Album reissues are at once a cash cow and tricky business for record labels. In an industry with ever-fading physical media sales, anniversary edition releases are not only a chance for companies to resell old property as new, but a chance to take advantage of already-beloved material to sell elaborate, expensive versions to waiting collectors. The stakes are high, though. With late 60s/early 70s classic rock albums reaching their 50th anniversaries, and said collectors often already owning multiple iterations of the album for sale, any reissue needs to fit the scale of the occasion, or risk falling flat and leaving unsold stock in unvisited retail outlets. Once the vaults have been emptied of suitable rehearsals/alternate cuts and everything has been remastered, it leaves the question of what else to do to justify another rerelease. For entries in the extended catalog of Beatle-related albums, this has recently involved not just remastering, but remixing the music. These, too, are murky waters. For every fan eager to hear the classics reinterpreted, another is concerned about the "sanctity" of the original, and there's typically no way to please everyone.rerecording of "My Sweet Lord" which was said to better reflect his initial conception of the song. Outside of sequencing, the album came out sounding much as it had 30 years earlier. The packaging, however, was substantially altered. The original cover was first garishly colorized, then digitally altered inside the case to reflect the artist's concerns about humanity's tendency to blight its environment. Predictably, these changes, however insubstantial, were met with mixed reception. "My Sweet Lord (2000)" was described as pretty indistinguishable from the original, except perhaps to demonstrate how much Harrison's voice had weakened a year prior to his death. No dramatic changes were made to the packaging thematically outside of the cover art, and when All Things Must Pass was quietly repressed on vinyl in 2010, the 40th anniversary version's packaging had reverted to that of the original.
In keeping with the 50th anniversary Beatles releases of the past 4 years, the most recent edition of All Things Must Pass fulfills all the expected criteria. Bonus tracks are abundant and include enlightening variations on the final album cuts alongside tracks that were never completed or featured on an album. The new stereo mixes by Paul Hicks offer enough changes to provide fresh looks at the songs without changing their basic identities; they more than likely won't please every purist, but are also not substantially enough better remastered to warrant those purists feeling dissatisfied with the other versions already available. For the exceptionally dedicated (or the idly rich), there is a positively decadent $1000 "Uber Deluxe" set housed in a wooden crate, with extras including replica figurines of George and his gnome friends from the cover. Tastefully, this version does not include any music unavailable on other, substantially cheaper variations. For anyone not purchasing the treasure chest, the album's packaging is designed to evoke the original release, from color schemes to a reproduction of the original pack-in poster.; the White Album retains the essence of the original's starkness, but superimposes grayscale versions of the bandmembers portraits on the front. When George Harrison opted to redo the 30th anniversary cover - and indeed, when he was denied the chance to release a reconfiugured version of the album itself - it was, on a small scale, in line with the late career revisionism that had landed George Lucas in hot water with Star Wars nerds only years earlier. These changes are not inherently a problem. In some cases, they may, as the artists will usually claim, faithfully represent their original visions; if nothing else, they certainly serve as a valuable source of insight into the mindset and creative process of those artists at the time they get to revisit their old work. The issue becomes thornier when that artist is dead. In Harrison's case, the mantle has been taken up by his son Dhani, who not only bears a striking physical and aural resemblance to his late father, but was also already closely involved in his musical work before his death. Still, while it's hard to dispute that Dhani Harrison may be the best suited person to make artistic decisions in his father's absence, it's also hard to see one of George Harrison's properties altered in any substantial way without at least passively considering what he might have thought about it had he been around. Sensibly, following George's death, his estate has shied away from altering the album's iconography as much as he opted to 20 years prior. The 2021 edition of All Things Must Pass adds a "50th Anniversary" subtitle to the cover in the stately Abbott Old Style typeface used for the original. The only other alteration is the understated but striking decision to colorize the font and Friar Park treeline in a lush green.
Memories of George Harrison shared by those who knew him since his death in 2001 depict a man who was ambivalent about his time wavering in and out of the spotlight, and at his happiest in quiet, natural settings. He famously wrote "Here Comes the Sun" while playing hooky from a meeting with the Beatles' accountants, wandering around Eric Clapton's garden with an acoustic guitar. The complete package of the 50th Anniversary set strikes a difficult balance between allowing the album to remain itself while asserting its context within Harrison's life as a whole. It would have been an easy choice to make, especially in light of the 30th anniversary redo which never was, to attempt a stripped down version of All Things Must Pass (a la Double Fantasy) and present it as the definitive cut. The gentle remix and bonus tracks instead highlight a 27-year-old Harrison who was both relieved to have left the Beatles for (literally) greener pastures, and also eager to make a grand statement which he only in retrospect might have preferred to tone down. Similarly, the Harrison estate refrained from what could have been a defensible decision to artificially transport George from the photograph into a setting which more overtly emphasized his treasured relationship with nature. Instead, with a subtle tint, they pointed out that it had been there, in plain sight, all along.