[Review] John Lennon: Imagine (1971)

John’s best album since The Beatles, a luminous portrait of the artist.

Kronomyth 6.0: One Imagine nation, under God.

If you don’t understand why so many people love John Lennon, you don’t lack imagination, you lack Imagine. Like his last record, John continues to tear down the barrier between artist and audience, making another personal record but without the pain this time. The result is stunning in its simplicity; Phil Spector’s saturated and resounding “wall of sound” is a fair match for George Martin’s baroque production, yet it’s ultimately a transparent technique. For as many times as we’ve heard it, “Imagine” never felt like more than John and a piano and a ray of inspiration.

If John turned the studio into a psychiatrist’s office on Plastic Ono Band, here it’s a cross between confessional and bully pulpit. “Jealous Guy” is as wide a window as you can fit into the human heart, “Oh Yoko!” as silly and endearing a song as John has recorded. Because this is John Lennon, there is a darker side, sometimes done like Bob Dylan’s burlesque of country (“Crippled Inside”), and sometimes delivered in a searing hot brand of disdain (“How Do You Sleep?,” “Give Me Some Truth”). Any one of the aforementioned tracks is a classic in the canon; add the open, orchestrated “How?” and you’ve got, well, maybe not the works, but more great John Lennon than you’ll find anywhere else I’ll wager.

Since Plastic Ono Band seemed to purge a number of personal demons, Imagine was free to be a more positive album. A song like “Oh Yoko!” would have seemed out of place on his last album; here it’s a natural part of one human being’s celebration of his highs and lows. Like Paul McCartney‘s Band on the Run, this is another essential stop on the magical mystery tour.

Original elpee version

A1. Imagine (2:59)
A2. Crippled Inside (3:43)
A3. Jealous Guy ( 4:10)
A4. It’s So Hard (2:22)
A5. I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier (6:01)
B1. Give Me Some Truth (3:11)
B2. Oh My Love (John Lennon/Yoko Ono) (2:40)
B3. How Do You Sleep? (5:29)
B4. How? (3:37)
B5. Oh Yoko! (4:18)

All songs written by John Lennon unless noted.

The Players

John Lennon (vocals, guitar, piano, whistling), Klaus Voormann (bass), Alan White (drums, Tibetan cymbals, vibraphone) with John Barham (harmonium on A3, vibraphone on B4), Steve Brendell (upright bass on A2, maracas on A5), King Curtis (saxophone on A4/A5), Andy Davis (acoustic guitar on B1/B4/B5), Tommy Evans (Tommy Badfinger) (acoustic guitar on A5), The Flux Fiddlers (orchestral strings), Jim Gordon (drums on A4), George Harrison (electric and slide guitar on A5/B1/B2/B3, dobro on A2), Nicky Hopkins (piano and electric piano on A2/A3/B2/B3), Jim Keltner (drums on A2/A3/A5), Rod Linton (acoustic guitar on A2/B1/B5), Joey Molland (Joey Badfinger) (acoustic guitar on A5), Mike Pinder (tambourine on A5), Phil Spector (harmony vocal on A5), John Tout (piano on A2), Ted Turner (acoustic guitar on A2). Produced by John & Yoko and Phil Spector.

The Pictures

Front cover photograph by Andy Warhol. Back cover photograph by Yoko Ono.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on September 9, 1971 in the US (Capitol, SW/8XW 3379), on October 8, 1971 in the UK (Apple, PAS 10004) and in 1971 in Japan (Apple, AP-80370) with postcard, poster and picture innersleeve. Reached #1 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 2X platinum record) and #1 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-released on quadrophonic elpee in June 1972 in the UK (Apple, Q4PAS 10004).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in Japan (Apple/EMI, EAS-80705).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in the US (Capitol, SW 3379).
  4. Re-released on remastered elpee in 1984 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFSL-1-153).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in the US (Capitol, 46641).
  6. Re-issued on elpee in 1989 in Bulgaria (Balkanton, BTA 12502).
  7. Re-released on remastered elpee in 2000 in Europe (EMI, 524 858) with gatefold cover and on remastered compact disc and cassette on April 11, 2000 in the US (Capitol, 24858).
  8. Re-released on remixed, remastered compact disc in Japan (EMI/Toshiba, TOCP-65522).
  9. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2003 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD-759).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc on November 28, 2007 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-70392).
  11. Re-released on super high material compact disc on December 3, 2014 in Japan (EMI, UICY-76937).
  12. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2015 in Germany (Capitol, 5357095).

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