On the All Things Must Pass  Remix “The Quiet Beatle” Gets the Final Word (Revised lacquer cutting info)

When George Harrison, the youngest Beatle, passed away November 30th, 2001 at age 58, Allan Kozinn’s front page New York Times obituary referred to him as “the quiet Beatle”, which during the group’s touring years, is what the self-effacing youngest member of group was often called.

True, he didn’t say much at press conferences, but after a series of early unusual and not particularly distinguished originals like “Don’t Bother Me” (“So go away, leave me alone, don’t bother me”) that sharply contrasted with Lennon-McCartney’s cheery love fests, and “You Like Me Too Much” a catchy “like song” on the Help! soundtrack with a few creepy sentiments (“I will follow you and bring you back where you belong”) he bloomed as a songwriter (Lennon is said to have helped Harrison with the very personal “I Need You” also on Help).

Harrison returned to negativity with the memorable distorted fuzz guitar accented “Think For Yourself”, which he once said might have been inspired by “the government’. Harrison was the Beatle who more directly complained politically in song about England’s oppressive tax structure (“Taxman”) and the country’s rigid class system (“Piggies”) well before Lennon got on his political high horse. On Revolver Harrison expressed in song his writing frustrations (“I Want to Tell You”). He brought his deeply personal religious convictions to many of his sitar-drenched songs and on “Love You Too” merged the spiritual and the carnal. “I Me Mine”, which finally made it onto Let It Be explores similar territory.

Often overlooked because the album is sort of an “outlier” are “It’s All Too Much” and “It’s Only a Northern Song,” two gems from The Yellow Submarine Soundtrack. The same is true of “Blue Jay Way”, one of Harrison’s most atmospheric and memorable tunes, originally found in the U.K. on the 2 7” E.P. Magical Mystery Tour.

Good as these were, Harrison’s best on Beatles albums songs were yet to appear: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”.

After consuming the sprawling eight LP box set containing the remixes of the original three LP set and five LPs of demos it’s easy to imagine that Harrison might have written “Here Comes the Sun” in anticipation of liberation from The Beatles and the beginning of his solo album career, though Harrison wrote it after “playing hooky” from an Apple business meeting and hanging out at Eric Clapton’s house.

Page three of the full-sized perfect bound book contained within the slipcase along with the three and five LP boxes begins with a George quote: “Even before I started, I knew I was gonna make a good album because I had so much energy. For me to do my own album after all that—(italics, mine) it was joyous. Dream of dreams.”

After all of what? After competing with and being overshadowed by the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team? We’re left to surmise the meaning of after all that but clues are sprinkled throughout the book’s spare annotation. The choice made here was to mostly let the music speak for itself rather than include detailed notes like on the Lennon reissues. Quiet. Very George-like. The track by track notes are short but useful for those who have not read George’s autobiography or are not familiar with the history and drama.

Ringo played on All Things Must Pass, John got a birthday message. Paul McCartney is not mentioned here. That can’t be an accidental omission, can it? Even when Harrison managed to get his songs included on Beatles albums, he was given less time to produce them than did the ones penned by Lennon/McCartney. Bob Dylan probably helped George with his songwriting more than did his Beatles partners.

We learn from quotes in the book that “My Sweet Lord” was not inspired by (or a rip-off of) The Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine” but rather was inspired by The Edwin Hawkins Singers’ version of “Oh Happy Day” (written in 1755 by Philip Doddridge). More galling to Harrison was that the Rolling Stone review of All Things Must Pass claimed that “Isn’t it a Pity” sounds borrowed from both “I am the Walrus” and “Hey Jude”, when in fact it was written in 1966 before either of those songs and had been “floating around” since the Revolver sessions but rejected.

