Brand new 2010 digital remaster of the classic John Lennon album. Considered together, Imagine
and its startling predecessor, Plastic Ono Band
, paint a vivid picture of the state of John Lennon immediately post-Beatles. If Plastic Ono Band
found John working out his hitherto repressed feelings about childhood and stardom, then the abiding impression of Imagine
is John's one certainty in this storm of doubts and recrimination: his love for Yoko. "Jealous Guy", with its peerless vocal and a spot-on arrangement for strings, is sublime. "Oh MyLove" is all delicacy and melodiousness. "Oh Yoko!" is a celebratory finale with none of the cloying self-obsession of John and Yoko's home movies.
On two other songs where Yoko is not the dominant theme, she is nevertheless invoked through the "oh no, oh no" refrain. That's not to say that lovesongs predominate. Half of the material covers similar terrain to Plastic Ono Band, but the themes are balanced by hope and even light-heartedness. "Crippled Inside" is leavened by its country stylings including Dobro, courtesy of George Harrison, who also spices up two of the album's pivotal tracks, "Gimme Some Truth" and "How Do You Sleep?" (the latter isa vitriolic attack on Paul McCartney). Outside of Plastic Ono Band,
this may be Lennon's finest solo album.
John Lennon’s most famous album is not what it seems. A huge commercial success both upon its release and immediately after Lennon’s murder, Imagine is generally seen as the star’s inevitable return to conventional pop after the ferocious flurry of avant-garde experiments, protest singles, primal confessionals and live rave-ups of the Yoko Ono-led 1968-70 period. But, beyond the title-track and the presence of Phil Spector and George Harrison, Imagine is a weird, ramshackle collection of eclectic gems that uniquely links Lennon the raging politico (and lippy bitch) with Lennon the peace-loving dreamer and adoring husband.
So, among the jams and co-producer Spector’s clever mix of orchestral pomp and punkish lo-fi, the listener’s interest in these 10 songs is inevitably drawn toward five of the most notable songs of Lennon’s career. Gimme Some Truth is one of the greatest protest songs ever recorded, a glistening product of the tension between Lennon’s rapier-wit fury at the hypocrisy of political leaders, and the sheer Beatle-esque beauty of melody and arrangement. How? is both beautiful and profound; a calm-after-the-storm orchestral ballad that captures the eternal confusion of Being Human with humble grace.
If you only know Jealous Guy as Roxy Music’s worst-ever record, then the original, with its courageous and accurate portrayal of male neediness and insecurity, will be a tear-jerking shock. And How Do You Sleep?’s attack on Paul McCartney is still a bizarre listen, the track’s lazy, laconic white soul stroll hitting Lennon’s vicious indiscretions home with a swaggering arrogance.
And, of course, there’s Imagine. Imagine you hadn’t heard it 5,000 times already, and been told to hear it as either the 20th century’s greatest hymn to human transcendence, or a sickening ode to millionaire hypocrisy and complacency. Then what you might hear, beneath the clamour, is the rough prettiness of the piano, the humility of the vocal, the skill of the arrangement and song craft. Good luck with that.
Elsewhere, Crippled Inside and I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama are enjoyable roots-rock jams masquerading as protest song, Oh My Love and Oh Yoko! are the first of many simpering tributes to Lennon’s bird, and It’s So Hard is a sexual double-entendre in search of a decent tune. Sprinkled among the benchmark Lennon songs listed above, they make for an album of abruptly shifting moods and a sense of fun and mischief that were fated to never appear again within Lennon’s work. It’s this spontaneity and joy that makes Imagine Lennon’s most popular solo album, if not his best.
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