Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announce 2012 nominees


            It’s that time of year again: yes, that’s right. It’s the time when the brain dead people in the nominating committee at the Rock N Roll Hall of Shame announce the list of people who might go in for 2012. Like last year, there are 12 nominees. If you haven’t gotten the tone of this intro already, I’m not very happy with this list of people. So once again, I’ll divide all 12 in different categories.

Put ‘Em In

The Small Faces/The Faces- I was so surprised to read that both Faces bands are had been nominated. It’s very likely that they will not get in but listen here Hall of Shame: The Small Faces are almost like the forgotten band of the British Invasion. Steve Marriot (RIP), Ronnie Lane (RIP), Kenney Jones, and Ian McLagan were a fantastic little band. Though they only released three albums, the Small Faces are great. Steve Marriot is simply one of the most overlooked singers of his time. The guy had a killer voice. The music? “Tin Soldier”, “Here Come The Nice”, “Itchycoo Park”, “Afterglow (Of Your Love)”, and too many more. The reason why the Faces are also getting a nod is because it’s basically the same band: when Steve Marriot left to form Humble Pie in 1969, singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood begged the band not to break up. As Stewart and Wood were 5”8 and 5”9, they certainly weren’t “small” anymore. Therefore, they were now the Faces. The Faces released four albums and are just one of the greatest party bands ever…then Rod Stewart had a solo career…
Number of times nominated previously: first time?

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts- A lot of people were predicting a Joan Jett nomination and they were right!  I don’t own any of her albums but I think it’s about time Joan Jett and the Blackhearts get in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. The only thing is that I really feel sorry for the Runaways. Shouldn’t they be in before Joan gets in for her solo career? Either way, I want to see Joan and her Blackhearts inducted. In my opinion, Joan is right behind Janis Joplin as the greatest woman in rock n roll.
Number of times nominated previously: first time


Heart- Again, I’m not a big fan or own any of their albums. Still compared to the shit this year that has been nominated, Heart needs to be in. Great music.
Number of times nominated previously: first time


Donovan- Same as Heart.
Number of times nominated previously: One


Guns N Roses- Finally, the Hall gets it right: nominate Guns N Roses the FIRST year they’re eligible. Now what may confused people is that Guns N Roses didn’t release their debut, Appietite for Destruction, until 1987. However, the rule is your first release must be 25 years old. An EP called Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide was the band’s first release in 1986. So it’s all good. Now when the is inducted, I think the Hall will be focusing on everything up until The Spaghetti Incident from 1993. So that means no Chinese Democracy love. As for the original band reuniting to play at the ceremony, don’t hold your breath.
Number of times nominated previously: first time


Meh, whatever. But…

The Cure- I’m in no way a fan of the Cure but I think it’s good that they’re on the list of nominees. I think the Cure are relevant to music, being a part of that alternative rock scene in the mid to late 1980’s and their leader, Robert Smith, is a very creative guy. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cure get in but there are others who’ve been waiting.
Number of times nominated previously: first time

War- It’s hard to say that War is a rock band. For a brief time, they had Eric Burdon of the Animals as their singer. Once Burdon left, they were able to have a few hits here and there. With Burdon, they had “Spill the Wine” and without him they had “Low Rider” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends”. War is a good group. I wouldn’t mind seeing them get in but I don’t know if they will get in.
Number of times nominated previously: One

Laura Nyro- I still don’t see what’s up with the Hall’s obsession with Laura Nyro is yet I’ve placed her here. I’ve listening to her right now and I must admit she had a great voice. She does have a little rock credibility: Former Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent did play on one of her albums before joining Kiss. Alice Cooper even remarked last year that he was honored to be nominated with Nyro, citing her as one of his favorite singers. If the Coop likes her, I guess I do too.
Number of times nominated previously: Two

Red Hot Chili Peppers­- I don’t like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m sorry. I just can’t get into them. I don’t get it. If they have to go in, then okay. I’m alright with it but I’m sure these guys would want their influences in BEFORE them.
Number of times nominated previously: One


WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!