Right or wrong you could interpret the album title All Things Must Pass to be about The Beatles. At the time and even now it seems a kind of morbid title for an album and the cover photo doesn’t help! Yet on two LPs Harrison delivers some of his finest songs, many of which are as uplifting as “Here Comes the Sun”, but some like “Isn’t it a Pity” and “Art of Dying” clearly are not. Side 1 is genius programming giving you a tender intro with “I’d Have You Anytime”, co-written by “Bobbie” Dylan, “My Sweet Lord”, the liberating “Wah-Wah” and back down to earth with “Isn’t It a Pity”. It covers all of Harrison’s bases. The album’s emotional highs include “What is Life”, which has an early 60’s Motown-ish or Brill Building joyful energy, complete with horns and strings.

No sense in a full play-by-play of a 50 year old album so I won’t, other to say over time it becomes better and more consistently great though the “bonus” 3rd record’s jams remain pretty monotonous. It’s almost as if Harrison was saying “OK, The Beatles did a double? I’ll one up them with a 3 LP set”.

The Remixed Set Presentation

I got the 8 LP set containing the original 3 LPs in its own box that duplicates the original plus a second box containing the 5 LPs of demos presented in chronological order, plus the really well presented book all of which fits into a large slip-case. There are 70 tracks in total including 47 bonus demos, outtakes and jams, 42 of which are previously unreleased.

The paper stock, the cover art—everything about the physical presentation gives The Electric Recording Company a run for its authentic packaging money. It’s physically impressive in every way as was the pressing quality. Eight LPs and not a single pop, click or other defect. A few of the records were slightly “dished” but summertime shipping makes it impossible to lay blame and it was easy to flatten them with a reflex clamp and/or vacuum hold down. I also was sent the equally well-presented Blu-ray box set that allowed me to compare the high resolution mixes at 192/24 bit resolution with the CDs and the CDs with the LPs. I also gave the 5.1 mix a listen.

Before getting to the sound, the 5 LPs of “umastered” (but recorded at Abbey Road so they intrinsically sound good) demos presented in chronological order are a real treat for any George fan who loves this album. You learn so much listening to the raw takes and for those alone, the set is worth picking up if you’re inclined to dig.

The Remixed Sound

Consistency between formats was impressive assuming you like what Paul Hicks did here. The original U.K. Apple pressing begins with a warm, though deep bass shy take of “I’d Have You Anytime”. The better my system got over the decades the better George’s voice sounded and the more it pleasingly revealed itself from within the “deep” mix. The “My Sweet Lord” original is also bass shy but has a pleasing sparkle on top and then all hell breaks loose on “Wah-Wah”. What a joyful “get even” with the Beatles bind he’d been in mess. What a cast of characters! Ringo, Billy Preston, Clapton, Badfinger and Bobby Keyes. It was the first track recorded for the album. It’s bright, it’s underwater, it’s undisciplined and it’s a big break loose party ostensibly celebrating a guitar pedal, but really about much more, that Spector mixed for its global effect. Resolving detail was not on his mind. 50 years of playing it always produces a smile, emotional release and sometimes laughter. George wasn’t happy with the mix.

I pored through the book before listening to any of this and it made clear that Hicks and George’s son Dhani decided to bring clarification to the re-mix. In going through all of the individual stems they found buried instruments, or that what they thought was one instrument was actually something else or even a synthesizer, though few listening to the original mix heard many if any synth parts. At one point Hicks says something like “Once you hear (that), it’s hard to unhear it.”

The goal on Hicks’ masterful Plastic Ono Band Remix was to bring forward and make more natural John Lennon’s voice, which had been pushed to the back because Lennon didn’t much like the sound of his own voice. The mix was successful.

Here the goal was to clarify and expose Spector-buried musical threads and to produce greater overall coherence as well as to restore the original mix’s clearly attenuated bottom end. When I removed the first LP from the sleeve I noted the GZ stamper information but no mastering credit. I thought that meant GZ cut lacquers, which is what I first reported especially since there are no lacquer cutting credits in the box set's credits. Whoever did cut lacquers also chose to not identify him or herself in the lead out groove area, so I mistakenly assumed GZ did the cut. There's a comment near the end from GZ correcting my mistake so I'm correcting it here. GZ did not cut lacquers. We do not know who did. However the vinyl sounds very similar to the other formats. I apologize to GZ Media for my mistake.

