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Author Topic: Imagine  (Read 903 times)

Mervap

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Imagine
« on: March 22, 2013, 02:56:24 PM »

Released in 1971
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Mervap

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Re: Imagine
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2013, 02:56:34 PM »

I must start this post by saying that I do not own "Plastic Ono Band", although I am quite familiar with the songs on it. Why would I say this? In comparing that album with "Imagine", I would liken "POB" to a meat cleaver: sharp, cutting, abrasive and painful. "Imagine", while covering some of the same territory, does so in a less painful way...it's almost gentle in places, but still cutting when cornered.

The title track is as timeless as timeless can be...its relevance will live on for as long as thinking people listen to music. So what may be said for the rest of the album? Nothing comes close to the 'classic' status of "Imagine", but almost every track is good...the notable exception, at least in my book, is "How", in which JL sounds genuinely confused. "Crippled Inside" is a jaunty rocker with a sweet upright bass, and "Jealous Guy" is a song with which most guys can identify, myself included. "Gimme Some Truth" is closely related to "POB", with a cutting lyric decrying falseness in general, with a special mention of Richard Nixon, who was a thorn in Lennon's side for many years. "How Do You Sleep"...if you strip away the obvious references to Paul McCartney and take Lennon at his word, is a brilliant slice of self-parody.

Production-wise, "Imagine" is a bit over-produced in places and sounds like Lennon had been stung by some people's reaction to the starkness of "POB"...most of Lennon's solo career from this point until his 'retirement' in 1975 would suffer from this issue...

"POB" may have been Lennon's finest moment after the Beatles' demise, but "Imagine" took a large measure of that brilliance and packaged it in a way the general public would accept more readily.
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Keri

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Re: Imagine
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2013, 08:42:57 PM »

I think I'll use this album to express my feelings about John's solo career. I agree with Merv that this is probably the high point.

In my early twenties I became excited by John's work, I read his long Rolling stone interview which was around the release of Plastic Ono Band and the Playboy interview which came out around the time of his death, and I thought John was exciting and straight talking and i got all his records. But they haven't carried with me, I took John's side against Paul and saw Paul's work as kind of inconsequential. Now I don't know if I'm taking sides, but i like Paul's, George's and a lot of Ringo's but not much of John's.

The title track of Imagine is great, John's solo career hasn't got a great album, but this is a great song, it is an anthem, the piano is gorgeous, John's singing is fantastic, in fact I still love the sound of John's voice throughout his solo career. "Woman" is fantastically sung and again is a pretty damn good song. I don't know if there is a better solo Beatle track than "Imagine" I can't understand how it wasn't number one "Imagine all the people living life in Peace", that is a great thing to imagine and this song carries that message. All credit to John for creating this song, just with this song he shows he had something to say after the Beatles.

But I just can't sit down and listen to Imagine or any of his other solo albums now. John made a decision to write songs only about himself and his life & to me that seems like an artistic straightjacket. In the Beatles John's writing seemed to be predicated on the idea that he could write about anything. I LOVE his work on Sgt Pepper, he mixes in bits of the news, television commercials, television drama and old circus poster a painting by his son Julian a great huge orchestral orgasm. John would later come to describe this stuff often as "goobledegoop". To me it is expansive, creative exciting and multi-faceted whereas I find his solo approach one dimensional.

I think also because his solo music is so much about himself, it is harder to make the distinction between the artist and his work, if there is something you don't like about John the man it is likely to affect your response to his work. For instance, I like the fact that he was devoted to Sean and Yoko but there is a flip side to that in that he cut off his other son Julian. While John is recording a song Beautiful Boy an ode to sean he is reminiscing on how Julian's conception could be attributed to alcohol consumption. He was Julian's father and he should have been giving him love and trying to build bridges, whereas he seemed to be building a wall.

