A few weeks back, I gave Paul McCartney's Band On The Run a listen. After coming away quite impressed, the time seemed right for a sampling of John Lennon's solo work. Imagine has been in my collection for a few years, but for some reason or another it never captured my interest. So the question for me was: had that changed, now that I've heard Paul?
For example, the breakup of the Beatles was acrimonious, and old wounds are hard to heal. But John Lennon's scathing critique of McCartney in "How Do You Sleep" is not only juvenile but hypocritical. Lennon sings, "the sound you make is Muzak to my ears," but a few songs later delivers "Oh Yoko," a tune just as clichéd and sappy as anything McCartney ever sang.
Now, I could stand "Oh Yoko" as a musical entity; it's quite well done. But I'm one of those that places a lot of blame on Ono for the breakup of the Beatles (before I get hate mail, yes, I know there were multiple other reasons as well), and to hear Lennon just fawning over her sickens me. I can appreciate sentimentality, but there is just too much of it here. "Oh My Love," is much better, a reigned-in love song that manages to move without resorting to a shout-out.
Those quibbles aside, there is much to like on Imagine. The title track has been ushered into the pantheon of all-time greats, and deservedly so, with a stripped-down production and simple hippie-era lyrics. On the other side of the coin, the acidic "Gimme Some Truth," and desperate "I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier" shine the spotlight on Lennon's utter contempt for the establishment, a theme that ran throughout his entire career. Also, lyrics aside, the actual music for "How Do You Sleep," is excellent, with string dubs and George Harrison stopping by for a slide guitar solo.
As with McCartney's Band On The Run, I tried to distance this album from any Beatles album. However, it was inevitable that comparisons would arise. Both Lennon and McCartney created much better material when they had each other to bounce ideas off of, but Imagine is a fine effort from John Lennon, and that should be good enough for anyone.