques employed which can’t be “undone” even with a new mix. And that is ok. 

Certainly the vocals are much clearer with a significant amount of reverb removed. Yet the new 50th Anniversary version of All Things Must Pass retains the basic aesthetic of what the album sounds like. 

Now you can hear George’s lyrics quite vividly. Ringo’s (and the other drummers on the album) contributions sound especially remarkable with Kick-drum and Tom Tom fills taking center stage with increased presence and vibrance. Klaus Voorman’s bass lines also shine in this new mix allowing you to hear more of his note-perfect melodic inventions.

It is hard to pick favorite tracks at this stage while listening to the high resolution version of the new 50th Anniversary version of All Things Must Pass on Blu-ray Disc — in 192 kHz, 24-bit fidelity. But some initial stand outs which caught my ear include “Wah Wah,” with clearer less muddied vocals, super clear and particularly distinct saxophone parts (especially on the signature hook breaks and the sax solo!). These are details that were somewhat obscured in the original Spector mix. 

There is less reverb overall in this new mix. Be sure to listen for that great bomb-like sound, now much more clearly audible (I suspect it is the spring reverb of vintage guitar amplifier which either was kicked or knocked over — I know that sound intimately as we intentionally put one of those moments on my old band’s album!).  The sound of the car driving away is also much more distinct (another one of those little details I never paid much attention to on the original,  though it clearly was always there). When the band kicks in after the opening riffs, the impact is that much more powerful. 

I can now hear nice cellos chugging along on “Isn’t It A Pity.” ”If Not For You” sounds particularly brilliant with the big acoustic guitars front and center.

The harmonies on “Behind That Locked Door” sound amazing and Pete Drake’s pedal steel on that song is beautiful and clearer than previous versions.

The drums on “Let It Down” are simply huuuge! If you have ever wanted to hear (what I think are probably) Ringo’s Tom Tom fills with Cinemascopic clarity, you’re going to love this version.

Of course the question remains as to whether you need the new 50th Anniversary version of All Things Must Pass for your collection just for this new Stereo mix? That is a question only you can really answer, depending on how much of a fan of the record you are. I for one am proud to include this in my collection side-by-side with the originals so I can compare and contrast them. 

Ultimately, it depends on your listening needs. This new version will probably be much preferred for listening on streaming platforms, in playlist mixes and on mobile devices given the newfound clarity it presents. If you are new to George Harrison’s music, you may want to at least listen to the original mix somewhere first. Even though this new vision is much more direct and punchy sounding with less of the dated production aesthetic of the times on it, it might be just different enough to warrant experiencing the 1970 mix as a bench mark.  Don’t get me wrong, this sounds like All Things Must Pass but all those little revealed details formerly buried in the original mix add up to something a bit different (again, this is not a bad thing!). 

For example, one of the more wonderfully creepy and haunting moments in the new mix can be found on “The Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll).” There, we now can hear a very audible low voice chanting his name — the original owner of Harrison’s legendary English countryside estate. It is super cool (and it is down there in the original mix, but just barely audible). But, it is also just different enough that purists might balk.  I like it! But it is important to acknowledge that the new 50th Anniversary version of All Things Must Pass is a distinctly different view of the music. Again, I think this is a good thing.

And for those who get nervous about new remixes, I refer back to my earlier statement about the original mix restoration from 2017 being an important release and that isn’t going away any time soon. Rest easy knowing we can always listen to our original pressings (and I will do that as well!).

In a later installation in the series I will look at the vinyl version the new 50th Anniversary remix of All Things Must Pass. But before that, tomorrow we will explore the Surround Sound remix.  So be sure to tune in again here on Audiophile Review!

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