Rufus with Chaka Khan- I know who Chaka Khan is but I have no idea about Rufus. All I’ve learned is that they’re an R&B/soul/funk/disco band. They formed around 1969 and I don’t really care. I’m okay with most genres outside of rock n roll being in the Hall but people, this is the ROCK N ROLL Hall of Fame. No matter how much you break it down or in bite-size pieces, it isn’t ROCK music.
Number of times nominated: who cares?

The Spinners- Another R&B and soul group. Seriously? Okay, I’d be okay if the Spinners accidently got in. I don’t know any of their songs. Enough said.
Number of times nominated: who cares?

Freddie King- He was a blues guitarist. Again, I really don’t give a crap.
Number of times nominated: who cares?

Donna Summer- What is up with the Hall's obsession over this woman? Jeez.
Number of times nominated: who cares?

PISS OFF!

Beastie Boys and Eric B. & Rakim- There is one reason why I don’t want either of these “bands” to be in the Hall: they both perform hip hop and rap music. Rap, in my opinion, DOES NOT BELOND IN THE ROCK N ROLL HALL OF FAME! Jesus Christ, people. Do I have to keep repeating myself? I’d never heard of Eric B. and Rakim before and I wish I never knew who they were. Sadly, the damage has been done already: Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC apparently deserve to be in the Hall before the Stooges and Alice Cooper. Just please: keep them away.
Number of times nominated previously: two for Beastie Boys, who gives a shit for Eric B and Rakim?

So, there you have it. I’m very angry at the Hall this year. I thought they’d changed ever since Metallica got in and read off their list. This year, the Hall got lazy. They’re still forgetting the following groups:

-Deep Purple
-New York Dolls
-Jethro Tull
-T. Rex
-Lou Reed
-Rush
-Captain Beefheart (RIP. At least people in Washington acknowledged Trout Mask Replica earlier this year for the Library of Congress’ Recording Registry. Perhaps the Hall didn’t want to kiss any more asses than they already have)
-Yes
-Moody Blues
-Kiss
-MC5
-Judas Priest
-Iron Maiden
-Motorhead

If not one (or even two) of my picks get in, some heads are going to roll…

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Rolling Stones revisit Some Girls this fall

While the band is planning or not planning for their next tour, the Rolling Stones will be releasing two things this October and November. Both things are related to the band's 1978 classic album Some Girls.

First off, Some Girls will be re-released on November 21 in deluxe edition and super deluxe edition. The deluxe edition will include the original 1978 album (band's site says it's been remastered but the albums from 1970-2005 were already remastered in 2009 so it would be silly if they went back a remastered them again). The second disc will consist of rare and unreleased material from the recording sessions of the album.  The super deluxe edition will include an extra disc, along with a photo book and a 7" single of "Beast of Burden/When the Whip Comes Down" with its banned cover.

On the same day, a concert in Fort Worth, Texas from 1978 will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray. The concert was filmed on July 18, 1978 in Fort Worth, Texas during the band's tour for Some Girls. The concert film, The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live from TX 1978, will be shown in select theaters for one night only BEFORE the DVD/Blu-Ray is released. If you live in the US, check your local theater to see if they'll be showing the film on October 18 via Fathom Events. If you live outside the US, click here to check the band's official site.

