John Lennon “Imagine” – New Deluxe 2 CD set (a detailed review)

As luck would have it, today I was lucky enough to get a hold of a copy of the brand new 2 CD Deluxe reissue of John Lennon;s classic “Imagine” album!

The reissue is scheduled to be released next Friday, October 5th but I thought I would give those Lennon or Beatlephiles out there a sneak preview.

This new 2 CD set features the complete album plus some stray single and other songs on Disc 1 newly (and I must say excellently) remixed with Disc 2 featuring some tasty element mixes of the songs as well as out-takes of each song on the album.

I spent the better part of the day listening to this terrific new reissue/collection and I’ve decided to share my first thoughts of it below.

So let’s take a look at this set from top to bottom.

The Remix: Disc 1

Imagine – superb bass, Lennon’s voice front and center. Very respectful of the original mix but MUCH clearer. Certainly not as loud as the re entry Tug of War remix. Love how  the strings stand out but aren’t obtrusive

Crippled Inside – again very clear and clean. Sounds like the original mix but with a layer taken off. Not nearly as loud as previous remix from 2000.

Jealous Guy – this song has never sounded better. The strings, just like Imagine, take on a new freshness and clarity without being overbearing. Bass too. Strings and bass biggest improvements on this new remix

It’s So Hard – the bass and sax just dance in the mix. I’m impressed with how much this sounds like a much improved version of the original mix! Things stand out better like Lennon’s two vocals and the piano but aren’t in your face. There’s a smoothness to the mix that’s very easy on the ears

I Don’t Want to Be a Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die – very similar to the original mix. Still thick sounding but certainly better than any other version out there and more open separation. Drum work is a highlight but not in your face, just sounds more present than before and so respectful of Lennon’s mix.

Gimme Some Truth – again very similar to original mix. More like getting a two generations better sounding tape than sounding like a modern remix. The guitar has such sting and presence but doesn’t hurt your ears. Sound has been widened and stereo but not losing the vibe of the original

Oh My Love – STUNNING is the only word that comes to mind. Dramatically better sounding mix, everything is defined beautifully and so damn clean and clear. Oh how I wish Tug of War was remixed like this. Perfect sounding.

How Do You Sleep? – again, shit this sounds SUPERB! they certainly made their goal of a much better sounding version of Lennon’s mix. Strings are superb!!! Sounds like stereo and more open but still thick just less murky than the original

How? – again, superb. The strings stand out as never before but aren’t in your face.

Oh Yoko! – the vocals really shine on this mix! Superb bass too but the vocals stand out in such clarity but thankfully aren’t glaringly so. Lovely. Nice extended harmonica at the end.

Power to the People – the bass is superb. Still a bit murky like the original mix but more powerful. Sax stands out more as well as background vocals but still feels like original mix just cleaner and fade goes on longer

Well … (Baby Please Don’t Go) – clean mix, sounds like Plastic Ono Band material with sax added. Actually reminds me of Hendrix funnily enough

God Save Us – If this was remixed you cant tell a huge difference, it just sounds like a cleaner version of an original vintage mix. Bill Elliot sounds so much like Lennon. I prefer Lennon’s vocal but this is a nice punchy mix

Do the Oz – same as above, sounds like a nicely mastered version of the original not overdone unlike the song lol

God Save Oz – Lennon vocal. Much cleaner mix, Lennon’s vocal up front, great mix. Clean and crisp and slightly murky but not as closed in as an original Lennon mix

Happy Xmas (War is Over) – now we’re talking, stunningly clear mix. Great bass, much more presence and the vocals and separation are outstanding. Yoko sounds great too. Best mix I’ve ever heard of this song by far

There’s no contest for me, this new remix is the best remix I’ve ever heard of any of The Beatles or solo Beatles material! So well done and so listenable – no trace of jacked up sound that I can hear.

