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Album by Album: John Lennon

Old 09-22-10, 04:10 PM
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Album by Album: John Lennon

Since the McCartney one has gotten good responses, and there are a few Beatles threads circulating, I thought we'd go ahead and do an album by album for John Lennon. Originally The Beatles' leader, by the time the band split Lennon was disillusioned and world weary. He was one of the most famous people on the earth, but he was not happy. With Yoko Ono at this side, he underwent primal scream therapy (the same therapy that would prompt Tears for Fears to record their first album, The Hurting), and dealing with the loss of his mother, and his place in the world. It was in these conditions that he recorded his first album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (so named because the band also recorded Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, a great album in its own right).



Tracklist (All songs written by Lennon unless otherwise noted):
1. Mother
2. Hold On
3. I Found Out
4. Working Class Hero
5. Isolation
6. Remember
7. Love
8. Well Well Well
9. Look At Me
10. God
11. My Mummy's Dead

2000 Bonus Tracks:
12. Power To The People
13. Do The Oz (Lennon, Ono)

Allmusic review (5/5 stars):
The cliché about singer/songwriters is that they sing confessionals direct from their heart, but John Lennon exploded the myth behind that cliché, as well as many others, on his first official solo record, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Inspired by his primal scream therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov, Lennon created a harrowing set of unflinchingly personal songs, laying out all of his fears and angers for everyone to hear. It was a revolutionary record — never before had a record been so explicitly introspective, and very few records made absolutely no concession to the audience's expectations, daring the listeners to meet all the artist's demands. Which isn't to say that the record is unlistenable. Lennon's songs range from tough rock & rollers to piano-based ballads and spare folk songs, and his melodies remain strong and memorable, which actually intensifies the pain and rage of the songs. Not much about Plastic Ono Band is hidden. Lennon presents everything on the surface, and the song titles — "Mother," "I Found Out," "Working Class Hero," "Isolation," "God," "My Mummy's Dead" — illustrate what each song is about, and charts his loss of faith in his parents, country, friends, fans, and idols. It's an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon's catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.

It's worth noting that this is not Lennon's first solo album (Like McCartney and Harrison, who also had some level of side-project while The Beatles were together). These consisted of three experimental albums recorded with Yoko Ono in the late 60's: Unfinished Music 1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music 2: Life with the Lions, and The Wedding Album. I'll admit I myself have never heard these albums in full, mostly because I think Lennon and Yoko's experiments with musique concrete and conceptual John Cage style work has been done better by others.

Lennon also released Live Peace In Toronto, recorded live at the Toronto Rock and Roll Festival after Lennon had decided to leave The Beatles (but before he announced it). The first half shows Lennon geared up and ready to jump into music without his former bandmates. The latter half is Yoko's music, so I imagine most who own the album have skipped that entirely.

Lennon also released one of his more popular singles, "Give Peace A Chance" in 1969. Recorded live at one of his bed-in events, the song sometimes delves into nonsense before resurfacing with the chorus "All we are saying/Is give peace a chance." It became an anthem overnight, picked up by the multitudes of anti-war activists. More introspective was "Cold Turkey," Lennon's chronicle of dropping his heroin addiction. Like a raw exposed nerve, the song, which ended with Lennon screaming incoherently at the top of his lungs, was a precursor to what we would get with Plastic Ono Band.
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Old 09-22-10, 05:17 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

You know, it took me a real long time to warm up to much of Lennon's solo work. As a lifelong Beatles fan, I was familiar with John's "hits" (Imagine, Cold Turkey, Instant Karma, Give Peace A Chance, the "Double Fantasy" era) but I was more of a Paul/Wings guy do to radio familiarity. Listened to a lot of Top 40 radio in the 70s and early 80s until I discovered Zeppelin, weed, and porn, I think all in the same weekend, but growing up there wasn't a lot of Lennon's solo stuff on the radio I was listening to.

I caught a theatrical screening of "Imagine: John Lennon" freshman year of college and afterwards I stopped by Newbury Comics and picked up POB. I was tempted to get the film soundtrack, but it was full of useless crap like "Twist & Shout" (ostensibly to sell records) and many of that album's songs were originally on POB anyhow. Went back to my dorm room, put the CD on, and gave it a listen.

Wow. WTF had *I* been missing?! A metric ton apparently. This album grabbed me and didn't let go for nothing. It was pure, raw, visceral emotion, and it was punchy, sweaty, and real. And if nothing else it worked beautifully as music. It wasn't as roundly polished as his work with The Beatles. John wasn't sanding off the edges for Paul or for George Martin or anyone else.

If nothing else, there's an overall feeling of loneliness to POB, but an honest loneliness. If there's any songs that I don't particularly respond to, it's the rage of "Well Well Well" and the preachiness of "Working Class Hero". I like WCH as *music*, but as many have mentioned, Lennon was far from working class growing up and CERTAINLY not when he recorded the song. If he was espousing the virtues of honest labor and simple values as opposed to the subhuman phonyness of corporate soul-killing society, no problem. But then he finishes it with his "if you wanna be a hero, just follow me". That makes you another demagogue, John.

But maybe because I find the song so frustrating in that regard, it intrigues me more. I dunno.

Overall, this is a great album. Of all the initial solo Beatle albums, I can't decide which between this and ALL THINGS MUST PASS I prefer, as they are both excellent for different reasons. I'd probably got with POB as its a tighter, more consistent experience. Regardless, this album is a classic no matter how you slice it.
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Old 09-22-10, 05:21 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

The album opens with "Mother," which begins with deep, ominous bell tolls. Lennon sings "Mother, you had me/But I never had you" while playing single, echoey piano chords. The song is purposefully simple, as Lennon wants your focus on the lyrics, where he tells of how his mother left him (killed by a car when he was 16) and his father abandoned him (left when he was a child, only returning when he saw how famous his son had become). The song ends with the repeated call of "Mama don't go/Daddy come home," which rises to a shout, with Lennon screaming the words, entreating his parents to return. Easily one of the most stark and confessional songs ever recorded.

As if realizing just how bleak "Mother" was, "Hold On" steps back. Resting on a jangly guitar, Lennon sings of reassurance to himself, Yoko, and the world. And while the song is short, it's never slight.

"I Found Out" is not a confession, but an accusation. Lennon sings out against blindly following the lead of others, himself included. "Now that I showed you what I been through/Don't take nobody's word what you can do." He's also heavily critical of religion "From Jesus to Paul" (clearly a reference to both the Apostle and the Beatle). By now, Lennon was being championed as a hero of the peace movement and the voice of a generation, but he had no time for hero worship.

"Working Class Hero" is one of Lennon's most famous songs. An intimate song that also works as a huge anthem, Lennon uses the opportunity to point out many of the world's hypocrisy and is disgusted at what he sees. "You think you're so clever and classless and free," Lennon intones, "But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see." In a way, Lennon correctly predicted how the hippie ideal would ultimately fall apart.

"Isolation" is another bleak song hidden by a beautiful melody and piano part. Lennon sings of his fears "People say we got it made/Don't they know we're so afraid." Lennon drags out the title world, giving it added weight "I-hi-hi-sooooo-laaaa-tion!" "The sun may never disappear," he muses, "But the world may not have many years." There's no sense of redemption here, as side one comes to a close.

Side two opens with "Remember," built around a galloping piano. "Remember" Lennon sings, his voice piercing through the music, "How the man/Used to leave you empty handed/Always, always let you down." But, Lennon tells us, "If you ever change your mind/About leaving it all behind/Remember, remember today." He then tells us not to be sorry about what's come before and not to worry about what we've done. The song ends with the call, "Remember, remember, the 5th of November!" followed by an explosion. This is, of course, in reference to Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the British Parliament on the 5th of November, 1605.

Then, in the midst of all this depression, Lennon drops in perhaps the most beautiful song he ever wrote, simply titled "Love." "Love is real," he sings, "Real is love/Love is feeling/Feeling love." For all the times Lennon wrote songs about love with The Beatles, this is one of the first times that it truly feels genuine. Again accompanied by a simple piano part (played by producer Phil Spector) and an acoustic guitar, Lennon sings simply and from the heart, and to this day "Love" is still one of his most affecting songs.

"Well Well Well" rides on a fuzz guitar and a thumping bass, and seems to be more a recording life with Yoko than anything else. "We sat and talked of revolution/Just like two liberals in the sun/We talked of women's revolution/And how the hell we could get things done." The song adds more screaming at the end as Lennon shouts "Weeeeeell" over and over.

"Look At Me" is another confessional, this time from a more vulnerable place than "Mother," where it seemed like Lennon was on the attack. The music is almost precious as Lennon makes a plea for identity. "Look at me," he sings, but not as a man on a stage, not as a musician or a spokesman. "Who am I supposed to be?" he asks. "Look at me/Oh please look at me/My love," Lennon cries. At the end he declares that no one can no who he is but himself. Another song that could have felt at home on The White Album.

"God" was Lennon's formal declaration that The Beatles are over, and that he is just a man, not a leader. The song begins with "God is a concept/By which we measure/Our pain." Lennon repeats this before launching into a laundry list of things he doesn't believe in, which is: Magic, I-Ching, Bible, Tarot, Hitler, Jesus, Kennedy, Buddha, Manta, Gita, Yoga, Kings, Elvis, Zimmerman (Bob Dylan), an Beatles. After all that, what does he believe in? "I just believe in me/Yoko and me/That's reality." He then declares the dream over, saying "I was the the walrus/But now I'm John." Knowing how this was going to make people feel, he says "And so dear friends/We'll just have to carry on" before reiterating "The dream is over." Certainly downbeat, but perfectly representative of where Lennon was at the time.

The album closes with "My Mummy's Dead," a homemade recording. Lennon sings "I can't explain/So much pain/I could never show it/My mummy's dead." The song is brief, and Lennon sings it almost in a monotone, but in a way that makes the pain all the more palpable.

To this day I haven't heard an album as bare and confessional as Plastic Ono Band. Despite having Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector as producer, the album is free of strings, horns, and the many other things Spector layered on to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass. The album is just John's voice backed by piano, guitar, drums, and bass. The lyrics and Lennon's clear emotional involvement blow me away time and time again. It's almost like listening in on someone's therapy session. Yet, despite all this, Lennon never fails to make the songs catchy and memorable, and the album works as both a cohesive artistic statement and as a collection of individual songs. Lennon never did better than this, although he came close with Imagine and Double Fantasy. In many ways, this is the quintessential Lennon album and should be his true legacy, even over the work he did with The Beatles.
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Old 09-22-10, 05:31 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post

To this day I haven't heard an album as bare and confessional as Plastic Ono Band.. In many ways, this is the quintessential Lennon album and should be his true legacy, even over the work he did with The Beatles.
I have to agree. That LP still blows me away after all these years.
Sorry to be so short winded but I smoke.
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Old 09-22-10, 06:14 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

I hate to admit this, but I didn't hear this album until last year when I bought the Lennon Japan re-releases in mini paper sleeves. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I had hated the song Mother when it was first released and had bought the single without hearing it first. (Hey, I was young.) I agree that the album holds up quite well.
I also really like Live Peace in Toronto. I never bothered with Two Virgins and Wedding Album.
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Old 09-22-10, 07:16 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Originally Posted by Pizza View Post
I never bothered with Two Virgins and Wedding Album.
You didn't miss anything there.
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Old 09-23-10, 12:05 AM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Of the three experimental albums John & Yoko did, I actually enjoy Two Virgins. I use to listen to it quite a bit while editing.
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Old 09-24-10, 07:57 AM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Plastic Ono Band is one of my favorite albums of all-time, and I think it's better than anything The Beatles released.

There, I said it.
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Old 09-24-10, 08:08 AM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

God might be my favorite Lennon song of all time. Under the right circumstances that song can just wreck me.
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Old 09-24-10, 02:57 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

This is my favorite Lennon solo album as well. It's not that easy to get into at first, but it really rewards those with the patience to study it.
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Old 09-26-10, 01:04 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Imagine (1971)


Tracklist (all tracks by John Lennon unless otherwise noted):
1 Imagine
2 Crippled Inside
3 Jealous Guy
4 It's So Hard
5 I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier
6 Gimme Some Truth
7 Oh My Love (Lennon, Ono)
8 How Do You Sleep?
9 How?
10 Oh Yoko!

Allmusic review:
After the harrowing Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon returned to calmer, more conventional territory with Imagine. While the album had a softer surface, it was only marginally less confessional than its predecessor. Underneath the sweet strings of "Jealous Guy" lies a broken and scared man, the jaunty "Crippled Inside" is a mocking assault at an acquaintance, and "Imagine" is a paean for peace in a world with no gods, possessions, or classes, where everyone is equal. And Lennon doesn't shy away from the hard rockers — "How Do You Sleep" is a scathing attack on Paul McCartney, "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" is a hypnotic antiwar song, and "Give Me Some Truth" is bitter hard rock. If Imagine doesn't have the thematic sweep of Plastic Ono Band, it is nevertheless a remarkable collection of songs that Lennon would never be able to better again.

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Old 09-26-10, 02:06 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

If Plastic Ono Band was confessional and personal, then Imagine is testimonial and global. The title song is a call for peace that went even farther than most peaceniks at the time would have liked. Lennon asks the listener to imagine no heaven, heck, no religion at all, no countries, no possessions, nothing that would perpetuate the cycle of the haves and the have-nots. The track immediately became Lennon's signature tune, the one that would come to define him as a solo artist. Even to this day it's seen as the definitive song about peace.

Lennon being Lennon, of course, couldn't resist throwing his gaze back on himself. Both "Crippled Inside" and "Jealous Guy" are personal tunes, but unlike Plastic Ono Band, Lennon sweetens the pot, making both songs more palatable to the masses. Lennon himself referred to Imagine as the sugar-coated Plastic Ono Band, and with these tracks, it's easy to see why. "Crippled Inside" matches lyric of despair against a bouncy, bubbly musical backing. Lennon sounds playful as he sings "The only thing you can't hide, is when you're Crippled Inside!"

"Jealous Guy" is the most famous track on the album after "Imagine." Against a bed of strings, Lennon sings a heartfelt plea, apologizing for bad behavior. In its way, the song is as confessional as anything on Plastic Ono Band, but due to the production, it's more accessible upfront.

The next three songs represent, to me, the heart of the album. "It's So Hard," "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier," and "Gimme Some Truth" take the raw lashing out of "Working Class Hero" and turns it into a trio of jams that Lennon aims right at the heart of a war-torn society. "It's So Hard" is a cry against all the things that modern day life requires with a throaty sax underscoring the tune. "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier" brings back the fuzz guitar as Lennon sings about all the things he doesn't want. "I don't want to be a soldier" he sings "I don't want to die." At over six minutes, the track runs a bit long, but finds a good groove and sticks with it.

"Gimme Some Truth" is an angry rant about the world's leaders of the time (although it's still supremely applicable today). With soaring guitar parts between verses, this is the most effective of the three tracks. It doesn't wear out its welcome like "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier," and you can feel Lennon's venom as he practically spits out the words. As good of a protest song as I've ever heard.

"Oh My Love" is a contemplative tune, perhaps meant as a counterpoint to the bile of the previous three. Lennon quietly sings about how his true love has finally opened his eyes to the goodness of the world. He's just subdued enough that the whole thing doesn't fall into the trap of preciousness.

"How Do You Sleep?" is an unabashed attack on Paul McCartney. "Those freaks was right/When they said you was dead," Lennon sings. The album's back cover also features Lennon holding the ears of a pig in a very clear parody of the cover to McCartney's second solo album, Ram. Perhaps Lennon felt bad about making such a bald-faced attack on his former partner, as he re-appropriated the song and reworked it into "Steel and Glass" on the Walls and Bridges album.

"How?" occupies the same space as "God" did on Plastic Ono Band, except this time Lennon is yearning, not demanding. Questioning which way to go next, Lennon doesn't have any answers, ending the song with "Oh no" as the string section trails off.

"Oh Yoko!" is one of Lennon's many love songs to his oft-attacked wife Yoko. A bouncy, jaunty tune that is easily the most upbeat on the whole album, Lennon sings "Oh, Yoko, my love will turn you on," closing the album out on a positive note.

While I think Imagine is just a smidge less impressive than Plastic Ono Band, it's easily one of Lennon's best and the last full album he would deliver with this consistency (Double Fantasy being fantastic but only half the songs are Lennon's).
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Old 09-26-10, 02:10 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

/thread

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Old 09-26-10, 02:50 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Oh, come on now. If we're going to do a thread for every McCartney album, we could certainly do one for Lennon, who had a better overall career.
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Old 09-26-10, 03:02 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

I was just kidding. Although I'm most familiar with the first two albums, I look forward to reading the discussions of his other work. Much more so than the McCartney thread (although that is an interesting read as well).

I'm thinking of picking up the new version of Double Fantasy and maybe a few others based on recommendations from this thread. Not sure I'm interested enough to spring for the new box though.
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Old 09-26-10, 03:23 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

That new box looks like a cash-in to me. The existing remasters sound excellent and will probably drop in price once that box comes out. I'm curious to hear the mix on Double Fantasy but that's it.

Besides, there's no way these new remasters sound better than the MFSL gold disc versions of Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, and Mind Games.
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Old 09-26-10, 03:48 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Kind of disappointed you didn't include Two Virgins, Life with the Lions and Wedding Album. I'd be interested to read the comments on those albums.
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Old 09-26-10, 03:53 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

You guys are free to comment on them all you like.
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Old 09-26-10, 06:29 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

How does everyone feel about the acoustic Double Fantasy remix? I'd be more interested if they did it with a variety of songs from his career rather than one album, but it might be great. I'm also waiting to see what the reviews are for the re-releases.
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Old 09-27-10, 09:57 AM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Imagine is not quite as strong as POB, but its accessibility and more conventional hooks make it an easier listening. It's still every inch a classic album, and one that I never tire of listening to. I see both albums as companions to each other -- a Rubber Soul/Revolver comparison, if you will -- and the potency of this one-two punch would never be duplicated again by Lennon.

Not to say that there isn't worthwile material to come, mind you.
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Old 09-27-10, 11:10 AM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Imagine is my favorite Lennon song, but Jealous Guy is right up there too.
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Old 09-28-10, 02:47 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

I also liked this album almost as much as POB. Imagine is my favorite Lennon solo song.

I also remember that I frequently lifted the tone arm when Oh Yoko! started because I didn't like the song and it was conveniently the last one on the LP.
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Old 09-28-10, 03:05 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

I never bothered listening to Oh Yoko! until Wes Anderson featured it in the movie Rushmore. Then I wanted to smack myself; it's a pretty likable song.
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Old 09-30-10, 05:03 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Some Time In New York City (1972)



Tracklist:
1 Woman Is the ****** of the World (Lennon, Ono)
2 Sisters, O Sisters (Ono)
3 Attica State (Lennon, Ono)
4 Born in a Prison (Ono)
5 New York City (Lennon)
6 Sunday Bloody Sunday (Lennon, Ono)
7 The Luck of the Irish (Lennon, Ono)
8 John Sinclair (Lennon)
9 Angela (Lennon, Ono)
10 We're All Water (Ono)
11 Cold Turkey (Lennon)
12 Don't Worry Kyoko (Ono)
13 Well (Baby Please Don't Go) (Ward, Ward)
14 Jamrag (Lennon, Ono)
15 Scumbag (Lennon, Ono, Zappa)
16 Aü (Lennon, Ono)

