Only the most passionate, or blinkered, Lennon fan could argue that the former Beatle never released a duff solo record. Two of his long-players, 1970’s Plastic Ono Band and the following year’s Imagine, are genuinely magnificent, as shimmering today as they were while blessed by the shine of the time, by the artist’s seemingly innate pop genius. But Lennon wouldn’t produce another collection of comparable quality until 1980’s muddled, but sporadically magical, Double Fantasy – a set forever associated with his murder, just three weeks after its release.
Newcomers to Lennon (if such a person exists), then, should investigate one of his singles compilations – and Power to the People is the latest in a long line of similar packages, following the likes of 2005’s Working Class Hero, 1997’s Lennon Legend and 1982’s John Lennon Collection. What this offers that its predecessors did not is an accompanying DVD featuring videos for all of the 15 featured tracks. Of course, one could just watch these clips on the internet. But if you are without access to the ‘net (although if that’s the case, just how are you reading this?) then no doubt this bonus content will be appealing.
As for the songs, well – surely anything (fresh) yet to be written about Lennon’s most famous hits isn’t fit to print. Imagine will never not feel relevant to the modern world – it offers such a simple message, but one that still cuts deep and should resonate throughout any audience. Would the lyrics seem as affecting without the piano accompaniment? Could the song work as a rocker? Possibly not, but it doesn’t matter – as it is, Imagine is perfect. Cuts from the same album, Jealous Guy and Gimme Some Truth, are equally brilliant (what, no How Do You Sleep?) – the former excellently understated, the latter wonderfully rollicking. Lennon’s sole solo number one in the US during his lifetime, Whatever Gets You Thru the Night, is a barrelling funk number which benefits from the input of a certain Elton John. Woman – Double Fantasy’s tender heart – is sentimental without the schmaltz. Instant Karma is spiky and zesty, sounding every second the speedily recorded anthem it is. Happy Xmas (War Is Over), produced by Phil Spector, is the greatest festive hit of all time (even if that wasn’t Lennon’s intent).
Chances are you have these songs already. But it’s nice of EMI to make the effort, again, just in case…
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JOHN LENNON Power To The People - The Hits (2010 issue UK 15-track digitally remastered CD album which gathers 15 of Lennons most popular songs including Woman Instant Karma! [We All Shine On] Jealous Guy Whatever Gets You Thru The Night Stand By Me Imagine Happy Xmas [War Is Over] Give Peace A Chance. Housed in a digipak picture sleeve containing replicated original album art and booklets with photos and new liner notes by noted British music journalist Paul Du Noyer)