You never think you’re listening to a new mix, its the same album it just sounds like you’re listening to a much better master – cleaner and clearer, more presence and separation but the same vibe as Lennon’s mix.

I can hear things down in the mix more, more open but they never sound as if they are some kind of reworking of what Lennon created, just improved.

Hands down from now on this is the mix I will listen to when I want to hear this album, it’s that good. I really hope that McCartney takes note of this set. his reissues sound good as well but the way this set was put together with all the out-takes and elements is just great!

Disc 2 – Elements and Out-takes 

Imagine (elements mix) – superb strings only. Reminded me of a 1940’s Christmas movie. Lovely by itself, seems like a whole new song

Jealous Guy (elements mix) – lovely piano  driven instrumental mix with just piano, bass and drums. Damn fine piano playing by Nicky Hopkins. So good I can’t wait to dig into more of this on the bigger box version. Thought I may be bored with elements but this is superb

Oh My Love (elements mix) – Stunning vocal only mix. Just lovely with Lennon’s vocals alone. Great stuff.

How? (elements mix) – just the strings. SUPERB. Like Imagine previously sounds like it could come from some movie  soundtrack, gives the song whole new feeling with just strings, lovely

Imagine (demo) – Fantastic demo with just Lennon on the piano and a ton of echo. The Plastic Ono version of this track

Imagine take 1 – Love this. More hesitant and world weary sounding than the finished take. Sounds more childlike on this take

Crippled Inside take 3 – so clean and laid back. Nice take, the vocals area bit more hesitant than the finished take but instrumentally this take sounds great!

Crippled Inside – take 6 with alt guitar solo – this is where multiple takes can be a bit overkill. Nice take, nice alt solo but I prefer take 3 because it sounds more different from the finished take and is cleaner sounding than this take

Jealous Guy – take 9 – really nice take. Much different feel from the finished version, I may prefer this actually. Reminds me of the alternate version of Across the Universe from The Beatles Anthology disc. Lighter version but nice. Not complete though

It’s So Hard – take 6 – great sounding take  with nice fat bass! Less echo om Lennon’s vocal which is nice actually. Fun listen more bluesy sounding than the finished take.

I Don’t Want to Be a Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die –  take 11 – more raw take. Sounds interesting but I prefer the finished take. This one is a little more tedious to listen to but okay

Gimme Some Truth – take 4 – nice raw take. Sounds good but not dramatically different than the master but no solo.

Oh My Love – take 6 – lovely, does this song ever sound bad! Nice alt take but very similar to released take. Fun to hear though vocals are rougher

How Do You Sleep? – takes 1 & 2 – nice funkier takes on the song! I like the way Lennon sings on these. Nice, one of the highlights of the out-takes. Take 1 superb, with great Harrison slide work. Says takes 1 & 2 but I only heard one take, take 1

How – take 31 – nice alternate take, again not dramatically different but nice. Softer approach.

Oh Yoko! (Bahamas 1969) – Low-fi demo of just John and Yoko. Charming actually. Nice

Power to the People – take 7 – nice raw version without all the echo of the finished master. Nice, another highlight of the set.

God Save Us – demo – love this demo. Better than the actual master. Typical Lennon demo, unfinished but fun with congas

Do the Oz – take 3 – Yoko version, heavier and funkier. Not much of a track but fun

Happy Xmas (War is Over) (alt mix) – love this mix. No choir but really nice. Lovely stripped down version.

There’s a ton packed into this 2 CD set. I feel there’s more than enough to satisfy even major Lennon fans with just this set. You get the terrific remix plus the various elements and out-takes.

Truth be told I could be just fine with this set but the elements were so enjoyable I’d love to hear more. I have the box on order but this set is so nice I’m not sure if more would be overkill or not. I may just stay with this set but odds are I’ll wonder into overkill territory.

The out-takes actually sound a bit more closed in than the superb remix of the album but are a nice listen. Not sure that the box would be better or a bit too much.

