Michael Fremer Rated 10/11 Music, 10/11 Sonics!
John Lennon's classic debut solo album, featuring John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Billy Preston and Phil Spector. Completely remixed from the original multi-tracks at Abbey Road Studios by triple GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Paul Hicks, overseen by producer Yoko Ono Lennon.
2LP gatefold edition includes a second LP of outtakes.
All mastered at half-speed, pressed on 180g vinyl, with a booklet and WAR IS OVER! poster.
From the haunting, funereal bells and emotional wails of opening track "Mother", it was immediate - John Lennon's first solo studio album was unlike anything he had made before. Recorded in 1970, shortly after the demise of The Beatles, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band saw John stripping away the artifice and ornamentation for a visceral artistic exorcism that was confessional, raw, painfully honest, and revelatory. Inspired by the primal scream psychotherapy he and wife Yoko Ono had been practicing with Dr. Arthur Janov, John, joined by the minimalist Plastic Ono Band - Ringo Starr on drums and Klaus Voorman on bass, and producer Phil Spector - confronted his demons, professed his love for his wife, railed against false idols and declared the dream was over on his most personal album. Today it stands as the towering achievement of his solo career - the moment the biggest rock star in the world bared his soul for all to hear - as real as it was revolutionary.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was John's first post-Beatles solo album so interest was high to see what he would do with his newfound creative freedom. The answer shocked the world. Gone was any florid instrumentation or psychedelia as on Sgt. Pepper's or the kind of jaunty rock and abstract poetry of the band's final album, Let It Be, and in its place were deeply emotional, profound, autobiographical songs about being abandoned by his mother and father, the loneliness of stardom, his dear Yoko and the end of the cultural revolution. Soundtracked by simple and sparse instrumentation and minimal yet majestic production, John's voice pierced listener's hearts like never before as he revealed his true self. It marked his true birth as a solo artist. The album reached the top 10 in both the US and UK, despite the absence of a major hit single.
Fifty years on, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is widely considered one of the best albums ever made. Most recently Rolling Stone, who also dubbed it #4 on their list of Best Albums of 1967-87, ranked the album #85 in their 2020 reassessment of The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, hailing it ahead of its time: "a pure, raw core of confession that, in its echo-drenched, garage-rock crudity, is years ahead of punk."
Pitchfork awarded it #60 in their Top 100 Albums of the 1970s list and it was selected by Time as one of the 100 Best Albums of All Time, declaring: "Lennon's writing was never sharper, and his still-underrated singing stands with rock's finest."
As Rolling Stone's retrospective review remarked, "left out in the open, without protective harmonies or racket, Lennon's singing takes on an expressive specificity that anyone in search of the century's great vocal performances would be foolish to overlook."
It was a revolutionary record - never before had a record been so explicitly introspective, and very few records made absolutely no concession to the audience's expectations, daring the listeners to meet all the artist's demands. Which isn't to say that the record is unlistenable. Lennon's songs range from tough rock & rollers to piano-based ballads and spare folk songs, and his melodies remain strong and memorable, which actually intensifies the pain and rage of the songs... It's an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon's catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.
Double vinyl or super deluxe box set, John Lennon's best album by far belongs in every Beatle fan's collection. I hope the youngsters grooving on Abbey Road take this plunge into the painful abyss of where Lennon's 60s success and stardom eventually took him. And kudos to the entire production team that created and assembled this worthy tribute to our 'working class hero'.
- 180g Vinyl
- Double LP
- Half-Speed Mastered
- Original album remixed from original multi-tracks at Abbey Road Studios by Paul Hicks
- Overseen by producer Yoko Ono Lennon
- Second LP of outtakes
- Gatefold jacket
- WAR IS OVER! poster
- Hold On
- I Found Out
- Working Class Hero
- Well Well Well
- Look At Me
- My Mummy's Dead
- Mother / Take 61
- Hold On / Take 2
- I Found Out / Take 1
- Working Class Hero / Take 1
- Isolation / Take 23
- Remember / Rehearsal 1
- Love / Take 8
- Well Well Well / Take 2
- Look At Me / Take 2
- God / Take 27
- My Mummy's Dead / Take 2