Imagine All the People … Watching TV? – “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky” Blu-Ray (A Review)

I must say this has been an interesting (and expensive!) year for Beatles and solo Beatles fans and collectors alike.

Not only did we get great archive releases from Paul McCartney last Fall (“Wild Life” deluxe box set, “Red Rose Speedway” deluxe box set) there was also a sweet multi-disc set from The Beatles (50th anniversary of the “White Album”) released last November and coming next week is a 50th anniversary multi-disc set of The Beatles swan song album “Abbey Road” which is sure to be a high point in this year of major Beatles booty.

Not to be outdone, the Lennon camp has also jumped into the fray and issued a superb box set themselves also last October entitled “Imagine -The Ultimate Collection”.

This truly wonderful collection features 4 CDs plus 2 Blu-Ray discs containing new stereo and 5.1 remixes of the entire album as well as out-takes and alternates from Lennon’s “Imagine” album sessions. It’s basically an in-depth audio study of  how the “Imagine”  album was made and contains a treasure trove of unreleased and interesting audio glimpses into Lennon’s recording process.

Released at the same time last Fall was a DVD/Blu-Ray disc containing two documentaries about those same sessions called “Imagine/Gimme Some Truth”.

This DVD or Blu-Ray featured the film “Imagine” that Lennon and Ono made in 1971 featuring lots of footage of the “Imagine” recording sessions set to music (basically a video album) as well as a later made documentary called “Gimme Some Truth” that featured a more in-depth look at the album with interviews and lots of footage of the “Imagine” sessions.

Fast forward to this past September 13 and the release of a new documentary entitled “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky” which is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.

This enticing documentary also about about the recording of the “Imagine” album was originally broadcast on television in November 2018 and has now finally made its way to home video. I didn’t have a chance to see the film last fall so I was curious to see how it stacked up to the other two films about “Imagine” which I do own and love.

First off, this new documentary has new unseen footage throughout from the “Imagine” sessions which alone makes it a must see for Lennon fans. Of course seeing Lennon and fellow ex- Beatle George Harrison work closely in the studio never gets old – at least for me anyway.

After watching the film what sold me on “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky” the most were the fascinating new interviews it contains which made the first half of this film a really fun presentation.

Lennon’s oldest son Julian Lennon in particular comes across as really grounded and insightful but the interviews with people I’d never heard speak about these sessions before including photographer David Bailey and personal assistant Dan Richter were also really interesting and gave a much richer insight into Lennon and Ono at the time these sessions occurred.

I may be experiencing a bit of “Imagine” burn-out from having lived with these sessions a lot in the past year as I really enjoyed the first half of the film enormously but towards the end I ended up wishing for more studio footage and less talking heads.

I think the film makes a good point about Ono’s involvement in the writing and recording of the album but at times in the second half of the film it seemed a little bit heavy handed in Ono’s direction but enjoyable nonetheless.

Luckily the bonus features on this disc which include “How Do You Sleep? (Takes 5 &6 Raw Studio Mix)”, “Oh My Love (Raw Studio Mix)” and “Oh, Yoko! (Bahamas, 1969)” bring more music back into the mix again which brings this disc back up a notch. These raw studio mixes contained here (along with the session footage) are terrific and sound and look amazing.

While “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky” may not be a must see it’s certainly entertaining and well worth seeking out if you want some insight into Lennon’s frame of mind as he works in the recording studio post-Beatles.

All in all it’s a quite good film and if your a Lennon fan you may want to buy it but if you already own the “Imagine/Gimme Some Truth” docs from last year this may be something you’d want to track down somewhere online vs buying it to own.

As usual above I’ve posted some photos of the blu-ray disc I got last week so folks can see what they’d get if they decide to purchase the disc.

I’m so glad The Beatles as a group and solo are now finally opening up their vaults but I can feel the groan from my wallet ever time I see a new release in the pipeline.

Fortunately they’ve all been worth it up until now. Next up “Abbey Road”!!!

Well, that’s all for now (folks).

Until next time … get yourself some truth and be well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“O Holy Night”? or Oh Holy Smokes! – The Monkees “Christmas Party” comes to vinyl

 

 

 

 

There’s something weird yet exhilarating about listening to a Christmas album on a warm late summer September night.

