Posted in Album Reviews

John Lennon – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)

Plastic Ono Band

Upon the break-up of The Beatles in the spring of 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono decamped to the US to take part in Primal Therapy sessions. The rawness of those classes, lead Lennon to record this official debut released in December 1970.  Here, Lennon is backed by the Plastic Ono Band with him and Ono producing with assistance from Phil Spector.  Recording was quick, beginning on September 26th and ending a month later.

At times John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is spare and minimal as Lennon touches on family and the relationship with his parents, especially his Mother numerous times.  First single and album opener “Mother” is a devastating way to open an album.  “Mother, you had me but I never had you” cuts deep. The album closes with “My Mummy’s Dead”.  At a mere 52 seconds, the vocals sound like they were recorded onto a tape recorder.

“Working Class Hero” is an equally powerful track as the opener– “as soon as you’re born they make you feel small”  It’s another track that makes it’s intent known in the first line.  An understated song that is filled with quiet rage and reminds of Dylan’s 60’s work.  The intro to “Love” is long and takes awhile to come to the listener’s attention before Lennon sings “love is real, real is love”, “Isolation” sings of Lennon and Ono just being a boy and girl. To contrast the quieter sounds, “Well Well Well” has a White Stripes thump to begin, filled with distortion and a harder edge.  The foundation of “Remember” is a driving rock and roll beat before a gun shot brings it to a close.

On his debut, John Lennon with the help of Yoko Ono leaves the 60s behind.  “God” lists all the things that Lennon does not believe in including the bible, Buddha, and the Beatles before declaring that the “dream is over”.  What he does believe in is himself and Yoko.  Personal, direct and raw John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is regarded as one of Lennon’s finest with a bucolic cover that looks amazing on vinyl… even if we only have the CD.

10/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Jarv Is – Beyond the Pale (2020)

Beyond The Pale-Orange Vinyl

Since Pulp’s last album, We Love Life in 2001, band leader Jarvis Cocker has released four albums under various names.  His latest as Jarv Is features tracks recorded at various gigs along with studio material. With no crowd noise, it is indecipherable to figure out which is live and which is not. In the Pale is another album indebted to Leonard Cohen but unlike last year’s Robert Forster release, Jarv Is shows that even in old age one can still get down, live in the shadows, and stay out all night.

Jarvis’ lyrics flash back to the old rave days on first single “Must I Evolve” before exclaiming, “I’m so glad we made it”.  Those same ravers are recalled on the loungy “Swanky Modes” where “some still scoring cocaine/some laid up with back pain”.  The chorus on “Children of the Echo” has a memorable vocal effect and opener “Save The Whale” gets expansive for a moment when Jarvis tells us to “mooove”. The album unfolds across 7 songs in 41 minutes.  A mature album with several solid moments.   

7.5/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Simon & Garfunkel – Live from New York City, 1967 (2002)

Live From New York City, 1967

Simon & Garfunkel:  The Complete Albums Collection released in 2014 contains all the albums, the duo’s greatest hits, plus four live albums.  The live albums were all released after the duo broke up in 1970 so in the box, they appear all in a row.  One of the last Simon & Garfunkel official releases was one of the earliest,  the Live from New York City, 1967 album. 

This album was recorded at New York’s Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center on January 22, 1967 but was not released until July 2002. The album starts with a fine version of “He Was My Brother” from the duo’s debut album before turning in an excellent rendition of “Leaves That Are Green”.  “Homeward Bound” is the first hit song to appear and receives enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Art Garfunkel describes “The Dangling Conversation” as one of their favourites before edgy versions of “Richard Cory” and “Hazy Shade of Winter” that would later appear on the Bookends album. A long and amusing recounting of their photography session for first album Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. precedes “A Poem on the Subway Wall”.  Towards the end of the album, Simon & Garfunkel show their skills on three of their most beloved tracks – a less defiant than the album version of “I Am a Rock”, their breakthrough hit “The Sound of Silence” and a stunning Garfunkel vocal on “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her”.

The recording of the concert is impeccable as it sounds like the duo are singing right into your ear. Simon’s guitar playing is the only instrument heard is wonderfully rendered with several intricate passages. While missing a few popular songs, most notably “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”, Live 1967 acts as a greatest hits of their first three albums. At the end of the concert, the crowd is more vocal and can be heard shouting for more, showing the duo’s popularity and performing prowess.  Live from New York City, 1967 is a fine document of where the duo were at in that stage of their career with several very good takes on many of their better early tracks.

8.5/10