Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 1: George Harrison, "Awaiting On You All"

Artist: George Harrison
Song: "Awaiting On You All"
Album: All Things Must Pass
Year: 1970

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To make it as a solo artist is a difficult task to begin with, but if you add in the complication of attempting to do so after being involved with a well known band, the probability becomes quite small.  Though many artists in this position will find small success with their first solo effort, to completely redefine themselves as a singular performer is often nothing short of impossible.  Furthermore, the larger their previous band was, it only makes sense that it makes a solo career proportionately more challenging.  With this in mind, it is nothing short of inexplicable to consider the fact that George Harrison made a strong case for being a more talented solo artist than for being a part of The Beatles.  Though he played a key role in the status and success of The Beatles, the fact of the matter is, once he began as a solo performer, his true talents became obvious, and one can easily make the case that overall, he was the most musically talented member of that band.  Creating musical landscapes that were far more complex and adventurous than anything The Beatles had ever done, as well as anything the other members would do as solo artists, there are simply no other albums in history that can even remotely compare to his epic 1970 triple album, All Things Must Pass.  Filled with a wide range of sounds, as well as some of the most memorable songs in history, there are many high-points from which one can choose a "best" song.  Though it was not the biggest hit off the album, there are few songs that better define the overall talent and vision of George Harrison than one finds in his 1970 song, "Awaiting On You All."

Harrison wastes no time in setting both the tone and mood for the song, as "Awaiting On You All" begins with an upbeat, almost spiraling progression that is filled with a number of instruments.  Few songs in history boast as full a sound as one finds here, and yet even with all the instruments being played simultaneously, the song never becomes cluttered or overwhelming.  This, in many ways, was the genius of George Harrison, as he proved throughout his career that whether it was a full arrangement like one finds here, or a more stripped down sound, he understood in a way unlike anyone else exactly how to ensure that each part of a song has "its place," and does not invade the space of another.  The music seems to come at the listener from every angle, and perhaps the only thing more impressive than the music itself is when one inspects the lineup that was present during the sessions.  Musicians ranging from Eric Clapton to Gary Booker to members of Badfinger all make appearances throughout the album, and "Awaiting On You All" happens to have a man by the name of Ringo Starr handling the drumming duties.  Whether it is the tambourine which is very far front on the mix, the grooving bassline, or the soaring horns, there is simply no way to accurately capture the gigantic presence that defines "Awaiting On You All," as Harrison's dancing guitar almost takes a backseat to the overall instrumentation.  The combined sound is nothing short of pure joy, and this in many ways defines one of the two "faces" that one finds within the songs on All Things Must Pass.

Along with his extraordinary talents in arranging the various instruments, on "Awaiting On You All," George Harrison also solidifies the fact that he is one of the greatest vocalists and lyricists of his generation.  There is a certain swagger to his vocal performance on "Awaiting On You All," and yet he also makes it very difficult for a listener to NOT sing along.  This universal quality to his voice is what set him aside from his former bandmates, as Harrison presented a far more humble and "everyman" style in comparison.  Along with the attitude in his voice, the range he shows on "Awaiting On You All" makes it impossible to argue that he had the most diverse voice in his former band, and through this, one can easily make the case that his talents were under-used within that group.  However, "Awaiting On You All" fits perfectly with the overall themes found on All Things Must Pass, as the record makes no attempt to hide the religious and communal ideals.  Yet there is not a moment where any of the songs come off as "preachy," and "Awaiting On You All" feels more as if it is trying to inject happiness and peace into the lives of all who hear the song.  This, in many ways, is another example of the genius of George Harrison, as he also takes a few shots at organized religion, such as when he sings, " don't need no rosary beads or them books to read to see that you have fallen..."  The fact that the lyrics come off as inspirational without "feeling" religious is one of the most amazing aspects of the song, and Harrison's voice has a sense of honesty and pure happiness than makes "Awaiting On You All" nothing short of infectious.

While there are many songs in the solo catalogs of the other members of The Beatles that one can easily argue were simply "leftovers" from that band, George Harrison completely redefined himself, and songs like "Awaiting On You All" make it clear that his own musical vision went far beyond the confines of his previous group.  This is not to detract from the work of The Beatles, but when one inspects the songs found on All Things Must Pass, it becomes quite obvious why that band could not go any further.  The lead single from the album, "My Sweet Lord," spent more than a month atop the charts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and it was the first number one hit for any of The Beatles as solo artists.  Though that song remains an absolute classic, one can get a far better and more complete picture of the direction in which Harrison was going through "Awaiting On You All."  Few songs in history have as perfectly balanced, yet completely full a musical arrangement as one finds here, and it is the sort of song that even after hundreds of listenings, one can still discover new aspects.  The energy found on the song mirrors the lyrics in the fact that it is so perfect and absolutely beautiful that it borders on spiritual.  There is simply no way to accurately put into words the sheer brilliance that one finds here, and it is much the reason that one must experience firsthand the musical magic that is George Harrison's legendary 1970 song, "Awaiting On You All."

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