The second incarnation of my blog
Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.
At number 80 is Imagine by John Lennon. Released in 1971, it was recorded in New York and Ascot and produced by John, Yoko Ono and Phil Spector.
The album opens with a true standout classic, the title track Imagine. I’m sure that we’ve all heard this song many many times, but when you really listen, you can appreciate the perfect structure and even if some of the lyrics are a bit twee, it makes no difference.
Crippled inside is not the best song to follow a classic like Imagine. It sounds more like a fun demo and is just a simple country pastiche. However, you don’t get long before you return to form with the wonderful Jealous Guy, a song that very nearly became a Beatles song called Child of nature. It’s such a personal song that you can hear the heartfelt emotion in the words.
The next three tracks are not the highest quality songs from John Lennon. It’s so hard is another demo-ish sounding song, but that’s by design I feel as it’s a concise blues rocker. I can’t get my head round I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die. There is a riff that is repeated over and over with lyrics laid over them, but with a timing shift that confuses the brain. Gimme some truth just seems a bit angry and not that good.
Oh my love reminds me of the Beatles song Julia and is a simple love song to Yoko.
The song that I wonder if John regretted recording is How do you sleep? It’s an attack on Paul McCartney. The time after the Beatles had ended must have been tough on all members, moving on from the biggest act in the world and having to find their own way. But in this song, John is irate at Paul and does little to hide that fact and comes across as immature and unnesseary. It’s a shame as the melody and production is really good.
How? is a contemplative song about moving on in life. Oh Yoko! closes the album, being the sole “up” track on the album, a fun love song.
The overall sound of the album veers from (seemingly) simple to complex arrangements and would, I’m sure, stood out at the time as a highly accomplished recording. That’s no great surprise of course. What does show however is that, although Lennon could write some of the best songs ever composed, he wasn’t able to sustain the quality across a whole album.
My rating: 6/10
Standout tracks: Imagine, Jealous Guy, Oh Yoko!
Listen to the album via Youtube here.
See the Top 100 here.