I was happy to have the CD/Blu-ray set too so I could be sure of what I was hearing when I played the LP set. The various formats sound remarkably close to one another timbrally and dynamically so clearly the producers were on top of the vinyl mastering choices.

After the first play on vinyl my first thought was “Uh oh, many buyers with warm-ish sounding systems are not going to like this” and sure enough a few emails arrived shortly after the set was released complaining of “bass overload”. One arrived today complaining that the set sounds like a “4 Men With Beards” mastering and that’s about as nasty a comparison as can be made.

I’m listening downstairs on a pair of costly speakers being reviewed that have been measured in-room and while I can’t be shown the measurements. I was told something that hardly surprised me: they measured pretty much “flat” and are full-range. These speakers do not have mid-bass bloat nor are they particularly warm sounding. The top end is fully extended thanks to Accuton diamond tweeters not known for their high frequency reticence. Just when you think these speakers are bass-shy if you play something that goes really deep (try Terje Isungset’s Winter Songs), you get body slammed.

If you are well-familiar with the original All Things Must Pass mix, listening to this new mix you will hear familiar tunes as never before. Hicks has restored the bottom end and skillfully stitched together and exposed heretofore congealed and/or buried musical threads to produce a superior musical balance. Harrison’s voice sounds rich.

As an archeological dig the remix gets at “11”. You’ll hear the album as if listening to a sonic microscope but there’s a tremendous price paid for the neat and orderly presentation. The top end is incredibly dull. There’s no sparkle or air. Horns are dull, transients are dull, there is mid-bass bloat that casts a thick warmth over everything. You have to crank it way up to restore any life whatsoever to the proceedings. And the level of compression is absurd. It’s DOA.

The CDs sound the same. The Blu-ray played upstairs on my home theater system sounds the same. The records played downstairs sound the same. The once joyous “Wah-Wah” turns into mudville.

When I read some of the hysterical praise for this remix I just have to wonder who these people are and what they are listening on. A Salon writer says it’s a “feast for the ears”, claiming “…the original album shimmers into life with the wider sonic palette made possible by technologies that would have been unimaginable five decades earlier.” That’s just unimaginable bullshit. Nothing in this remix “shimmers”. In fact, you could argue that the goal was to remove all “shimmer” to cut the reflections and allow you to see further into the goings on. If so, mission accomplished.

He adds “Hardcore audiophiles and Beatles historians will surely revel in the profundity of outtakes and production notes”. I’m not sure what that even means if anything.

To paraphrase an old metaphor, while I’ve been a consistent fan of Hicks’s remixes, here he zeroes in on the trees, but completely loses the forest. I really don’t understand it.

Soft, overly-compressed, dull and completely lacking in top end sparkle, this remix is anything but a “feast for the ears” unless you really crank it up and then it becomes listenable as an archeological dig, especially if getting “inside” is your goal, but it’s drained of all emotional content that’s in abundance on the demos, so get this for the superb packaging (gets an "11" packaging, annotation and overall presentation) and listen to those 5 LPs and you'll appreciate George Harrison's brilliance and better understand his end of Beatles predicament as never before.

(Bobby Whitlock removed his video critique, which had been embedded here. Not sure why, though it was pretty tough:

Music Direct Buy It Now

COMMENTS
Audiophilehi's picture

Thanks Mike for the review. I unfortunately have to agree with your assessment. I was so disappointed when I listened to this pile of crap that I was looking so forward to that it now goes on my bottom shelf in the pay me no mind section. I do however like the extra tracks.