Weird because seriously it’s friggin’ September for crying out loud but exhilarating because this is not just any Christmas album, it’s a Monkees Christmas album. A very good Monkees Christmas album at that and that’s a quite good thing anytime of year!

Released almost exactly a year ago, give or take a few weeks, “Christmas Party” by The Monkees is probably the last (though hope against hope not) new album of Monkees music that will grace music lovers CD players or turntables and is certainly the last Monkees project to feature Peter Tork who passed away this past February.

Produced by retro pop maestro Adam Schlesinger, “Christmas Party” positively reeks of pure pop-rock bliss with a major ’60s swagger and retro Christmas bent that’s way better than it has a right to be.

As I said last year when I reviewed it on this very blog, this new Monkees album is quite good and features well sung new and old Christmas fare that a year later sounds even better than it did on its first few listens.

Like fine wine it just keeps getting better so what more enjoyable way to experience this album than to give it a spin on some nice new purdy vinyl – colored vinyl to boot.

Honestly when heard that a new Monkees Christmas album was on the way I was excited yet quite hesitant. I like Christmas music but it certainly wasn’t what I wanted the group to release after their superb “Good Times!” Lp from 2016.

Almost a year later I can safely say I’m not only glad but grateful The Monkees decided to release this album. It’s so well done and lovingly retro that it sounds good any time of year. Plus the death of Peter Tork lends a real poignancy to this album as it was his last recorded contribution to The Monkees and what a beautiful way to end his tenor in the group by performing “Angels We Have Heard on High” – chilling.

All four Monkees sound great on this Lp but Micky Dolenz in particular sounds as if he lives in a permanent time warp. His voice is as strong and as interesting as it was in 1967 which is a feat rarely duplicated by current pop singers let alone his musical peers.

Mike Nesmith’s two songs here are wistful and moving and are among the best of his group contributions while Davy’s songs from a 1990’s solo Christmas album fit perfectly and are a welcome touch to a terrific collection.

The reason I’m revisiting this Christmas gem is that “Christmas Party” was just released on vinyl this past week on September 13th and I just received a groovy limited edition red and white candy cane type pressing available exclusively from Monkees.com.

After giving this new pressing a spin tonight I’m happy to report that it sounds SUPERB on vinyl! This pressing is perfectly quite and has better sonics than it’s CD counterpart.

The music and vocals all shimmer on this lovely piece of colorful vinyl and the dynamics are just right, nothing too loud  or jarring and less digital sounding than the CD. Not that the CD is bad by any means it’s just that this new vinyl pressing is done so well that it makes this album shine even more with a more pleasing aural presentation.

The cover is also totally groovy as well and there’s just something magical about holding a new slab of Monkees vinyl that just feels right as that’s the medium that I was introduced to the group with and looking at the large cover while the records spins on is just well … right.

There is a beautiful gatefold cover on this new vinyl pressing (which since I haven’t taken the shrink wrap off  I can’t show you lol) and a nice photo insert with credits from the album inside the cover with the disc.

As usual I’ve included some photos of this new pressing as well as some photos of the limited Target exclusive CD version of the album that came out after my review of the album last year.

The Target CD contains two great bonus tracks (“Riu Chiu” and “Christmas is My Time of Year”) one of which (“Riu Chiu”) is included on this new vinyl pressing.

“Riu Chiu” of course comes form the Monkees’ 1967 Christmas episode and features all four members singing acapella on one of the most beautiful songs in the Monkees’ recorded canon while “Christmas is My Time of Year” comes from a mid-1970’s reunion of Dolenz, Jones and Tork with famed Monkees producer Chip Douglas.

Both songs belong on this Lp so if you can track down the Target version of this album that’s the way to go on CD at least as both songs are great and of course fit the theme of the album beautifully.

Really if you’re any kind of Monkees fan or fan of ’60s pop/rock music or Christmas music you need to check this album out. Of course you can wait until it’s actually the holiday season but for any curious Monkees geeks out there run don’t walk to get this new vinyl pressing. You won’t be disappointed!

Until next time be well and Merry Christmas even if it’s a tad bit early.