This seems very interesting but at the same time, it's been done before. What I mean is that the Stones did something very similar last year with Exile On Main Street. The album was given a reissue  with the deluxe and super deluxe. The 1974 concert film, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones was also given a one-night only deal before being release on DVD/Blu-Ray. This time, it looks like the Stones are focusing on Some Girls. I recently was flipping through the Exile reissue one day and just listened to it. Now I gave the deluxe edition a nice review last year and said the remaster was not needed but good. Let me get this correct now: while the second disc was interesting, the 2010 Exile remaster is far too loud (and from what I hear, it's the same story with the ones that came out in 2009). I'm sticking with the 1994 Virgin remasters as those sound fantastic. So if I do get this Some Girls deluxe edition, I'm only getting it for the second disc. As for the movie, I would love to see it. I had seen Ladies and Gentlemen the year before and liked it. This should be interesting!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

John Du Cann dead (1945-2011)

John Du Cann
1945-2011

Guitarist John Du Cann died suddenly on Wednesday September 21 from a heart attack. Du Cann was guitarist for progressive rock band Atomic Rooster from 1970 till 1971. Though his tenure in the band was short, Du Cann was in Atomic Rooster during their peak. He played on the albums Death Walks Behind You and In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster. On Death Walks Behind You, Du Cann took over lead vocals. With Du Cann in the band, they were able to have hit songs with "Tomorrow Night" and "Devil's Answer". Du Cann would later tour with Thin Lizzy in 1974 but for a very brief time. Du Cann had joined before Scott Gorham or Brian Robertson had joined the band. Du Cann, along with guitarist Andy Gee, had replaced guitarist Gary Moore (who ironically passed away earlier this year). Du Cann then had a solo career and managed to have a hit single with "Don't Be A Dummy" in 1978. Du Cann even rejoined a reunited Atomic Rooster in 1980 before leaving in 1982. 

It's a shame to hear about John's passing. It's sad that the line-up on the Death Walk Behind You are all dead: Vincent Crane, Paul Hammond, and now John. 

Rest in peace, John.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Life's A Gas: T.Rex's Electric Warrior at 40

