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Customer Review

on 21 February 2005
This album is Lennon's biggest commercial album, discounting compilations of course of which only 'Shaved Fish' (1975) display any kind of continuity, being put together by Lennon himself. And it finds him pretty damn close to his artistic peak too. It has truly stood the test of time and one can listen to this album and enjoy it in nearly any mood, which is more than be said of its triumphant predecessor 'JL Plastic Ono Band' from the previous year. Lennon himself called this album the same as the previous one but with 'sugar coating for conservatives like yourself', a comment written directly to Paul McCartney. Another example of a vindictive and unnecessary comment which at the time were all too prevalent, but no less irrelevant all the same. The differences are more than sugar coating for sure. For a start, George Harrison contributes on most tracks and not just in the background on rhythm guitar. Of his three solos on this album, the first is the slide guitar on 'Crippled Inside' not only instantly recognisable to afficionados as being the work of Mr Harrison but is also wonderful to hear. I can think of only a handful tracks from George's own work where George has fully utlised his slide guitar skills: 'Beware Of Darkness' and a few others from 'All Things Must Pass' (1970) and 'Sue Me Sue You Blues' from the following album 'Living In The Material World' (1973) and bits and pieces on 'Thirty Three And A Third' (1976) and more on his following album 'George Harrison' (1979). But by and large George seems to have been somewhat embarrassed his slide guitar talents after his first and perhaps second solo albums. Here on Crippled Inside' he is playing it with gusto! The second solo on 'Gimme Some Truth' is so brilliant it is hard to describe, and perfectly compliments the viscious diatribe of Lennon's brilliant lyrics. And the third does the same on 'How Do You Sleep', which despite its ridiculous and unwarranted attack on Paul McCartney, remains a giant of a song. Paul must have contemplated quite a few things when he heard this, such is the brilliance and directness of the playing and singing here. We are eternally grateful to Linda for talking him out of such things.
You are perhaps wondering why I have spent so long discussing George Harrison's contributions to a John Lennon album. It is simply because it is this and this alone which takes 'Imagine' in my opinion to a higher level than its predecessor. The songs on the first album were just as good, in fact probably better on the whole.
But this album's highlights are so high that they make you quite giddy. The title track is absolutely timeless of course....simplicity and beauty in its tune and Utopian lyric. Does it really matter than this song is an overly romantic vision of the human ideal? Written by a millionaire? It is still wonderfully uplifting and timeless. Surely, as surely can be, this song's lyric will provide food for thought just as long as the human race is in existence. Whereas McCartney probably reached his absolute zenith with 'Hey Jude' or his sublime contributions to the 'White Album', 'Let It Be' and 'Abbey Road' albums, for Lennon's zenith, you need look no further than this album's title track. And you don't have to be a raving, liberal Lefty to say this.
'Jealous Guy' is also a masterpiece, although it remains a mystery why The Beatles didn't make more of this one when it was first presented to the group early in the White Album sessions. Too similar to McCartney's 'Mother Nature's Son' according to Lennon's recollection. A pretty lame excuse if you ask me. No matter. It surfaces on this album as the absolute classic it undoubtedly is. 'It's So Hard' is a good Pastic Ono Band style rocker, 'I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier' similar in style but somewhat less appealing it has to be said. There are two more ballads hidden away on here, of which 'Oh My Love' is outstanding and 'How' is somewhat less impressive. The closing track 'Oh Yoko'is a joyous ode to Yoko, but slightly pales on repeated listenings.
All in all, when this album is good it's so good that it's not even funny. The odd lesser moment and a nasty attack on McCartney are easily (well, quite easily) forgiven amidst such brilliance. Lennon would struggle to match the consistent quality of this album on his next two offerings (plenty of great moments not withstanding of course!) and it wasn't until 'Walls And Bridges' (1974) that we saw him in full clover again.
When he finally returned to the music scene in 1980, he produced some wonderful songs. And if he had released 14 songs of his own instead of sharing that album with Yoko, we might be talking of the 'Double Fantasy' album as Lennon's artistic zenith. Which it very nearly was, despite that. But he didn't. And so the Imagine album must remain as the pinnacle of a great solo career.
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars