CD Review: John Lennon

John Lennon
Gimme Some Truth

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Double Fantasy Stripped Down
Capitol
by David Chiu

In his solo career, John Lennon recorded only seven studio albums in ten years (eight if you count the posthumously-released Milk and Honey). What is remarkable is how much artistically consistent music he was able to produce in that span –some artists couldn’t accomplish that feat in a career twice that long. That become quite apparent by listening to Gimme Some Truth, a new boxed collection of Lennon’s music spanning from Plastic Ono Band through Double Fantasy. Nearly every song on the 4-CD set highlights the important aspects of Lennon’s music: passion, raw emotion, tenderness, anger, honesty,l vulnerability, and optimism. Appropriately, the set is divided into four themed albums. The first, Working Class Hero, contains songs that reflect Lennon’s sense of activism and engagement in effecting change (“Power to the People,” “Gimme Some Truth,””Imagine”). Second disc, Woman, shows the artist’s romantic and loving side (“Grow Old With Me,” “Beautiful Boy,” ‘Oh My Love,” “#9 Dream”). The third part, fittingly titled Borrowed Time, spotlights the more reflective, introspective work (“Crippled Inside,” “Scared,” “Mind Games”). Lastly, Roots includes Lennon’s love for early rock and roll music with covers of “Stand By Me,” “Peggy Sue” and “Be-Bop-A-Lula” (this disc is pretty much the entire 1975 Rock & Roll album). Lovingly assembled by Yoko Ono for Lennon’s 70th birthday, Gimme Some Truth really paints a well-rounded musical portrait of the man.

Double Fantasy was the last album released by Lennon in his lifetime and regarded as sort of a comeback after a five-year recording hiatus. Released 30 years, it was a collaborative record with Ono and different in tone compared to his earlier albums. Double Fantasy was a more reflective and optimistic offering by a revitalized Lennon. The opening track, “(Just Like) Starting Over,” is about romantic renewal set to an early rock and roll sheen; “Woman” is one of Lennon’s most romantic and lush songs ever; and “Watching the Wheels” is a piano ballad that captures his new-found outlook at being 40 and happy without being part of the music industry rat race. Ono’s contributions in retrospect are sound just as passionate as her husband’s, even more rocking and avant garde at times. Double Fantasy has been recently reissued in a new stripped down version, similar to the approach taken for the Beatles’ Let it Be…Naked album in 2003; this new mix highlights more of Lennon’s vocals upfront and toning the down some of the flourishes of the original album. One kind of hear the songs and the record in a whole new light, especially in the aforementioned “(Just Like) Starting Over” (sans the background vocals) and “Woman” (where it sounds almost acoustic and even more lovelier) –straightforward. Both this new version and the old version are included in the reissue so you can determine which you like better. Either way, it’s a chance to appreciate a poignant Lennon record that nobody could have anticipated would be the last one when he was still alive.

All of Lennon’s other studio albums have also been re-released to coincide with the 70th birthday: Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Walls and Bridges, Some Time in New York City, Mind Games, Rock and Roll and Milk and Honey. There is also a new hits collection Power to the People.

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