 T. Rex - Electric Warrior
T. Rex
Electric Warrior
1971
Rating: **** 1/2

Some people wonder who started glam rock. Some might say David Bowie. Others may say Alice Cooper or Kiss. We’ll probably never know but if there was an album that could pinpoint where the explosion began, it would probably be T. Rex’s Electric Warrior. Electric Warrior was released on September 24, 1971. It became the band’s first hit album but Electric Warrior wasn’t T. Rex’s first album. The release of Electric Warrior catapulted T. Rex and their leader, Marc Bolan, into rock n roll superstardom.
            T. Rex actually started out in the late 1960’s. Marc Bolan was born Marc Feld on September 30, 1947. Feld would later change his name to Marc Bolan and become a skiffle musician. Sometime in the late 1960’s, Bolan joined a band called John’s Children. John’s Children were a loud, electric rock band but they broke up after a very short tenure. After the band’s split, Bolan became attracted to the folk rock scene. He decided he’d form his own little psychedelic folk group. With him on guitar and Steve Peregrine-Took on percussion, Tyrannosaurus Rex was formed in 1967. The duo later met Tony Visconti, a producer from New York who was living in the UK at the time. Visconti would later play a vital role in the music of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. In 1968, the band released their debut album My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair…But Now They’re Content to Where Stars On Their Brows. The album had little success but BBC radio DJ John Peel was one of the group’s early supporters. The group released two more albums: Prophets, Seers, Sages: The Angels of the Ages in 1968 and Unicorn in 1969. In 1969, there were tensions between Bolan and Took. As a result, Bolan fired Took that same year. Quickly, Bolan and Visconti looked for a replacement. They ended up picking percussionist Mickey Finn. As Visconti remembers, Finn wasn’t that good of a percussionist. Finn was, however, very good looking and seemed to pair up with Marc perfectly. With Finn in the group, A Beard of Stars was released in 1970. The album’s last song, “Elemental Child”, was different from anything else the group had recorded: Bolan was playing an electric guitar. Fans feared the worst.
When the time came to make the next album, it became clear that the band’s name was too long. Visconti remembers one day when he was putting labels on master tapes, he couldn’t write out Tyrannosaurus Rex. Instead, he wrote “T. Rex”. Bolan noticed this and reminded Visconti “It’s Tyrannosaurus Rex, man”. However, it must’ve entered Bolan’s mind: the name was too long. Therefore, the name was changed to T. Rex and in 1970 a self-titled album was released. Before the album’s release, the band had a hit single with a song called “Ride a White Swan”. It charted at #2 in the UK. Towards the end of 1970, Bolan decided to expand the band’s line-up. First, he hired bassist Steve Currie. In March 1971, Bolan met drummer Bill Fifield from a Visconti produced band called Legend. Bolan hired Fifield as the drummer but told him “I’m going to call you Bill Legend from now on”. The name stuck. By 1971, T. Rex’s line-up was complete after drummer Bill Legend joined the group. The month before, T. Rex released the single “Hot Love”. It reached #1 in the charts and stayed there for six weeks. In March 1971, recording began for Electric Warrior. Sessions ended in June 1971.
Electric Warrior opens up with the galactic rocker “Mambo Sun”, a great song. Marc Bolan’s voice suites the song and the rhymes are just brilliant if silly. It’s basically Bolan just trying to find words that rhyme. The lyrics all rhyme but they’re quite random. Some of my favorites: “My life’s a shadowless horse/And I can’t get across, to you” and “I got stars in my beard/And I feel real weird”. With lyrics like this, Bolan could possibly be the Dr. Seuss of rock music! The back-up vocals spice things up too. The next track, “Cosmic Dancer”, is one of the best songs Marc ever wrote. Bolan works his magic on this song with the lyrics: “Is it wrong to understand/The fear that dwells inside a man/What’s it like to be a loon?/I liken it to a balloon”. The string section makes the song even better. In a word, “Cosmic Dance” is amazing.  Meanwhile, “Jeepester” is another T. Rex classic. The tapping in the beginning of the song is actually Bolan stomping his shoe heels on a hardwood floor. Again, the lyrics are just great. The chorus: “Cause you’re my babe/Yes, you’re my love/Oh girl, I’m just a jeepster for your love.” You have to love it when Bolan sings the lyrics: “I said girl, I’m just a vampire for your love/And I’m gonna suck ya!” Bolan shouts, with his tongue firmly in his cheek. The grunts at the end are corny were lustful enough to make teenage girls cry their eyes out for Bolan. “Monolith” slows things down with a funk-riddled rhythm that is oh so catchy. Bolan seems to be having a lot of fun with the wah-wah pedal on this one and I don’t blame him: it sounds awesome. Side one ends with the twelve bar glory of “Lean Woman Blues”, featuring some more Bolan guitar work.
Side two begins with what might be T. Rex’s best known song and sadly, the only thing they are remember for in the United States. That song is, of course, “Get It On (Bang A Gong)”.  Bolan was quoted to saying in an interview that the song was a result of his desire to cover Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie”. Still, Bolan made “Get It On” his own with lyrics that could define what glam rock was all about in the 1970’s. Listen carefully in the end for Bolan’s ode to “Little Queenie” (“And meanwhile, I’m still thinking…”). Next up is the acoustically driven “Planet Queen”, a pretty deep cut from the album. How can you not like the chorus: “Well it’s alright/Love is what you want/Flying saucer take me away/Give me your daughter”. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (aka Flo and Eddie) of the Turtles sing the spine-tingling ending lyric of “Give me your daughter now”. “Girl” is simply Marc strumming on his guitar. Bolan sings lyrics of what seem to be some sort of a ballad. The album moves on with the sexually driven “The Motivator”. It’s certainly an electric glam rocker, with Bolan playing around with a wah-wah pedal again. Also, I like the bongo playing here from Mickey Finn. It fits in perfectly. “Life’s A Gas” is another favorite off the album. The song title is pretty funny but the lyrics are wonderful. Once again, Bolan seems to have written a poem: “I could have loved you girl/Like a planet/I could have chained your heart”. Just brilliant. The album ends with the hilarious “Rip Off”.   Bolan sounds frustrated in this song as he sings about how he can’t do the things he wants to do. My personal favorite lyric: “Rocking in the nude/I’m feeling such a dude/It’s a rip off”. The song and album end with a fitting saxophone solo.
Electric Warrior was T. Rex’s most successful album at that time. It charted at #1 in the UK and #32 in the US. In the US, “Get It On” was able to peak at #10 in the Billboard charts. In the UK, the band had become even bigger. “Get It On” had reached #1 and “Jeepster” reached #2. The band was selling out concerts and thousands of teenage girls had pictures of Marc Bolan hung up in their bedrooms. The follow-up album, The Slider, was also a hit as it charted at #4 in the UK and #17 in the US when released in 1972. The new presses had not seen this much hype over a band since the days of the Beatles and Beatlemania. The papers called it “T-Rextasy”. In 1972, Ringo Starr directed a concert film of the band. The movie, Born to Boogie, received mixed reviews from critics but does give a glimpse at what T. Rex was all about in the 1970’s. T. Rex’s 1973 album Tanx was another hit album but was a disappointment to some critics. Some believe that it was in 1973 when the band lost their sizzle. Bolan tried expanding the band’s line-up with another guitarist (Jack Green) and some back-up singers, such as Gloria Jones. In late 1973, Bill Legend and Jack Green left the band. Bolan kept T. Rex going with new members and albums, even when Mickey Finn and Steve Currie had left. Meanwhile, Bolan and Jones had begun a serious relationship. In 1975, Jones gave birth to Bolan’s son, Rolan.
In March 1977, Bolan and T. Rex (which now consisted of session musicians) released an album called Dandy In The Underworld. The album was a sort of comeback for both the band and Bolan. Bolan even got his own TV show in the UK, which only lasted for a few shows. Things were looking great for Bolan but unfortunately, it ended there: On September 16, 1977 Marc Bolan was killed in a car accident at the age of 29. He and Jones had been driving back from a party. Jones was driving the car and had crashed it into a tree. Tributes poured out in the papers and the music world mourned the loss of Bolan. Over the years, other members of the band have passed away: Steve Peregrine-Took, Steve Currie, Mickey Finn, and keyboardist Dino Dines. Despite his untimely death, Bolan’s music with T. Rex continues to live on in re-releases and even movies. Today, Bill Legend is the sole surviving member of the classic T. Rex line-up. He currently lives in the United States and continues to perform. Meanwhile Marc’s son, Rolan Bolan, has become a musician just like his father. Rolan had a major part in the DVD release of the long lost Born to Boogie movie in 2005.
Electric Warrior is simply one of the greatest albums ever made. It’s also one of my favorites. I have it ranked at #39 in my top albums list. It’s just a really great album that possibly could’ve been a blueprint for glam rock, which would also be made famous by Bolan’s buddy David Bowie. Electric Warrior is an example of good music. The reason why people and things, such as the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, choose to snub Marc Bolan and T. Rex is a mystery to me. It’s timeless music.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SuperHeavy album review

