Copyright © 1998 All Rights Reserved.
by Ian Chiclo
BOX SET REVIEW
The John Lennon Anthology
· Four CDs made up of almost 100 previously unreleased recordings.
· Includes demos, studio sessions, live recordings and three hilarious parodies of Bob Dylan.
What the world needs now is another John Lennon.
While having an enormous impact on some of this decade's biggest musical stars (Bryan Adams, Kurt Cobain), there has been a marked decline in interest in Lennon's solo career despite a Beatles revival. While it is easy to forget how influential Lennon was, and what enormous risks he took in both his professional and personal life, it's more important to remember.
The John Lennon Anthology collects almost 100 previously unreleased tracks spanning his entire solo career. Divided into four discs, each named after the location where John and Yoko lived at the time, the material ranges in quality from Phil Spector-produced studio sessions to home tapes and live performances. Fortunately, these tracks rarely sound like basement tapes or bootlegs and are more often the quality of other posthumous releases such as Menlove Avenue and John Lennon Live In New York City.
There are some nice surprises on this collection: "Imagine" recorded with a Procol Harum-style organ; a sketch of "(Just Like) Starting Over"; an early take of "Working Class Hero"; fights between producer Spector and Lennon during the recording of Rock 'n' Roll (Spector later stole the tapes); and parodies of Bob Dylan and George Harrison. Yet these tracks are mostly curiosities - the rest of the material is a rare glimpse into the creative process that provides a better understanding of Lennon himself.
The package itself is illustrated with Lennon's own drawings and is accompanied by intimate memories from Yoko Ono, an excellent essay by Lennonologist Anthony DeCurtis, and documentation of the origins of every track - including players, producers and studios (or bedrooms), and an assortment of photos by noted Lennon photographers.
The collection is a powerful reminder that John Lennon took risks over and above the call of duty. Already one of the most famous men on the planet, he quickly took it upon himself to shatter the mythos of Beatles. Released from the Fab Four, he went from singing songs about tangerine dreams to razor-sharp political messages such as "God," "Woman Is The Nigger of the World," and "How Do You Sleep." His honesty and willingness to put his emotions on public display created the likes of "Mother" and "I'm Losing You." His activism brought him to the unglamorous Attica benefit for prisoners' rights at the Apollo theatre. Instead of promoting his latest single, Lennon, acting as folk singer, wrote "Attica State," a role he would later revise while protesting the imprisonment of Irishman John Sinclair. Lennon was never afraid of to confront the hard truth.
Revisiting these songs and discovering a few new ones, it's hard to imagine any superstar in 1998 putting themselves on the line like Lennon did. Whether it's a political statement, a love song, or the willingness to just yell "fuck off," Lennon was an enigma - a superstar, outcast, musician and activist.
Anthology reminds us that despite being one of the most important individuals of the century, he was also a person.
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