Allmusic Review:
The first album co-billed to John Lennon and Yoko Ono to actually contain recognizable pop music, Some Time in New York City found the Lennons in an explicitly political phase. This was understandable -- at the time, Lennon was neck-deep in his struggle to remain in the United States, a conflict rooted in his antiwar and antiestablishment politics and the enmity of the Nixon administration. At the same time, having written, recorded, and released the music on the Plastic Ono Band and Imagine albums -- and musically exorcising many of the emotional demons associated with aspects of his past, and working out a musical and publishing "divorce" from Paul McCartney -- he was now reveling in the freedom of being an ex-Beatle and exploring music and other subjects that he'd never felt fully free to delve into during the first decade of his career. This album was actually a long time in coming, as there had been hints of Lennon moving in this direction for years -- he'd long looked upon Bob Dylan with unabashed envy, emulating his sound at moments ("You've Got to Hide Your Love Away") and striving for some of the same mix of edginess and depth, once the group got beyond its original two-guitars-bass-drums and love songs sound; "Revolution" (and "Revolution No. 1") and the anthems "Give Peace a Chance" and "Power to the People" saw him trying to embrace outside subjects in his work, and Some Time in New York City carried his writing a step further in this direction, introducing John Lennon, protest singer -- true, he was ten years late, in terms of the musical genre (even Joan Baez and Judy Collins were doing pop-style records by then), but it was a logical development given the time in Lennon's life and the strife-filled era with which it coincided. Seeking his own voice in all of its permutations, and living amid the bracing pace of New York City (which made London, much less Liverpool, look like a cultural and political backwater), Lennon entered a phase similar to Dylan's 1963-1964 period, represented by songs such as "The Ballad of Hollis Brown," "The Death of Emmett Till," and "Talking John Birch Society Blues." Except that where Dylan had toned down that side of his work, never officially releasing his versions of two of those songs (the two most confrontational, in fact), Lennon didn't hold back, delivering his topical songs with both barrels smoking, expounding on such topical subjects as radical feminism, the Attica prison riot, the treatment of activists John Sinclair and Angela Davis, and the rising strife in Northern Ireland (which was on its way to becoming for the British the same kind of military and political quagmire that Vietnam was for America). Lennon had some advantages in getting heard, as an ex-Beatle, not an up-and-coming talent as Dylan had been a decade earlier, and if the subject matter of his new songs puzzled or alienated some fans, he also still had a huge amount of rock & roll street cred, which was only enhanced at the time by his having made Nixon's enemies list; at the time, there were a lot of people to whom that mattered more than his past as a Beatle -- at the April 24 antiwar rally in New York in 1971, where he appeared with Yoko Ono and the Elephant's Memory Band, he showed himself to be among the few musicians who could get a quarter of a million or more people singing and chanting spontaneously, in unison. And Some Time in New York City was a logical progression from that event. Especially in the case of Lennon's songs, there is an appealing rock style to the material here, even if the lyrics limit the record's appeal. And even Yoko's songs have something to recommend them, "Sisters, O Sisters" representing a peculiar form of reggae-pop, "Born in a Prison" possessing a strange pop ambience, and "We're All Water" offering a preview of late-'70s punk/new wave rawness (Lena Lovich may well have worn out that track). At the time of its release in June of 1972, all except the most devoted fans were put off by the album's topicality and in-your-face didacticism, and the bonus live disc was challenging in other ways. Heard today, the studio disc rocks in enough of the right places, as well as drawing on influences ranging from blues to reggae, to surprise listeners and even delight them -- the relatively tuneless "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" manages to favorably recall elements of "Come Together," and both it and "New York City" have some of the best electric guitar ever heard on a Lennon album, while "John Sinclair" shows off Lennon's blues playing (on a steel National guitar, no less) brilliantly. Even those who were of the left at the time may wince at "Angela" some decades on, but "We're All Water" has lost none of its intellectual or musical resonances, even if Nixon and Mao are long dead. The Elephant's Memory Band may not be the best set of musicians that Lennon could have been working with, but that was less important than the fact that he seemed to respond to their club band R&B and jazz background with a roots-oriented approach to songwriting that's ultimately refreshing. Co-producer Phil Spector gives most of the music a larger-than-life ambience, with a reverb-drenched, rhythm-heavy approach recalling his Wall of Sound productions, which gives a lot of even the most didactic songs a big-band pop/rock smoothness, when the songs weren't lean and stripped down like "John Sinclair" (which sounds in terms of texture like a Furry Lewis side from 1930). Some Time in New York City was released with a "free" bonus disc containing a live medley of Lennon's "Cold Turkey" and Ono's "Don't Worry Kyoko," from an antiwar rally at the Lyceum in London with George Harrison, and an appearance by the Lennons at a Mothers of Invention concert from the Fillmore East. The Lyceum tracks were well recorded and, apart from both going on too long, exude a certain power; these may not be the songs you'd have had performed at the one recorded post-Beatles concert appearance by Lennon and Harrison, but "Cold Turkey" is good, if a little disorganized near the end, and "Don't Worry Kyoko" has some pretty fair rock & roll jamming going on behind Ono's vocal acrobatics; the Fillmore stuff sounds less good technically, and captures a spontaneous moment that's mostly wasted, though not without a moment of personal musical reflection from Lennon in "Well (Baby Please Don't Go)." Alas, the presence of the second disc now makes this the most expensive of all Lennon's CD releases, virtually ensuring that it remain the least known of his mainline albums, especially for any fans who weren't around in 1972.
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Old 09-30-10, 05:12 PM
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Re: Album by Album: John Lennon

Some Time In New York City gets a really bad rap, but in my mind that just makes it thoroughly underrated. Lennon's tunes, while now dated due to the political lyrics, still contain strong melodies and impassioned performances. Ono's songs might have surprised people who only know her for her lyric-less, atonal music, and I actually enjoy the live tracks. It's not his best album by a long shot, but it's much better than the fate it's gotten, which is to be practically ignored.
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