John Lennon

Capitol, 1975

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


The release of this album would mark a turning point in John Lennon’s career and personal life.  Fresh from his “lost weekend” and returning home to a newly pregnant wife, it was to be another five years before he released a new studio album.  The wonderful Double Fantasy, released just three weeks before his untimely death in 1980 was a reflection of those years spent as he and Yoko lived the quiet family life, raising baby Sean. 

This album, however, is nothing but a reflection of what Lennon’s life had become shortly after heading to L.A. with Miss Pang (at Yoko’s insistence) for a trial separation in May of ‘73.  What began with good intentions and high hopes ultimately ended in a drunken haze of confusion, delusion, and let’s not forget producer Phil Spector’s coma following a car accident.  As Lennon would find out, working with Spector was no picnic, and dealing with the producer’s legendary panic attacks and paranoid episodes of grand scales meant for a very long and painful ride. 

It was during one of these episodes that Spector took off with all the master tapes of the sessions and was not heard from for months. But during this hiatus, Lennon was able to write, record and complete Walls And Bridges. It wasn’t until Lennon received a package from the West Coast (from lucky Phil) that turned out to be the masters that Lennon could actually finish what he had started over a year before.

The album itself is made up entirely of rock songs from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s that no doubt had an influence on the young Lennon and his early bands.  Among the many session players appearing here are such well-known folks as Jim Keltner (drums), Bobby Keys (horns), and Steve Cropper (guitars).  Jose Feliciano also dropped by and put down bits and pieces. So with a great singer, stellar players and Phil Spector to oversee the insanity, you could be forgiven for expecting a masterpiece here, but sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Whether it was the fact that the star and his producer were consuming copious amounts of alcohol or that it was essentially a contractual obligation (I’ll get to that in a minute), I don’t know, but for the most part this is as uninspired and banal as Lennon had ever sounded.  At times (“Ain’t That A Shame”) his voice is awesome, full of character and a little raspy around the higher register.  Other times (“Peggy Sue”), he sounds flat and dull trying to out-Holly Buddy but failing miserably.

The album opens with a faithful if pedestrian version of Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula.”   This is quickly followed up with the album’s only true highlight, a beautiful, soulful rendition of “Stand By Me.”  The stripped down arrangement is a winner and Lennon’s singing is truly inspired.  Of the two Chuck Berry songs, “Sweet Sixteen” fares the best probably due to the funk-inspired guitars.  “You Can’t Catch Me” is too contrived and was the obvious influence for “Come Together,” for which Lennon would wind up in court over, having been sued for infringement by Roulette Records’ Morris Levy. 

It was this lawsuit that led to Lennon doing a covers album in the first place.  After agreeing to record at least three songs that Levy had published for his next album, Lennon found so many of his old favorites that he decided on a full album of covers from the Levy catalogue instead.

The album really falls apart about halfway through with an atrocious reading of “Do You Want To Dance” -- the less said about that one, the better.  Other tracks like “Slippin’ And Slidin’,” “Boney Maronie,” and “Rip It Up/Ready Teddy” all sound the same and offer nothing new.  “Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin’” is pure Vegas schmaltz and really should have been cut; it’s truly horrible.

The album’s closer “Just Because” isn’t bad, but again by this point just sounds too much like the bland, unimaginative arrangements that litter this record from start to finish. Unfortunately, the coolest thing about this disc is the cover shot of Lennon propped in a doorway, possibly waiting for inspiration.

Anyway, Lennon would redeem himself big time with his aforementioned masterpiece at the beginning of the new decade, but upon listening to this turkey again, it’s clear that if Spector had never returned those masters, we really wouldn’t have missed much at all. 

Rating: D+

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© 2008 Mark Millan 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.