Ten Years with ATMP

It’s now my tin anniversary with the amazing album All Things Must Pass. I typically avoid stuff with tons of hype, but this is one of the cases where all the hype is validated. Not counting the pointless, endless, meandering jam sessions and the short throwaway “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” rammed onto the end, this album is near perfection. Even the two songs approaching filler, “I Dig Love” and “Apple Scruffs,” aren’t horrible or skip-worthy. When an album has so many strong, killer tracks, it’s easier to ignore a few less-than-A songs.

There are so many awesome songs on this record, it’s hard to know where to begin. “Awaiting on You All,” “Isn’t It a Pity” (both versions), “Behind That Locked Door,” “Let It Down,” “Let It Roll (The Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp),” “I’d Have You Anytime,” “Hear Me Lord,” “If Not for You,” “Art of Dying,” of course the beautiful, timeless masterpiece title track, so many amazing A+ songs. It’s impossible to choose just one favorite, or even lower it down to a Top 5.

When I downloaded the 30th anniversary edition on iTunes to have with me during my second trip to Israel in 2008, I listened to the new extended version once, then made a playlist of just the original first 18 songs. No jam sessions, no bonus tracks interrupting the flow. There are definitely some albums that have been made even better by CD-era expansion with bonus tracks, like much of The Who’s catalogue, but others, like ATMP, are better left alone. If you try to add to something that’s already almost perfect, the whole thing is compromised and loses value.

This whole record is like a beautiful love song to the Divine. I’ve never found George’s spiritually-inclined songs to be preachy, obnoxious, or sectarian. Exactly the opposite. I love his spiritually-oriented music, including songs like “Life Itself” (from 1981’s Somewhere in England), which start off sounding like love songs to a woman but turn out to be love songs to the Divine. He loved Hashem so much, and recognized that there are many names for the Divine, many ways to approach and honor him/her.

So much of ATMP really sums up George’s whole life philosophy, particularly the title track. It’s right up there with songs like “Any Road” and “Crackerbox Palace” as his quintessential solo songs. And the entire album is ringing proof that still waters can run very, very deep and that you should never underestimate or write off us quiet ones. All that great material he’d been forced to shelf for years, while begging for a bone or two each album, and then finally it all came gushing out when he no longer had to do things someone else’s way.

Bless your spirit, George, and thank you for sharing your gifts with the world and recognizing that all gifts, talents, and abilities ultimately come on loan from the Divine. May your beautiful memory be for an eternal blessing. It was an honor to share Planet Earth with you for 21 years and 11 months.


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