23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Double Fantasy (Audio CD)
Ah the Summer of 1980! In July we had Bjorn Borg beating John McCenroe in what Must be the greatest tennis match of all time. Easily. And then we had the premiere of the video of possibly the greatest Abba song of them all in August on 'Top Of The Pops'. 'The Winner Takes It All'. And then later that month, the news that John Lennon was returning to the studio after five years of Nothing to record a new album. To those reading who are under the age of 40: this was the greatest news you could ever hope to receive at the time and came as a complete shock. The rest of you fans over 40, you know what I'm taking about. 'Walls And Bridges' was Six Years Old and the press had made Lennon out to be Howard Hughes to the point where you actually almost believed it. Then suddenly we started seeing pictures in the Daily Mail of a clean shaven (and cool looking it must be said) Lennon strolling through the streets of New York with Yoko on his way to a recording studio. A Recording Studio. The prospect of new songs from Lennon was nothing short of Incredible And Unbelievably Exciting.
We heard as the weeks went by that this would be a joint affair between John and Yoko, seven songs each. And I will own up to how I reacted to that news at the time: Thoroughly Pissed Off. Obviously with hindsight this reaction seems ridiculous and of course we are now grateful for what we got. Plus the fact that by now we would probably have had another 50 songs from him. At least. OK, to the album in question.:
The lead off single 'Starting Over' is an enjoyable romp without really attempting to be anything more. Here Lennon was not at all self conscious, indeed thoroughly confident in his vocal and lyrically this song sets the tone for at least Lennon's contributions to the album. Blissful domesticity. The very thing he had cascaded Paul McCartney for 9 or 10 years earlier by the way! The only exception to this is the next Lennon track (actually Track 3) I'm Losing You' which is the only thing close to the Walls And Bridges / Plastic Ono Band style to be found here. A few words on this Double Fantasy band: Tony Levin is fantastic on bass throughout this album, his bass lines are constantly inventive and catchy and....well Just Brilliant. Sorry Klaus but this is the best bass to found on a Lennon solo album. Thank you Tony. And Earl Slick. You are fantastic on lead guitar. Andy Newmark you were probably the luckiest guy on the planet at the time, getting to play on the superb 'George Harrison' album in 1979 and then on this album less than two years later. Andrew, this is what you should say at The Gates Of St Peter. Hugh and the rest of the guys are outstanding too. This band was brilliant and I think Lennon was brave and right to choose new musicians for his comeback. The third Lennon track 'Clean Up Time' is perhaps the least outstanding of the seven Lennon tracks here. But the lyric is wonderful in its celebration of the happiness Lennon was so obviously feeling at the time. 'Beautiful Boy' is an ode to his 5 year old son. And I have to admit to being rather underwhelmed by it on first listen. But this songs grows on you. Big Time. The middle eight is perhaps the best part with Levin's bass leaping octaves left right and centre and Lennon singing such moving lines as 'I can hardly wait...to see you come of age'. Paul McCartney selected this as one of his Desert Island Discs in 1982. Say No More.
'Watching The Wheels' written on the piano in the style of his greatest songs is one of two bona fide Lennon classics on this album. A brilliant lyric which articulates beautifully just why Lennon was happy doing Nothing for five years. Meeting the critics head on here, but...here's the difference...here he does it with humour, a touch of sarcasm and there is not a nasty line to be found anywhere. The second absolute classic is the next Lennon track 'Woman' which is just about the perfect love song. From anyone. Up there with McCartney's 'Maybe I'm Amazed' (1970) and 'Three Times A Lady' from the Commodores (1978). The last Lennon track 'Dear Yoko' is a fun upbeat romp, but not really in the same league as the great songs here. In fact, the studio outtake version available on numerous bootlegs is actually looser and better probably. Not often I say that.
And so to the Yoko tracks. Well I admit that none of us wanted Yoko within a hundred miles of this album at the time of its release. Let alone contribute half of the tracks. But with hindsight this reaction is utterly ridiculous. Yoko's songs on this album are among her best, certainly far more contemporary, and this album works pretty damn well as a joint effort. Two different styles actually complementing each other and lyrically this is a moving and thoroughly convincing Joint Statement from Man And Wife. How often has that been done, either before or since? Yoko's lyrics are actually less up in the clouds than Lennon's, perhaps more truthfully representing the problems and challenges in any marriage. Lennon was just not in the mood for such negative thoughts on this album. At least not publicly. So he let his wife do the talking. Classic Marital Stuff.
But before we had a chance to appreciate this album for what it was (Lennon himself said he would not be able to talk about it objectively for two years!), before we had a chance.....something happened. Someone chose to kill John Lennon.
For that individual, when the time comes, the meeting with St Peter will be a short one.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Sep 2008 12:11:26 BDT
M. G. Abbott says:
Another fine review from Mr Heaton - surely it won't be long before he is asked to provide sleeve notes for a Beatles-related project.
Posted on 9 Feb 2010 14:27:14 GMT
D. J. Roberts says:
I agree John Heaton's reviews are very good even if you don't agree with them. I really enjoy them. But would you please desist from telling us at any available opportunity how good he is - once is enough - and in particular stop posting the same form of words under different reviews. Thanks.
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