|George playing in Apple Studios, January 1969|
Considering the amount of breathtaking classics he had available back then, it's honestly not too hard to make a great album out of this, and what I first decided on was the opening and closing tunes for each side. The obvious choices were ending the sides with "the epics", namely Isn't it a Pity and Hear Me Lord, and beginning side two with catchy upbeat Here Comes the Sun. The album opener was a more complicated choice, but What is Life with its long instrumental intro, upbeat nature and even "welcoming" feel, make it a pretty natural opener. From then on, I tried to fill out the middle with what I considered the best tracks on the record, while spacing out the Beatles tunes as much as possible. Right out of the gate, I was able to exclude both Window, Window and I Me Mine, as neither were considered by George for release back then, with IMM only being brought back to fill the Let it Be album. So we end up with nine songs to fill eight possible slots, with either Old Brown Shoe or I'd Have You Anytime getting the boot. I, unfortunately, went with the latter, as Old Brown Shoe manages to serve as a more upbeat fun track, which this album, aside from WIL, HCTS and Wah Wah, seriously lacks. However, I still see fit for it to be used as a non-album b-side, for it to not be wasted, or even a single if George is feeling audacious.
A small change that would make one hell of a difference to the ATMP tracks is the lack of Phil Spector on the producer's chair. Instead of him, it would have most certainly been produced by George himself, with orchestrations and co-production by his friend John Barham, who co-produced his Wonderwall LP as well. As a result, the album would probably have a much more stripped down and cleaner sound, more akin to the Abbey Road LP than Spector's reverb-laden Wall of Sound. The personnel would also change a bit, as he hadn't met Delaney & Bonnie and Friends by then yet, so no Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, and no horns. It would most likely consist of the rest of the ATMP personnel, minus Badfinger and plus some other big names at the time like Nicky Hopkins, only this time not playing all at once on the same song. Another big difference in the album's sound would be that Harrison only started developing his now trademark slide technique during the D&B tour, so it would too be absent here. Instead, the predominant guitar sound would most likely be the Leslie speaker combo he premiered on Cream's Badge and used all through 1969. Another change is that some of the songs, most notably Wah Wah, probably wouldn't be as overlong, since we're not talking about a double album anymore, and some editing would be needed to make this fit into two sides.
Regarding the arrangements, What is Life would feature more or less the same arrangement, perhaps without the horns and more prominent backing vocals. Something would hopefully keep its arrangement, and since Paul and George were in good terms back then, I can even see him guesting on bass on this track, preserving its iconic bassline in here. Next up is All Things Must Pass, which would most likely feature more prominent harmonies and none of those distracting horn parts, sounding more like the Band-inspired track that it actually is. Old Brown Shoe would sound more or less like it does now, as would the Band-soundalike Behind that Locked Door, being the last-written track on the record. Isn't it a Pity would sound pretty much like the 2nd version of it on the 1970 album, providing a great end to side one. Here Comes the Sun remains untouched, and Wah Wah would probably get its reverb washed out and get shortened by a good minute and a half. Getting rid of the horns and orchestration would be good too! Let it Down would probably keep its bombastic nature and great orchestral arrangement, while The Art of Dying would exchange its mariachi band thing for a more guitar fuzz-led arrangement. Run of the Mill stays the same, as it too already sounds like a great stripped down track, and Hear Me Lord would probably just tone down on the reverb, while keeping its epicness intact.
This album would be titled simply George Harrison, I think, and to further represent that, the cover is simply a picture of him from April 1969 with his name superimposed at the top. The album clocks in at almost 50 minutes, and would most certainly have Something as it's lead single, followed perhaps by Here Comes the Sun. Commercially, it would no doubt perform pretty darn well, as it was the first real solo album by a Beatle, and before the band even broke up per se. And as for its impact on the breakup, I don't think it would have much impact, since John would already have quit the group even before this record hit the stores. The change I can see happening is that this album, not McCartney six months later, is followed by the breakup announcement and following acrimony and sorrow. As for critical acclaim, I don't think any album with this caliber of songwriting, cast, and performance could be considered weak, and the press at the time would certainly be as surprised and overjoyed by the album as they were by All Things Must Pass. The thing this lacks, for good or bad, is the sheer scope and message that releasing the triple album we all know and love had, showing everyone just how good of an artist he was. But for all the epicness and sheer magnitude this misses, it compensates with simplicity and ease not found on the original, showing you just how much difference a year can make.