Michael Fremer's picture
Put your original version in the really nice box with the 5 LP demo box and put the re-mix "elsewhere" or put the original LPs in the re-mix box.
Audiophilehi's picture

Excellent idea…thanks.

JJCalvillo's picture

Ordered it online yesterday, THEN finished the review and watched the Whitlock video and thought "oh $#!%" Considered using the new packaging for my original, but came to and changed my order to three other worthwhile records instead.
George is probably spinning over this.

andrewslattery's picture

That's EXACTLY what I did with my OG Mint Sgt Peppers vs my 50th Anniversary. The Original has a crappy sleeve. The 50th is beautiful. The OG gets the nice sleeve :)

JoeHarley's picture
Michael Fremer's picture
I'm now going to embed that here
Jazz listener's picture

but I get the sense Bobby doesn’t like the sound quality on this release, lol.

RinziRadio's picture

Does it have to be an original UK pressing? Or early US? or other country as alternative? (I've heard good things about the 2017, sourced from digital, I believe). Prices, of course, are astronomical on the second-hand market. Given the success of the Beatles Mono box I wish they would just let someone like Kevin Gray do an all-analogue mastering on these kinds of titles. But I know that's unlikely, more's the shame....

andrewslattery's picture

I have the Japanese original and it's incredible. The Aussie original also uses original UK plates

Michael Fremer's picture
The 2001 digital remaster sounds hard and crunchy. George said on that one he wished he could "revisit" the mx to make it less reverberant and it's almost as if in the mastering they tried to "dry it up" but the results are incredibly unpleasing at least to my ears. There wasn't a 2017 remaster so I'm assuming you meant the 2001 edition. The U.K. cut by George Peckham is still the best bet IMO
kozakjj's picture

Mickie, I have a 2017 3 LP version it is in discogs:

https://www.discogs.com/George-Harrison-All-Things-Must-Pass/release/988...

Cut by Ron McMaster and pressed by optimal. I believe he spaeking about this master done 2017.

StonedBeatles1's picture

Rabbi Moshe:
Sad to see that I agree with your review, not being a fan of any of the work(?) previously done by Paul Hicks or Schmucky Giles Martin at all. I would prefer a great mastering of the the best available original mix available.

Seeing the DR posting of the Dolby Atmos stereo mix elsewhere, given more breathing room, I wonder if that specific portion of the set would sonically be any better or tolerable even though it's the same mix?

Any thoughts on a comparison of this mix with the 2010 mix that George Harrison partook in?

Excellent review!

firedog's picture

Is a remaster, not a remix.
The earlier remaster only include a remix of "My Sweet Lord". It was a different version, though.

StonedBeatles1's picture

I meant the 2000 remix.
My bad..

jkrussell's picture

Sigh. You affirmed what I didn’t want to accept. This is just an “ok” version of an album I adore.

firedog's picture

This recording is not bass heavy; if some of you listeners think it is, maybe your setup is bass heavy.

As far as the rest of the review and lack of high end making it sound dull - that's not what I hear. I think your description is highly exaggerated.

I hear more clarity, George's vocals sound better, and the various elements aren't buried in the mix. The original "Wall of Sound" sounded in many cases like a "Mud Wall of Sound".

That isn't the case here.
I like it.

Michael Fremer's picture
is not "bass heavy" upstairs or down. The reissue isn't "bass heavy" as much as it's mid-bass heavy/wooly.
eatapc's picture

I downloaded the 24/96 Super-Deluxe set this weekend and was disappointed. Dull. I assumed that the tracks themselves are unrecoverable, given Phil Spector's belief that reverb should be baked into the original multitrack, not added on later. I wonder if the dullness results from Hicks' attempt to remove some reverb digitally with sophisticated processing. Dunno.

I've used iZotope's De-Reverb plugin for my video editing, but only for voice tracks that need to be salvaged because interviewees had to be recorded in echoey rooms. WIth a voice track from an interview, the main concern is intelligibility, not keeping the audio quality pristine. It's hard to strike a balance between reverb removal and clarity in the highs or presence region.

