John Lennon - Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon [Audio CD]

John Lennon - Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon [Audio CD]

Lennon Legend was released in the fall of 1997 in England to replace the deleted John Lennon Collection, and the 20-track collection is remarkably similar to its predecessor, replicating a full 16 tracks and deleting the relatively nonessential "I'm Losing You," "Dear Yoko," and "Move Over Ms. L" in favor of "Borrowed Time," "Mother," "Nobody Told Me," and "Working Class Hero." Even if the disc isn't sequenced in strict chronological order, the end result is the strongest single-disc Lennon collection yet. It might not offer everything of worth that Lennon recorded -- the Plastic Ono Band and Imagine albums remain essentials, and there are great-to-good songs scattered among his later solo records -- but it does function as an excellent sampler and introduction to his solo career. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

  • Released simultaneously with Anthology, Wonsaponatime condenses a four-disc box set into a digestible single disc that feels more revelatory than its parent. That's because the compilers did an excellent job of selecting the highl... Released simultaneously with Anthology, Wonsaponatime condenses a four-disc box set into a digestible single disc that feels more revelatory than its parent. That's because the compilers did an excellent job of selecting the highlights from the long-winded box, spotlighting the best alternate takes and unreleased songs. Wonsaponatime has a similar feel to Anthology, since it is culled from the same rough takes and studio rambling, but it's simply more accessible, letting less dedicated fans appreciate everything from the Cheap Trick-backed "I'm Losing You" and "God Save Oz," to alternates of "Working Class Hero," "God," "I Found Out," and "How Do You Sleep?" Again, these outtakes are not revelatory in the manner of Dylan's Bootleg Series, or even the Beatles' own Anthology, but they humanize Lennon, who has often been viewed as something of a saint in the years since his assassination. For that alone, Wonsaponatime is as welcome an addition to his catalog as the exhaustive Anthology. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

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  • The sessions for 1980's Double Fantasy were supposed to yield two albums, the second to be released at a future time, but Lennon's assassination tragically halted the project in its tracks. A bit over three years later, Yoko Ono i... The sessions for 1980's Double Fantasy were supposed to yield two albums, the second to be released at a future time, but Lennon's assassination tragically halted the project in its tracks. A bit over three years later, Yoko Ono issued tapes of many of the songs planned for that album under the title Milk and Honey, laid out in the same John-Yoko-John-Yoko dialogue fashion as its predecessor. Not unexpectedly, it's a rougher, less polished product, lacking the finishing touches and additional takes that Lennon most likely would have called for. Nevertheless, Lennon's songs at this point in their development were often quite strong, tougher than those on Double Fantasy in general, and the ad libs and studio chatter that might not have made the final cut give us more of a glimpse of Lennon's delightfully quirky personality. "Nobody Told Me," the advance single off the album, is a rollicking, quizzical piece of work, maybe the best thing to come out of John's 1980 sessions, despite the unfinished-sounding transition to the chorus. "Borrowed Time," another single, is a thoughtful, sparely-worded meditation on growing older attached to a Caribbean beat. Yoko's contributions, while not as strong as John's, are surprisingly listenable -- the reggae-based "Don't Be Scared," in particular -- and more current in texture, and her lyrics do tend to answer John's songs. As the album comes toward the close, the tone turns sentimental, culminating with one of John's loveliest tunes, "Grow Old With Me," as presented on a home-recorded cassette in lieu of a studio recording. The ironies of this song and some of the other Lennon material are obviously poignant in the light of the cruel events of December 8, 1980; that and the fact that these songs haven't been as exposed as much as those on Double Fantasy lead some to prefer this sequel. ~ Richard S. Ginell, All Music Guide « less… more »

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  • During the great John Lennon revival of the late '80s, Yoko Ono licensed to have the Westwood One Radio Network air scores of unreleased home recordings and demos as the Lost Lennon Tapes radio show. At the time, there was endless... During the great John Lennon revival of the late '80s, Yoko Ono licensed to have the Westwood One Radio Network air scores of unreleased home recordings and demos as the Lost Lennon Tapes radio show. At the time, there was endless speculation about when highlights would be released, likely as a box set. The proposed set never materialized, yet most of the material was heavily bootlegged, as the producers and Ono must have suspected. Despite the bootlegs, Ono didn't agree to an official collection of unreleased Lennon material until 1998, after the Beatles' Anthology series proved a critical and commercial success. Hence, the birth of Lennon's Anthology -- a four-disc box set, comprised entirely of unreleased home recordings, demos, and outtakes, many of which have never been previously bootlegged. As it's constructed, it's more of an aural biography than a music album. All the dialogue snippets, half-finished songs, throwaways, and parodies ensure that it's never casual listening, yet that very approach creates an intriguing portrait of Lennon -- a portrait of the man, not the artist. As such, there aren't really any forgotten treasures buried on the collection, even if many of these songs and takes are either completely unheard of or legendary among collecting circles. For every small pleasure, such as the Cheap Trick-backed version of "I'm Losing You," there is a small disappointment, such as how the Dylan diatribe, "Serve Yourself," doesn't quite live up to its legend. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if there are no major works or revelations, just a few good alternate tracks, because Anthology goes a long way toward capturing Lennon with all of his strengths and weaknesses. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

