Classic Albums: Plastic Ono Band (DVD)

John Lennon

Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2008

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


“Mother, you had me, but I never had you” is the first line of the first track off of John Lennon’s groundbreaking first post-Beatles record. The lyric would set the tone for what was arguably Lennon’s most potent and powerful artistic statement: 1970’s Plastic Ono Band. An album loaded to the brim with personal and expressive content, this was the record Lennon had been longing to make for over a decade. Having felt artistically constrained by the Beatles, Lennon used this release as the vehicle to deliver some of the most meaningful and personal music of his career. It was back to basics for Plastic Ono Band: just vocal, guitar, piano, bass and drums – no more Beatles studio wizardry, no more spending months and months to record songs. Lennon wanted this record to be as naked, sparse and spacious as possible; the only thing that mattered was the message. 

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s latest installment in the Classic Albums series of documentaries takes a closer look at this extraordinary work of art by one of the most gifted and brilliant writers of the last century. Featuring interviews with drummer Ringo Starr and bassist Klaus Voorman, who provided the meticulously controlled rhythm section for the album, this frustratingly short documentary provides only a decent introduction to the making of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Plastic Ono Band. Of course, Yoko Ono offers her perspective on the album too, which just like everything else she has to say is only interesting because she knew Lennon so intimately, not because she made any worthwhile contributions to this Lennon record or any other (she’s credited in the sleeve notes as having provided “wind” for the album, listed before Ringo, Klaus, Billy Preston and Phil Spector -- how embarrassing.)

It would have been nice to listen to Spector’s take on the record, but you know, he’s having some trouble with the law and all. Also featured is John and Yoko’s therapist Dr. Arthur Janov, who was overseeing the couple’s “primal therapy” in California at the time most of the songs for the album were written. In addition, Abbey Road engineers Phil McDonald and Richard Lush are at the boards isolating tracks and giving context where appropriate.

The main feature covers “Mother,” “Hold On,” “I Found Out,”“Working Class Hero,” “Isolation,” “Love,” and “God,” leaving “Remember” and “Well Well Well” for the bonus features. The disc omits “Look At Me,” “My Mummy’s Dead,” “Power To The People,” and “Do The Oz.” Here’s the deal with this Classic Albums series of short films: they’re interesting, yes, and because they’re all authorized, these short films almost always include commentary from people who really know what they’re talking about because they were there. In general, they sound pretty good and they’re fairly well put together with respect to archival footage and photos.

In fact, the best feature of this particular installment is the live footage of Lennon in both the main film and the extras; that stuff is fascinating. But – considering the subjects of these films are supposed to be the greatest albums of all time – the Classic Albums series of documentaries are confusingly brief. I’ve experienced this with every single film released in the series. Just as they’re getting to the meat of the record, the film ends. Why not include the other four tracks off of Plastic Ono Band

The front cover of the DVD for this edition states that it’s “the definitive authorized story of the album.” Authorized? Yes. Definitive? Absolutely not. Buy it for a small glimpse into the making of the record; just don’t expect an exhaustive examination of one of the best albums ever made. Plastic Ono Band is more than just a classic album: it’s a perfect album and it deserves more. John Lennon deserves more.

Rating: B-

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I think the first Plastic Ono Band album was the live album with Eric Clapton. Lennon begins saying, 'we've never played together before..." then sings Money, Blue Suede Shoes, and his favorite song from the White Album. The live album sound quality was not that great, but it was a great album. pdcoyne

© 2008 Kenny S. McGuane 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 Eagle Rock Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.