Bill-B's picture

Having a bad ebay habit some years ago I accumulated 15+ pressings of All Things Must Pass from around the word. All different to say the least. A few awful that barely got played & never need to be addressed again. Usually around beginning of Fall starts a new shootout season taking the prior years 'winner' against past runners up. From the first song on the remix I thought... 'Let It Be Naked' & this may just take some getting use to. In all reality Naked always shines. Bottom line: While in agreement many negative assessments the re-mix will always stand on it's own as certainly 'different' though always worthy of a fresh listen.

Wickedexile's picture

Hey, maybe needs to have arm adjusted up to compensate for GZ cutting angle.
VTA adjustments often produce miracle transformations on my system.
I am in the cult of VTA adjustment and enjoy wringing out maximum musicality from each lp by ear with very little effort.
Hoping this is the case for this George masterpiece remix.

Michael Fremer's picture
All versions sounded very similar: LP, CD, Blu-ray.
Wickedexile's picture

I did read and digested your view, but being an eternal optimist and knowing how the digital formats are most often trumped {excuse my Language} by the vinyl version, I still hold hope for my VTA CULT allegiance.
I have salvaged many lps with an effective VTA vaccine.

Wickedexile's picture

Please keep an open mind to having your arm administered with a VTA vaccine for just this release.
Hopefully it is successful.
Maybe that’s why there is such a great divide on the sound quality on this mix.

Michael Fremer's picture
Did you read the review? The vinyl, CD and Blu-ray all sound the same. Even after changing VTA on the Blu-ray player it didn't help. I listened to the hi-res stream and it sounded like the others, even after I checked and recalibrated the VTA...he wrote sarcastically
Wickedexile's picture

Yes, yes, as previously mentioned I understood exactly what you wrote.
Just hoping optimistically that the vinyl remix would possibly profit from vta calibration.
Haven’t purchased my copy yet and seeing if that option was explored for your review.

Wickedexile's picture

I made the mistake of asking my question with what appeared as sarcasm.
I don’t own the 2021 remix on vinyl and trust your opinion since 1988 with many wonderful recommendations since. Subscribed to every issue of fabulous THE TRACKING ANGLE.
Only wanted to know if in your vinyl remix listening, after hearing the poor results you adjusted your arm height to see if it had any positive effects.

Michael Fremer's picture
I'm sure if I raised the arm way up I could make it both brighter and less bass heavy! It's a kind of fix. I'll try it!
Wickedexile's picture

Thanks for the kind response.
It would be wonderful if it helps.
Your update would be most appreciated.

Michael Bear Arlt's picture

After going on those ATMP "this remix sounds like a unicorn crapped a rainbow in my ear" threads on FB, I believe I found out why it sounds crappy on a good system, it was mastered to sound like fairy dust on a Crosley record players and Sony mini "all-in-one" stereos.

azmoon's picture

The demos really expose Georges voice for what it was - quite weak. Maybe he didn't have a sore throat when he recorded Dark Hoarse after all. And he couldn't really carry a tune.

Forget Phil Spector's personal life for a moment - this album is what is is because of his production. He must have been wondering what he could make out of the weak demos, but he made it into a great sounding, hit album. And kept the vocals where they belonged - in the back.

It was a struggle to get through listening to the demos/outtakes. This is a 1 or 2 listen release and then a dust collector.

soulsfred's picture

Like other people here, I thought there was something wrong with my system...
I had a bad feeling about this 50th Anniversary Remix, so I bought the cheapest version, the 3 CD box and saved a lot of money.
Thank you (Sweet) Lord !

thomoz's picture

By getting the 3-cd, you missed most of the session outtakes and demos, the best bits of the box. I for one would not bother with the 3-cd as it contains the most problematic sounding parts of the reissue and skips all the good stuff

soulsfred's picture

I will continue to listen to my 1970 uk pressing lp,. Usually I'm not a big fan of outtakes and demos, I usually only play them once but I really love this album so you (and other messages here) convinced me to get these demos and outtakes!

orthobiz's picture

I have the original USA release. How about a rundown of other releases, which one do you recommend?

