Review : John Lennon - Signature Box / Power to the People: The Hits
PitchforkIt's 70 years after John Lennon's birth, and 30 after his death, and his solo career is still a knotty, vexing mess. The current round of reissues and repackages includes the third and fourth posthumous boxed sets of his work, and the fifth-or-so stab at a greatest-hits compilation; they're still not nearly as satisfying as you'd expect from one of the most important figures in the history of rock. That's partly because Lennon spent his solo years painfully aware of how important he was, alternately trying to see how he could use his fame to act in the world and how he could rebel against his fame's trappings.
Lennon had gotten a head start on his solo career: In the final couple of years of the Beatles, he'd started batting out records as reports from the front, whether or not his bandmates were available or interested. In 1968 and 1969, he made three albums with Yoko Ono, in her idiom (conceptual art) but his medium (LPs), none of them in the current batch of reissues. The two of them also started releasing singles credited to the Plastic Ono Band-- a John song on the A-side, a Yoko song on the B-side. The first Plastic Ono Band single, "Give Peace a Chance", was the soundtrack to a clever bit of political branding; "Cold Turkey" was written and recorded very shortly after he kicked heroin, in late summer 1969; "Instant Karma!" was in record stores 10 days after it was written.
The odd thing about John and Yoko's simultaneously released, identically designed solo albums entitled Plastic Ono Band is that hers is more suited to repeated listening, but his is better as conceptual art. (It's still pretty good as music: He's backed up by Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, and longtime Beatles associate Klaus Voormann.) The concept was the biggest rock star in the world breaking his wand and burning his books; directly expressing his unseemly emotions; doing things he would never, ever have gotten away with in the Beatles. He starts the album by working himself up into a total howling breakdown about his parental abandonment issues-- in 1970, you did not do that in public, ever-- and spends the rest of it essentially stripping himself naked. (He'd already done that, literally, on the cover of his and Yoko's first collaboration, Two Virgins.) "God" takes the concept to its destination: it's Lennon declaring, bluntly, that every myth that has ever given his audience comfort, up to and including the Beatles, is no longer of use-- "the dream is over."...full text
TheseconddiscLift the lid off the giant box set (and objet d’art) The John Lennon Signature Box (EMI/Capitol 50999 906509 2 5) and you’ll see the word “YES” jumping out at you. YES is a good reaction to the thought of having (mostly) all of John Lennon’s solo studio output available in one place, remastered largely by the same team responsible for last year’s Beatles reissues, and accompanied by a hardcover book and art print. Is The John Lennon Signature Box, and its companion discs, an unqualified YES, however? Ummm…NO. But is it a welcome – almost necessary, even – addition to the collection of any serious rock fan? Undoubtedly. It’s also a fitting tribute to the late musician/revolutionary on the event of what would have been, and what should have been, his 70th birthday. Media coverage – and shelf space in the big boxes – has been nonexistent for these reissues, compared to last year’s brief wave of Beatlemania. But fans who seek these titles out likely won’t be disappointed.
Placed alongside 1998′s four-disc John Lennon Anthology, The Signature Box positively dwarfs its predecessor in stature. That box consisted mostly of unreleased demos, studio outtakes and alternate versions; an even earlier box set (1990′s Lennon) concentrated on 80 tracks culled from the artist’s released studio albums. The Signature Box offers Lennon’s eight core studio albums with no bonus tracks, similar to the format employed for the Beatles remasters and the box set which collected them all. It’s important to note what’s not on the box set: the three Lennon/Yoko Ono experimental LPs recorded for Apple and Zapple before the release of 1970′s Plastic Ono Band (the disc which kicks off this collection), and more puzzingly, the seminal Live Peace in Toronto 1969. Also omitted are posthumous compilations such as Menlove Avenue and Live in New York City. This author would welcome remastered editions of all of the above, with the unique John Lennon Collection strip present on the artwork for each of the discs in this wave of releases. Taken as a whole, though, Lennon’s artistry is even more overwhelming. The albums here show every facet of one of pop culture’s most complicated individuals: Lennon was an idealist, a pessimist, a romantic, an agitator, a hellraiser, a dreamer, a spirited rock-and-roller, a father, a husband. Beginning with the still-unsettling Plastic Ono Band LP, Lennon was confessional in a manner far-removed from that of his contemporaries like James Taylor or Joni Mitchell; each album feels urgent and compelling, a snapshot of where the always-impassioned, intelligent artist was at that point in time. Of course, he got by with a little help from his friends: these albums include contributions from Ono, Phil Spector, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Elton John, Harry Nilsson and others....full text
WikipediaThe John Lennon Signature Box is an 11-disc box set of remastered John Lennon albums and new collections, released on CD and digital format, as part of the "Gimme Some Truth" collection. The albums released in the box set are digital remasters of the original recordings and mixes, done by John's widow Yoko Ono and the same team of engineers at Abbey Road Studios who worked on the 2009 remasters by The Beatles, In London and Avatar Studios, New York. The set also includes home demos and non-album singles...full text
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would you like to live in a dream?