 SuperHeavy - SuperHeavy
SuperHeavy
SuperHeavy
Rating: *** 1/2

The Rolling Stones formed in 1962 as a blues/rock n roll band. Almost 50 years later, the band is still together though not active. So during this time off, singer Mick Jagger formed one of the most unusual supergroups ever. The band's name is SuperHeavy. It consists of Jagger, Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, UK soul singer Joss Stone, Bob Marley's youngest son Damien Marley, and Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman. The band does have a good sound but their name is a bit misleading (at least to some people): it's basically reggae music mixed with rock. No matter what, SuperHeavy's debut album is an impressive album and pretty experimental. 

The album starts with a self titled track, which is a good way to introduce both the album and the band. For the entire album, it's mainly Jagger, Stone, and Marley providing the lead vocals. Marley sings most of this first song.  Being the son of one of the world's most iconic musicians ever, Marley does have vocals that fit with all of the album's tracks. He's doesn't sound too much like his father but that's a good thing, I think, in some ways. There are a couple of electronic riddled tracks that are a bit difficult to sit through. "Unbelievable" is probably the easiest of them. It surprises me that Jagger would dabble into this kind of music but the Stones are known to have dabbled in reggae as well. The first single for the album, "Miracle Worker", is probably the best song off the album. It just sounds great with Marley, Stone, and Jagger singing to what sounds mostly like a reggae song. Still, there's some Indian music hidden in here. Listen for the violin at the end. Just fantastic. The chorus: "Oohhoo you're a miracle worker/Oohhoo you're a surgeon of love/Oohhoo you made my way to fix me up/And I'll promise I'll be back again, if you work your miracles on me". Next is the fittingly titled "Energy", which is just what the song basically is. Stone's vocals really soar over everyone else's. "Satyameva Jayathe" is a bit odd to listen to as a rock music listener but it's pretty good. "One Day One Night" is another good song, with Jagger mainly taking over lead vocals. It does sound a bit dark, which I like. As I mentioned before, there are a couple of songs that are hard to sit through. These songs include "Beautiful People", which would be better without all the electronic sounds. Then there are songs like "Rock Me Gently" and "I Don't Mind" which just get boring after a while. I really do like "I Can't Take It No More", which is probably the closest thing to rock. "What the fuck is goin' on?" screams Stone at the beginning of the song before it gets heavy (the only time this album is ever SuperHeavy really). The album closes with "World Keeps Turning", which sounds like a weak wannabe "We Are The World". 

If you're a fan of the Rolling Stones, you're going to have to think carefully about purchasing this album. I recommend listening to a few track but no matter what listen to "Miracle Worker" at least. I think that there will determine if the album will or will not be your cup of tea. For me, SuperHeavy is a pretty good album. As a big fan of the Rolling Stones, I'd rather see the band getting ready for a 50th anniversary tour but it looks like that might not happen. Whatever this is, it's good. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Alice Cooper's Welcome 2 My Nightmare review

 Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare
Alice Cooper
Welcome 2 My Nightmare
Rating: ****

36 years after its release, Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare finally has an official sequel to it. The album, titled Welcome 2 My Nightmare, is Cooper's 19th solo studio album and his 26th studio release overall (including the seven album he made with the original Alice Cooper band). Cooper, 63, made this new album with producer Bob Ezrin, who produced the original album (as well as many other albums made by Cooper) in 1975. This is Alice's first album in three years since 2008's Along Came A Spider.

There are 14 songs on the album, opposed to the 11 on the original 1975 album. The opener, "I Am Made Of You", is pretty good. It's a pretty creepy track, which is great. The song opens with the piano piece from "Steven", off the original album. The only problem I have with this song is that Alice is using Auto-Tune, a technology that modern day artists have learn to overuse. "Caffeine" is a nice little rocker. There's some great guitar playing here and it's a bit like an old school Alice Cooper song. "The Nightmare" is a nice short song which is followed up by an electric country rocker, "A Runaway Train". It does sound like an old Woody Guthrie song with loud electric guitars overlapping the sounds of a train. Country musician Vince Gill guests on this song playing the guitar solo. "Last Man On Earth" seems to be an attempt at making something like "Some Folks" off the original album. Instead, this song sounds like slow-tempo big band-like track with a hint of vaudeville. Alice has always been a showman and his live shows could be considered a form of vaudeville (heck even Groucho Marx once said Alice was the last hope for vaudeville). I didn't like it much before but I think it's typical Alice being experimental. Believe it or not, Alice has made a few experimental albums and songs. This might be one and I like it.