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  • After the hostile reaction to the politically charged Sometime in New York City, John Lennon moved away from explicit protest songs and returned to introspective songwriting with Mind Games. Lennon didn't leave politics behind -- ... After the hostile reaction to the politically charged Sometime in New York City, John Lennon moved away from explicit protest songs and returned to introspective songwriting with Mind Games. Lennon didn't leave politics behind -- he just tempered his opinions with humor on songs like "Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple)," which happened to undercut the intention of the song. It also indicated the confusion that lies at the heart of the album. Lennon doesn't know which way to go, so he tries everything. There are lovely ballads like "Out of the Blue" and "One Day (At a Time)," forced, ham-fisted rockers like "Meat City" and "Tight As," sweeping Spectoresque pop on "Mind Games," and many mid-tempo, indistinguishable pop/rockers. While the best numbers are among Lennon's finest, there's only a handful of them, and the remainder of the record is simply pleasant. But compared to Sometime in New York City, as well as the subsequent Walls and Bridges, Mind Games sounded like a return to form. [The edition reissued in 2002 appended three extra tracks, the "home versions" of "Aisumasen," "Bring on the Lucie," and "Meat City."] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

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  • There sure hasn't been a shortage of John Lennon compilations over the years, but there hasn't been a new collection since 1997's Lennon Legend and there haven't been any two-CD sets covering his entire career -- until 2005's Work... There sure hasn't been a shortage of John Lennon compilations over the years, but there hasn't been a new collection since 1997's Lennon Legend and there haven't been any two-CD sets covering his entire career -- until 2005's Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon, that is. Released on October 4, 2005, this surely was intended as a tie-in to the Broadway show Lennon: The Musical, but it wound up appearing ten days after the musical concluded its disastrous run. Even if the show did tank, it provided the occasion for this strong collection. Working Class Hero may tread familiar territory -- not only does it have all the usual suspects, from "Instant Karma" to "(Just Like) Starting Over," it has them in a sequencing that feels familiar, even it doesn't correspond to any specific previous release -- but that's fine, because it provides a rather thorough overview of Lennon's best-known solo songs. In many cases, these are often his best, but there are surely some great songs missing here, particularly because the comp emphasizes material with a slight romantic bent or songs that play into the myth of St. John (meaning, mixed alongside the hits there are plenty of songs about Yoko and being a father, and rockers are given short shrift). But these are minor complaints: anybody who wants a succinct yet comprehensive compilation of most of Lennon's solo best should be satisfied with this. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

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  • Walls and Bridges was recorded during John Lennon's infamous "lost weekend," as he exiled himself in California during a separation from Yoko Ono. Lennon's personal life was scattered, so it isn't surprising that Walls and Bridges... Walls and Bridges was recorded during John Lennon's infamous "lost weekend," as he exiled himself in California during a separation from Yoko Ono. Lennon's personal life was scattered, so it isn't surprising that Walls and Bridges is a mess itself, containing equal amounts of brilliance and nonsense. Falling between the two extremes was the bouncy Elton John duet "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," which was Lennon's first solo number one hit. Its bright, sunny surface was replicated throughout the record, particularly on middling rockers like "What You Got" but also on enjoyable pop songs like "Old Dirt Road." However, the best moments on Walls and Bridges come when Lennon is more open with his emotions, like on "Going Down on Love," "Steel and Glass," and the beautiful, soaring "#9 Dream." Even with such fine moments, the album is decidedly uneven, containing too much mediocre material like "Beef Jerky" and "Ya Ya," which are weighed down by weak melodies and heavy over-production. It wasn't a particularly graceful way to enter retirement. [The 2005 reissue of Walls and Bridges is remastered and remixed and contains three bonus tracks: a live version of "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" recorded with the Elton John band at a Madison Square Garden concert in November 1974, a previously unreleased spare acoustic alternate version of "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)," and a brief (3:42) promotional interview for the album.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

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  • The most distinctive thing about Double Fantasy, the last album John Lennon released during his lifetime, is the very thing that keeps it from being a graceful return to form from the singer/songwriter, returning to active duty af... The most distinctive thing about Double Fantasy, the last album John Lennon released during his lifetime, is the very thing that keeps it from being a graceful return to form from the singer/songwriter, returning to active duty after five years of self-imposed exile. As legend has it, Lennon spent those years in domestic bliss, being a husband, raising a baby, and, of course, baking bread. Double Fantasy was designed as a window into that bliss and, to that extent, he decided to make it a joint album with Yoko Ono, to illustrate how complete their union was. For her part, Ono decided to take a stab at pop and while these are relatively tuneful for her, they nevertheless disrupt the feel and flow of Lennon's material, which has a consistent tone and theme. He's surprisingly sentimental, not just when he's expressing love for his wife ("Dear Yoko," "Woman") and child ("Beautiful Boy [Darling Boy]"), but when he's coming to terms with his quiet years ("Watching the Wheels," "Cleanup Time") and his return to creative life. These are really nice tunes, and what's special about them is their niceness -- it's a sweet acceptance of middle age, which, of course, makes his assassination all the sadder. For that alone, Double Fantasy is noteworthy, yet it's hard not to think that it's a bit of a missed opportunity -- primarily because its themes would be stronger without the Ono songs, but also because the production is just a little bit too slick and constrained, sounding very much of its time. Ultimately, these complaints fall by the wayside because Lennon's best songs here cement the last part of his legend, capturing him at peace and in love. According to some reports, that perception was a bit of a fantasy, but sometimes the fantasy means more than the reality, and that's certainly the case here. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

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  • 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 sw... 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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

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  • 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 ... 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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide « less… more »

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