John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

John Lennon

Capitol, 1970

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/09/2014

The ominous sound of a bell tolling opens this debut solo effort of former Beatle John Lennon. It serves both as a death knell for what was the most successful rock band in music history, as well as the announcement of a fresh start for the transformed Lennon. The opening track “Mother” is both autobiographical and an exercise in exorcising one’s own demons through what is known as “primal scream therapy.” Lennon’s mum was hit by a car and killed when John was just 17, though John had been estranged from both of his parents as a child and is what the song’s lyrical content directly addresses. You can hear the anguish and pain when John sings, “You had me, but I never had you,” and “Mama don’t go, Daddy come home,” before ultimately saying a final goodbye to both of them.

Released simultaneously with wife Yoko’s Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band created much controversy due to the fact that both album covers had the same nature photography, though the images of John and Yoko sitting against a tree are transposed to distinguish the two albums (somewhat). The couple was the subject of much tabloid fodder, which they intentionally helped to fuel with their ever-frequent avant-garde art installations and political protests such as the infamous “Bed-In,” staged to promote peace and protest the Vietnam War. The twosome even created a stir when they were busted for pot and then denied visas to remain in the country. Eventually, the government relented and allowed them to stay, owing in great part to the public’s outcry, not to mention their superstar status. On this album, the bewitching Yoko can be heard all over the brilliant claustrophobic closer “Do The Oz.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If you want to know what John Lennon is all about, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is the best representation of his views and unmistakable talent. Raw and unguarded are two words that describe the material found here. From the buzz-saw fuzz guitar on “I Found Out,” to the manic “Remember,” on to the gentle, yet dramatic bookend statements of “Love” and “God” (where he basically trades in his former bandmates for Yoko), this is John Lennon’s life story set to music. It’s all riveting stuff. None of it, not even the ballads, is boring. Yes, he does take on the government that has made him a whipping boy in the media with the one-two punch of “Working Class Hero” and “Power To The People,” which shows that censorship should never be a part of one’s art. Freedom of speech clearly was a major reason John loved America so much and why the feeling was so mutual. He was a hero to so many when he was alive and ended up becoming something of a saint after his untimely death by an assassin’s bullet in 1980.

If you thought John’s performance on the Beatles’ “Twist And Shout” was amazing in its vocal-shredding spontaneity, you will be completely slack-jawed by his cathartic screams on “Well Well Well.” That particular cut is the clear artistic high point of this album. An artist has to be completely fearless when making the leap from their own mind to translating it for the masses. There has to be a clear through-line in getting one’s message across both lyrically and musically. A build-up suspense and a cathartic release of blood, sweat and tears where you leave it all on the studio floor or stage and are left completely spent. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

Rating: A

User Rating: A


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© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.