"The Congregation" is a great song with a bouncy sounding chorus. Alice's buddy Rob Zombie makes a guest appearance on this song as "The Guide". Next up is the Stones-eque rocker "I'll Bite Your Face Off". It's a really catchy number and it was a very wise choice to pick this as the single. There are other great rockers like "Ghouls Gone Wild" ,"When Hell Comes Home", and "I Gotta Get Out of Here". There's even a ballad "Something to Remember Me By", which Alice co-wrote with Dick Wagner. Alice and Dick wrote a string of hit ballads back in 1970’s such as "Only Women Bleed", "I Never Cry", and "You And Me". "Something To Remember Me By" may not rank up there but it's a good song. As much as I love the title, "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever" isn't that good as the song once again relies on Auto-Tune. "What Baby Wants" also uses Auto-Tune and to make things worse, Alice is singing this song with Ke$ha. Don't get me wrong: Ke$ha probably has a good voice but almost everything she's singing here is Auto-Tuned. Luckily, the album ends fantastically with "The Underture" which is an instrumental collection of songs from the original album. 

Overall, Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a fine album. It's not terrible. It's certainly not as good as Welcome To My Nightmare but there was no way Alice could top a classic album like that. I forgot to mention that most of these songs feature the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band, which is cool to see. Personally, I prefer Alice's last album Along Came a Spider much better but hey, this is decent album. It's worth a listen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Living Life In Peace: John Lennon's Imagine at 40