Surprisingly the highlight of Disc 2 was listening to the element mixes of the songs. i really enjoyed hearing just the strings and/or stripped down parts of the songs as it gives a whole new feeling to the music and sounded just beautiful.

TERRIFIC SET!!! One of, if not the best reissues of a classic album I’ve ever heard. The sound throughout is great, no added compression, very respectful of the original vision of the material while making it sound improved and more engaging.

Grade: A+


Way Back Machine: 1972 – Shopping with The Partridge Family

Okay, it’s Friday. After such a long contentious week I think it’s time for some lighthearted fun.

Lighthearted fun circa 1972.

Ahhh, the 1970s. Bad clothes, questionable politics but oh such good pop music.

Television also wasn’t so bad from the decade of the big yellow smile either – cheesy, yes, but good.

The place where two of my favorite things from the 1970s collided – cheesy television and good pop music – was The Partridge Family.

I know a lot of people find The Partridge Family to be crassly commercial and strictly teen girl magazine fodder but I’m not one of them.

I find that the pop music created under the banner of The Partridge Family is quite good actually and very well sung by David Cassidy. Of course I was very young and grew up with the music and show as a sweet childhood memory but still to this day I enjoy the lush pop sounds of the fictitious Partridges – a fun way to lighten up a dark day.

Which leads me to this blog post.

I was inspired to write it after browsing through Half Price Books the other day and spotting an old cassette of The Partridge Family “Shopping Bag” album for sale in their cassette bin.

Since the cassette was beat up and looked like the tape may not even play I passed on buying it but decided to take a few photos (see above) as you rarely see old Bell Record cassettes from the 1970s anymore and I thought it might be fun to do a blog on some of the vinyl and CDs I own of this album.

The “Shopping Bag” album came out during the second season of The Partridge Family TV show in March of 1972 and was a best-seller being awarded a gold record and spawning the Top Twenty hit “It’s One of Those Nights (Yes Love)” which to this day remains one of my favorite Partridge tracks ever released.

Now I have to say that even at the time the “Shopping Bag” album was released it seemed to me to sound a bit formulaic but still quite good. Cassidy could sing his hind end off and gave the songs an emotional lift that elevated them beyond their teen appeal.

Looking back though the album has quite a few stronger tracks on it then I remembered including “Am I Losing You” (also released as a single and a minor hit), the lovely “Girl, You Make My Day” (written by Monkees songwriters Boyce and Hart), “Something New Got Old”, “Hello, Hello”, “Every Song is You” and the David Cassidy penned “There’ll Come a Time” which reflected his mixed feelings of being a teen idol with it’s lyrics about being human and not just a circus clown attraction – certainly a much more poignant listen since Cassidy’s death last year as a result of alcoholism.

All in all a very good collection but not quite as strong as the first three albums released under The Partridge Family banner but still worth checking out. Plus the original vinyl pressing actually comes with a plastic shopping bag imprinted with the album artwork on it – what’s not to love lol!

As far as CD releases go there have been three – the first issue on the Razor &Tie reissue label from 1993, an Arista/BMG Heritage reissue CD from 2003 and an imported reissue on the 7t’s Records label from 2013.

The best CD issue in my opinion by far is the first release on the Razor & Tie label. It’s a very good sounding CD and sounds very similar to the original vinyl release – good dynamics and balanced sound.

The other two CD releases sound okay but are much more compressed which makes the bass sound better but you lose a lot of the dynamics and they sound decent only when played a low volume.

Surprisingly my somewhat worn original vinyl copy from the 1970s still sounds pretty darn good I must say! A bit crackly but nice. I usually stick to the Razor & Tie CD if I want to take a dip back into 1972 Partridge land but a good quality vinyl copy of this album is probably the way to listen to this album while you stare at your groovy plastic shopping bag!

Take a gander above at some of my “Shopping Bag” swag and enjoy feasting your eyes on this little trip back in time.

Until we meet again – Have a Nice Day!!!