Thanks,

Paul

Michael Fremer's picture
If you read the "Making of ATMP" on the S&V site you'll see that George Peckham used the original tapes to cut both the U.K. and American versions, one at Abbey Road and once at an American mastering house. For the rest of the world he send tape copies with mastering instructions and required test pressings before okaying it. Not sure where a reader got the idea that they sent metal parts anywhere. Based on that, only the American and British versions are cut directly from master tapes, the rest are from copies. Only the U.K. and American are mastered either by George Peckham or under his supervision. Based on that, given the American Capitol pressings were inferior to EMI Hayes-Middlesex pressings, I'd say get a U.K. original now before the price goes through the roof!
thomoz's picture

Some German or Dutch originals from this period are midrange heavy or compressed, but not this title. Here’s a vote for first-pressing Holland as an affordable alternative to the UK. My original US copy sounds underwater by comparison.

andrewslattery's picture

Hi Michael,

What are your thoughts on the original Japanese press? I've got it and to me it sounds INCREDIBLE! It completely destroys any digital version I've ever heard.

Analogue+Fan's picture

George Harrison is the louder beatle, and the most powerful in the all-star super rock group : the Traveling Wilburys.

He is undoubtedly the leader of the most stellar rock group in the history of American rock.

Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, they thought they were in the group more transcendent than any other, incusive more than beatles. Because they played electric guitar as well, with fine delicacy, finesse, and power, or better than Bob Dylan, or George Harrison, together.

But, George Harrison is the louder beatle.

dg110233's picture

Very, after reading Michel’s review I said can’t be that bad. I was wrong about that. I streamed the hi-res file couldn’t even get half way through I'd Have You Anytime before turning it off. I have the 1970 album I will listen to. But I will still buy the 5 LP set just for slip case, outtakes and demos. Bobby Whitlock was a little to over the top but hate to say it correct. Good one Michel !!

Michael Fremer's picture
To be correct here. I'd have rather it be a great "revision" like Hicks' other re-mixes...
Martin's picture

For this and for posting the video. Otherwise I may have actually gotten the thing.
I'll stick with my UK original. Which I think sounds very good.
Loved the video.
Funny though, for me the video has since yesterday suddenly become unavailable. I can no longer see it. It says it is now private. Did someone tell Bobby Whitlock to take it down or change the privacy settings?

Michael Fremer's picture
But I suspect someone persuaded him to take it down. If you stream, you can hear 192/24 on one of the services and hear for yourself.
RG's picture
DinaMoe's picture

Michael, in a recent episode of the Good Ol' Grateful Dead Cast, to my utter amazement, the great Bob Matthews launches into a great little tid-bit story that you should check out regarding George Harrison. 13:00 mark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLmnvIy_OKA

James Kelly's picture

I just purchased Kind of Blue by Miles. The UHQR version. Sounds like it was just recorded instead of 62 years ago. Why couldn't ATMP be remastered the same way? In addition, just listened to the new Dark Side of the Moon SACD. It too sounds like it was just recorded. I wonder if Dhani Harrison feels like he made a great injustice to his fathers masterpiece?

Michael Fremer's picture
Could never sound like those productions for various reasons. However it certainly could have sounded better than it turned out and it needn't have been so dynamically compressed.
Tom L's picture

...on my lawn mower EVERY time I use it. You wouldn't believe the difference it makes!

Michael Fremer's picture
Sound better? Or does it more affect the sound of the grass clippings?
Tom L's picture

I can actually hear the grass grow!
The Zoysia makes a gentle, pleasant burbling sound.
Crabgrass is all bass and distortion.

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