John was an amazing man an amazing artist with an amazing voice, but for the most part I can't listen to his solo work.
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Mervap

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Re: Imagine
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2013, 08:58:57 PM »

Love your review, Keri, and I'll say this about Lennon's solo work....what i've read was that John was almost always most comfortable writing from his own experience. Then he met Yoko, who subscribed to a theory that all art MUST be, in some way, self-referential. Lennon fell right in and held to that for the rest of his life. Paul is much more a craftsman who can build things from many different types of material.
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Keri

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Re: Imagine
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2013, 09:35:32 PM »

Thanks Merv,

I'm glad you enjoyed it, I didn't touch on any of the songs other than imagine, that one is the album for me, although I quite like Jelous Guy. I once made a similar point on another Beatles board and it really caused offence. I actually feel kind of sad that there isn't more of John's solo work that I love, because I think his work with the Beatles is fantastic and he just has the voice.

Yes I think the self referential doctrine was cemented in through Yoko's influence. Yoko was a strong woman and her thinking was enormously influential on John, but I acknowledge that it was John's decision to adopt it and adopt it he did, in spades.

However, although I think a lot of his earlier work has self referential elements, I always feel that the shape of the song comes first and the self reference is only an influence on the song. His earlier songs don't shout self reference at you. Even Help! which John later made much of as a personal cry for Help! I think Paul said that they had no idea of at the time that John was suffering, I also suspect if the other Beatles had spoken to John about his need for help then he would have brushed them off. Although, I don't deny that John may have had serious issues. I also think the self referential element in the early songs has probably been magnified by the fact that the later John reviewed all his early work (in the Playboy interviews) in the light of his later attitude.

Strawberry Fields for instance is an intensely personal song. But it is also very ambiguous and open, it allows the listener to read it in a multitude of ways and John sings "let me take YOU down" thus acknowledging the listener and also this is a place where "nothing is real" Strawberry Fields becomes a place in the mind that anyone can visit rather than just a park from John's childhood.
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Mervap

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Re: Imagine
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2013, 09:44:36 PM »

Quote
Strawberry Fields becomes a place in the mind that anyone can visit rather than just a park from John's childhood.

Very apt description....I would say that JL made several tries at being more of a "working songwriter", more like Paul...just knocking one off. "Strawberry Fields", as you said, isn't one of those. Look at tunes like "It's Only Love"....not really about much there, nice tune, but kinda empty. After his foray into LSD, he abandoned that approach almost completely...maybe he realized it wasn't a strong suit for him.
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2 of 3

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Re: Imagine
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2013, 10:00:15 PM »

Quote
Look at tunes like "It's Only Love"

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I heard Lennon say he hated that song. Personally I love it...and of course, I know better than he does. ;) ;D
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Keri

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Re: Imagine
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2013, 10:32:09 PM »


....I would say that JL made several tries at being more of a "working songwriter", more like Paul...just knocking one off. "Strawberry Fields", as you said, isn't one of those. Look at tunes like "It's Only Love"....not really about much there, nice tune, but kinda empty...

like 2 of 3 I quite like It's only Love, but Strawberry Fields is in a completely different class. For me a lot of Lennon's best work has a degree of uncertainty, like Strawberry Fields, at best Lennon is very original "I am the Walrus", "A Day in the Life", "The Word", "Rain" they're all quite different. Lennon I think as a person and as an artist was in a much greater state of flux than McCartney. I think Yoko was something of an anchor for John, I think she stabilised him as a person, but it destroyed what I loved about his art. A lot of Lennon's Beatle work is almost startlingly original.
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chris

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Re: Imagine
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2013, 09:09:29 PM »

to merv and keri...great reviews. I never really held it against john that he only wrote about himself. in fact, I admired him for it. I thought that's what a true artist does. I never thought about it being an artistic straight jacket...but I can see why you might.

imagine (the song) very well might be the best solo moment. it's is certainly in the conversation. and it is (the album) a cleaned up...slightly over produced...more public ready...album that was POB.

john said what he thought while he was thinking it. that's what made him john. but he contradicted himself often. I never minded when he trashed one of his songs that I loved. I always took that as him just changing his mind again. 
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