Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Album of the Day #173: IMAGINE - John Lennon

Artist: John Lennon

Title: Imagine
Year: 1971
Label: Apple/EMI
Songs: Imagine/Crippled Inside/Jealous Guy/It's So Hard/I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier/Gimmie Some Truth/Oh My Love*/How Do You Sleep?/How?/Oh Yoko!
Written by: John Lennon, except *by John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Produced by: John & Yoko and Phil Spector
Thoughts: Despite the fact that the world reveres the title track, the album itself is not perfect. Its ten tracks are heavily produced, with Spector's "Wall of Sound" being more intrusive than on any other solo Beatle record he produced. It truly is amazing, considering the stripped down approach that we are all so thankful he gave John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.
To me, the number one transgression is the over-use of strings. Hard, dirty blues songs like "It's So Hard" does not need strings. It completely wrecks the song. The only good thing that John did with Elephant's Memory was the rocked-out version of the song on Live In New York.
The best part of the record, though, is George Harrison's incredible solos. His solo in "How Do You Sleep?" is just breathtaking. (Thankfully it overtakes Spector's strings.) Then there's his dobro playing on "Crippled Inside".
John's songwriting is also at a peak here. He matured from the straightforward, emotional "laying-it-all-out" style of Plastic Ono Band to a more commercial style. You might think this doesn't work, but it results in songs like "How?" where you don't know whether the singer is emotionally lost or just in love. "Imagine" is "Give Peace A Chance", but without the silly mantra and "Gimmie Some Truth" is, like the Plastic Ono Band songs, blatant and in your face (plus, it's a perfect side two opener). "I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier" overstays its welcome a bit (it's kind of like Imagine's "Well Well Well"), but then there's "Oh My Love", probably one of John's best love songs.
All in all, I think Imagine does deserve to up there with the greats. It's not as good as Plastic Ono Band, but it gets the job done, despite being a mixed bag (a very good, incredibly awesome mixed bag).

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