Menlove Ave.

John Lennon

Capitol, 1986

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


One can understand the demand for unreleased tracks from John Lennon following his murder in 1980; the posthumous album Milk & Honey, which Lennon was working on as the follow-up to Double Fantasy prior to his death, in some ways should have satiated the masses.

But in 1986, Menlove Ave., a collection of studio out-takes, hit the market, and the record-buying public, for the most part, turned up their collective noses at it. Good thing, too, because this disc, while it has a few enjoyable performances, proves that not everything on the cutting room floor should be dusted off and released to the general public.

Comprised mostly of leftovers from the Walls & Bridges and Rock ‘n’ Roll projects (as well as one leftover track from Mind Games), these ten tracks sometimes truly do scrape the barrel of leftover Lennon music. Three particular tracks, left over from the Rock ‘n’ Roll sessions, show the worst of it. Lennon just does not seem like the right person or voice to tackle “Angel Baby” or “To Know Her Is To Love Her” (the latter a gender-changed cover of The Teddy Bears’ classic), and both tracks feature a delivery like Lennon really didn’t want to do either song. (True story: when I put “To Know Her Is To Love Her” on prior to writing this review, my six-year-old son ran to the bathroom and puked. I think that was really a case of the stomach flu – but after repeated listens to this track, I’m not terribly sure.) What is even more stomach-churning is that these three tracks were tacked onto the remastered version of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Rock ‘n’ Roll as bonus tracks – proof positive you can have too much of anything.

The other track from sessions Lennon did with Phil Spector, “Here We Go Again,” does not start the album out on the greatest note. Now, I’m well aware that the albums Lennon recorded from ’73 to ’75 were more introspective and darker in nature, these being the discs recorded while he was separated from Yoko Ono, and I know I shouldn’t be expecting a party atmosphere from this stuff. But this track flat out sucks, meandering back and forth from the chorus to barely-there verses. This track dares to suggest that it was left off of Rock’n’Roll for a damn good reason – namely, the track wasn’t nearly as developed as it could have been. (Could more work on this one have saved the song? Honestly, I don’t know.)

The second half of Menlove Ave., while better in terms of song quality, seems kind of pointless, as all these tracks had alternate versions released on Walls & Bridges. Now, I’m not saying these are bad by any stretch of the word (and I will plead pure ignorance as to the difference between these versions and the ones released – I have yet to listen to Walls & Bridges), but it really seems odd that different versions of five previously released songs would be thrown out to the general public for mass consumption. (And, yes, I guess I’m a heretic on this call, too – seeing that I probably wouldn’t have been bothered had these come out in a box set. I guess that one man’s shit really is another’s shinola.)

That said, I do somewhat enjoy listening to these five, possibly because they were the more developed tracks on this disc, and tracks like “Steel And Glass,” “Old Dirt Road” and “Bless You,” while still of the darker mindset that Lennon had at this time, are quite listenable and fairly enjoyable.

The leftover from the Mind Games era, “Rock And Roll People,” is one that, honestly, does make me wonder why it didn’t make the cut. There’s no question that this song was ready for prime time, so I guess its exclusion was just a judgment call. This one does prove to be a diamond in the rough that is Menlove Ave.

I realize that saying anything negative about anything even remotely related to the Beatles – the solo career of Paul McCartney being a glaring exception – is cause enough for the blasphemer to be tarred and feathered. But I can’t, in all honesty, say that Menlove Ave. is one that is worthy of your time, and the weaker tracks have regrettably found their way onto other releases to weaken their foundations. If you absolutely have to have this disc, then “Rock And Roll People” and the alternate takes from Walls & Bridges will satiate you, but chances are you’ll still walk away feeling like this disc was released more to cash out on Lennon’s ghost.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Christopher Thelen 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.