 John Lennon - Imagine
John Lennon
Imagine
1971
Rating: ****

The Beatles had broken up in April 1970. All of the fab four were able to continue with their careers now as solo artists. For John Lennon, it was a new freedom for him to make his own music. On September 9, 1971, Lennon released his second solo album Imagine. It would go on to become one of Lennon’s biggest albums. Imagine is also one of Lennon’s best albums. Now 40 years since its release, the songs and even Lennon himself have been able to live on and attract the younger generation.
John Lennon had released his first solo album in December 1970 called John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The album did fairly well in the charts, reaching #6 in the US and #8 in the UK. Reviews were positive and many believe Plastic Ono Band is still Lennon’s best album. Lennon began 1971 with the release of a new single, “Power to the People” in March. During the sessions for the single, Lennon recorded two songs called “It’s So Hard” and “I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier”, which would later end up on Imagine. Recording for Imagine began on June 23 and ended on July 5. The album was mainly recorded in the home studio of John and Yoko, Tittenhursk Park in Ascot. The couple built the home studio, Ascot Sound Studios. Phil Spector was producer again, as well. The making of the album was heavily documented. The footage can now be seen in the documentary Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon’s Imagine and some bits are shown in the 1988 Imagine documentary. Overdubs and re-recordings of the songs were done in July 1971. By August 1971, John and Yoko were no longer living at Tittenhursk Park.
There are a handful of songs that could be considered the greatest song ever written. “Imagine” is one of those songs. It’s John’s signature song without a doubt. Sometimes, I worry if this is all John’s solo career will be remembered for. I think I’m wrong: John Lennon had a brief but amazing solo career. “Imagine” is probably remembered for its lyrics and the simplicity. The song’s lyrics are about imagining that there’s no religion or countries. “You may say I’m a dreamer” sings John. “But I’m not the only one”. John urges listeners to join him so the world can live as one. Forty years later, the song is extremely relevant. In fact, the songs probably gets more and more relevant each year. “Imagine” is one of the greatest songs John ever wrote. Next up is the rock and roll “Crippled Inside”. Lyrically, the song would’ve been perfect for Plastic Ono Band. Instead it’s on Imagine and although the sound is a bit upbeat. To me, the song sounds like a song that’s a bit country but it also sounds like an upbeat country western tune or something you’d hear in a saloon. The lyrics are a bit dark: no matter how much you try and hide yourself, “one thing you can’t hide/Is when you’re crippled inside”. “Jealous Guy” is another great song off the album, as well as one of John’s best songs ever. Believe it or not, the song actually began life as a Beatles song. John wrote it in India after hearing about the Maharrisi Yogi’s lecture on “son of the mother nature”. Paul wrote “Mother Nature’s Son” and John wrote a song called “Child of Nature”. “Child of Nature” would’ve been on The Beatles/White Album but only a few recordings exist. John took the music and rewrote the lyrics about jealousy. The new lyrics are great but it may not exactly be about jealousy. Some believe John wrote it about Paul and/or Yoko. I think it could be about John himself. John seemed to be the kind of guy who could get so uptight about something and then later on, take it easy. John may’ve also been writing about how the average jealous person feels. Whatever the case may be, “Jealous Guy” is a great song. “It’s So Hard” is a simple slow rocker that also could’ve ended up on Plastic Ono Band. John may’ve written it about his own life and the struggles he faced. The song, in a word, is about life. Side one ends with “I Don’t Want To Be a Solider”, a bit of a funk-rock kind of track. John just wanted to be John Lennon so he wrote a song about it. This song may also have to do with the activism that he and Yoko would take part in.
Side two opens with “Gimme Some Truth”, one of John’s best political songs. It’s almost like a statement. Clearly, John wasn’t happy with how the world was going. “I’m sick and tired of hearing things/From uptight, short-sighted, narrow minded hypocrites” proclaims John. “All I want is the truth/Just gimme some truth”. John is very honest is song, so honest to the point he’s screaming “All I want is the truth!” Personally, “Gimme Some Truth” is my favorite song off the album. “Oh My Love” is another tender ballad from John. The lyrics are beautiful: “I see the wind, oh, I see the trees” John sings. It’s the simplicity once again that makes this song good. The following track, however, couldn’t be described as beautiful: “How Do You Sleep?”. As all Beatles fans should know, the song was written about John’s feelings for Paul. John had a grudge against Paul since the breakup of the Beatles. John also felt that Paul’s “Too Many People” from the 1971 Ram album was about him (and Paul did admit some of the lyrics were attacking John and Yoko). It’s clearly about Paul. Just read the opening lyrics: “So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise”. John also address the “Paul is dead” hoax (“Those freaks was right when they said/You was dead”), some other song titles (“The only thing you done was yesterday” and “Since you’re gone you’re just/Another day”), and insults (“The sound you make is muzak/To my ears”). This is indeed a rocker, with some great guitar playing…from George Harrison?! That’s right. George is playing on this song. He was later quoted to saying he wasn’t comfortable about playing on this song. Obviously, John and Paul did settle their differences in 1975 when they met each other the last time before John was murdered in 1980. In later interviews, John said in interviews that songs like “How Do You Sleep” and “Steel and Glass” (John’s feelings about Allen Klien) were actually about him. Right, John. Sure they were. The rock-infused “How Do You Sleep?” is followed by the light-hearted “How?”. Again, the song could’ve easily ended up on Plastic Ono Band. Some of John’s most overlooked lyrics are in this song: “How can I go forward when I don’t know which way I’m facing”. It seems like in this song, John had still gotten a lot out the primal therapy he underwent and put into Plastic Ono Band. John could be speaking for the people who don’t know what the future holds for them. If he is, it’s a great way to put it: in song!  Imagine ends with “Oh, Yoko!”. It’s another one of John’s simple songs but this one is very tongue-in-cheek. However, I think John wanted it to be that way. It’s an unusual way to end the album but personally, I kind of like it.
  Imagine was released to positive reviews when released in 1971. Unlike Plastic Ono Band, the album did better chart wise: it was #1 almost in various countries. With the success of Imagine, Lennon was able to continue his solo career. However, almost the rest of his life would be in New York City. He and Yoko moved in September 1971. The couple fought to stay in the United States, which John was finally allowed to around 1975 when the couple’s son Sean was born. Lennon continued his career until he was murdered on December 8, 1980. Meanwhile, John’s music continues to live on and grab the attention of the younger audiences. Imagine is still hailed today as one of the greatest albums ever made and has made appearances on list of the greatest album ever made. Rolling Stone ranked it at #67 in 2003. For me, Imagine sits at #91 in my top 250. Although I prefer Plastic Ono Band, I think Imagine is still a great album.