published: 21 /
Most of John Lennon's solo work has already been remastered . With the final two albums 'Walls and Bridges' and 'Sometime in New York City' being released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of his death, Anthony Strutt examines their abiding impact
Over the last two years most of the back catalogue of John Lennon's solo work has already been remastered for the new century. The final two albums in this series, 'Walls and Bridges' and 'Sometime in New York City', have been re-released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of his pointless brutal murder on the 8th December 1980.
John Lennon/Walls and Bridges
Originally issued back in 1974 in vinyl on Apple Records with a fold out sleeve upon which you could change his facial expressions and the glasses he was wearing, 'Walls and Bridges' was John Lennon's last proper album before he made his comeback in the year of his death in 1980. After this he only issued in 1975 the Phil Spector-produced 'Rock and Roll', upon which he played his favourite rock and roll covers, and a compilation album 'Shaved Fish', which also came out in 1975, His backing band on this consisted mainly of session musicians who had also worked with Ringo Starr and George Harrison on their solo albums.
All the tracks on this album were remixed apart from 'Old Dirt Road' and 'Bless You', both of which were remastered.
'Walls and Bridges' is a great, but often dark album, written in 1974, during John's infamous "lost weekend" period at which time he and and Yoko Ono had split up for a while.
It opens with the brassy 'Going Down on Love' which is as honest a statement as Lennon could of made at that time. It is a song about disillusionment and trying to get on by.
'Whatever Gets you Thru the Night' was a number one single. It is a feisty little number with funky piano and is sung as a duet with Elton John.
'Old Dirt Road' is very soft and sloppy, and has a weird guitar line that makes it sound like something off an early George Harrison solo album.
'What Got You' is raw but funky. It sounds something off John's late 60's/early 70's experimental Plastic Ono Band material. Upon it John asks Yoko for one more chance and his vocal makes him sound like he has got a sore throat.
'Bless You' is a trippy and very romantic love song and, unlike much of John's other love songs, sounds as fresh as the day it was recorded. 'Scared' starts off with a wolf like howl, and a guitar solo that sounds like a cry. Its vocals are elegant but brutally honest and it also features thumping bass and drums and jazzy piano backing.
'#9 Dream' remains one of my favourite Lennon songs ever. It flows very smoothly, and, also a single, compared to the rest of the album, has a fairly happy little tune. It is heavenly produced with a great chorus featuring May Pang, John's girlfriend at the time. whom was employed by Yoko to look after John during this time.
'Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)' has John going back to being funky, and again is quite uplifting. 'Steel and Glass' is a classic 70's singer songwriter number, and the album is worth seeking out for this track alone, because it is one of the few John Lennon tracks that hasn't been released on the numerous compilations that have come out since his death.
'Beef Jerky' is a very strange track which sounds like it was recorded at a really heavy jam session. 'Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out' combines John's vocals and acoustic guitar with full orchestral backing, which gives it a Phil Spector quality. The original LP ends with John and his son Julian's track 'Ya Ya', which sounds like an outtake. It features John on piano and singing very basic lyrics and Julian on drums playing a primitive beat.
This reissue also features two extra tracks.
There is a live version of 'Whatever Gets You Thru the Night', which was recorded at the very famous Elton John gig in New York in 1975, at which John guested and at which John and Yoko got back together. It was also John's last ever live appearance.
It also has an unreleased stripped down and beautiful version of 'Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)' which features just the vocal and the acoustic guitar.
It ends with an interview, issued on promo 7 inches of 'Whatever Gets You Thru The Night' for employees of E.M.I. who were going to sell the record to the world.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono/Sometime in New York City,
'Sometime in New York City' isn't by any means an easy album to listen to. The most political album of all Lennon's solo albums, a lot of its philosophies and points may be lost now due to the progression of the time.
Originally it was a double LP, with some studio tracks and a live jam on it from 2 gigs, one in London in 1969, and another at the Fillmore East in San Francisco in 1971, the latter of which also featured Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Most of this live jam has been deleted by Yoko Ono, as she sees it is pointless now, but it was good headfuck music, prog rock at its very best, so it is wrong that she has chosen to get rid of these recordings with this remaster.
It opens with 'Woman is the Nigger of the World', which was a US only 7 inch, and, not a racist song at all, stands up for feminism. 'Sisters O Sisters' by Yoko Ono was that single's B side and is one of my favourite Yoko songs ever. It has a fine little reggae groove going on in there, and, very much of its time, is heavily political but is played with great pop sensibilities.
'Attica State' is a brass heavy number with edgy and dark guitar. 'Born in a Prison' is Yoko again, a very beautiful song, sung with elegance and grace, while 'New York City' is a great very 70's style rocker, and is as fresh in my mind as the day I first heard it some 20 years ago.
'Sunday Bloody Sunday' is an ode to John's Irish roots, and is followed by the gorgeous 'The luck of the Irish', which is played on acoustic guitar and flute and sung by both John and Yoko.
'John Sinclair' is a political song for a political prisoner, as is Yoko's 'Angela'. The studio LP ends with Yoko's 'We're All Water' which is Yoko at her screaming, wailing best. The song is very earthy, but it is this weird shit that Beatles fans hated so much.
The live jam starts off with 'Cold Turkey' and its B side, 'Don't Worry Kyoko' which is a tribute to Yoko's daughter by her first
husband, Tony Cox.
'Cold Turkey' is dirty and powerful and is about drugs withdrawal. It is painful, and as honest as it could be. John opens the song with a killer riff. 'Cold Turkey' lasts almost 9 minutes, but 'Don't Worry Kyoko', Yoko's ode to getting her daughter back, is almost 15 minutes of pure guitar rock and wailing. Both of these hail from a Christmas gig at the London Lyceum.
'Well, Baby, Please Don't Go' hails from the Zappa gig, and is a song John hadn't played since his Cavern club days and a 50's style rock and roll with a great guitar sound and Yoko wailing in the background.
This ends the butchered version of the live album. Onto this are two extra tracks, the A and B side of 'Happy Xmas. (War is Over)', which starts off with the angelic Yoko side first 'Listen the Snow is Failing' which is pure poetry, while' Happy Xmas' was and still is, both the ultimate Christmas and peace song.
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