This past Friday, October 9th, John Lennon would have turned eighty years old. Let that sink in a minute. For anyone of a certain age that is really a remarkable statement.
How on earth have forty years passed since Lennon was brutally shot and killed outside his home in New York City? It’s hard to comprehend but that’s the cold hard truth.
In celebration of what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday a new collection of Lennon’s work was also released this past Friday entitled “John Lennon/Gimme Some Truth – The Ultimate Remixes”.
As usual these days there are several ways of buying this new collection:
- A single CD version containing 19 tracks and a 20 page booklet
- A 2 CD set with 36 songs in a slipcase with a 20 page booklet as well as a double-sided fold out poster
- A deluxe edition containing 2 CDs and 36 songs as well as a bonus blu-ray disc featuring hi-res stereo 96/24 PCM versions of the same 36 songs as well as new 5.1 surround mixes and Dolby Atmos plus a lovely 124 page hardback book and 2 postcards, a bumper sticker and a double-sided fold out poster
- A 2 Lp set containing 19 songs, an 8 page booklet as well as the bumper sticker and double-sided fold out poster
- A 4 Lp set containing 36 songs in a lift-off lid box with an 8 page booklet, 2 post cards, bumper sticker and a double-sided fold out poster
Got all that? Whew!
All of the above sets are touted as containing the ultimate remixes of most of Lennon’s solo hits as well as a smattering of deep album cuts from the various albums he recorded and released after leaving The Beatles.
I have to admit from the start that I am pretty much hit or miss with the idea of remixes.
Sometimes I enjoy these new remixes, as in the case of many of the recent Beatles albums that have been re-released and remixed, but many times I’m less than thrilled with the results of trying to modernize older recordings.
Lennon’s youngest son Sean is listed as the producer and creative director on this new set and I’ve read that his aim was to make Lennon’s music appeal to a new generation of streaming listeners by remixing all these songs from scratch with an emphasis on bringing John Lennon’s vocals to the fore.
Sean Lennon said he was afraid that younger audiences were not as familiar with his dad’s solo work and he wanted to make his father’s music sound like other more modern music, i.e. louder, they would hear on the various steaming platforms.
First off I have no problem with Sean Lennon wanting his father’s solo career to be remembered. If it takes these remix projects to keep John Lennon’s work from fading into oblivion then great, I’m all for it.
But as a long-time fan of Lennon’s solo career, and one who listens to music the old-fashioned way on a two speaker stereo system, making these older recordings more appealing to younger listeners tends to dampen some of the magic these songs had in their original form.
So after getting this set on Friday and spending the weekend with it did Sean really make the remixes of the songs in this new collection the ultimate remixes?
Well, not really but that’s not to say this set isn’t enjoyable.
When I finally sat down and scanned through the first disc in this set at the normal settings on my receiver the thing that jumped out most to me was the bass. There is a lot of bass on these new remixes. I mean A LOT.
By the fifth song I was already getting fatigued.
There were some good things going on with these new remixes especially with the nice stereo separation and Lennon’s vocals which were now indeed more up front but the overpowering bass tended to make everything sound muddy and cramped which was a disappointment.
I stopped listening after the five songs from disc one on Friday night and then picked up listening again on Saturday. I was afraid I should have left well enough alone and skipped this set as my first impression was depressing.
For my second listening attempt I set the bass way down on my receiver and turned the overall volume a bit lower and voila much, much better. This time I could focus on the new remixes without being overwhelmed by the bass.
I have to say that for the most part after making these small adjustments I enjoyed this set. Not every new remix on this set works but there were a few that I truly did enjoy.
I have to say that of these new remixes “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”, “Isolation”, “Angela”, “Come Together (Live)”, “I Know (I Know)”, “Bless You”, “Steel and Glass” all stood out to me the most as being really enjoyable and fresh sounding.
“Angela” for one is a song I rarely paid attention to on the “Some Time in New York City” album but this new remix really makes this song stand out to me in way it never did before. It’s much better than I remember it being.
I’d also say that the “Imagine” and “Double Fantasy” Lp material also sounded really nice as well though as for being the ultimate remixes I’d say that would be stretching it. Different yes, interesting yes, but ultimate – no.
There are several instances throughout the set where John Lennon’s vocals were really different from the original mixes – single-tracked vs. double-tracked, less echo, etc. Sometimes these changes were really nice and other times they seemed to change the song too much for my tastes.
I think that some of the songs, “Mind Games” especially, tend to sound like rough mixes with Lennon’s voice overemphasized which push the music to the background too much making the song sound disjointed to me.
I’d say the first disc tended to be more hit and miss for me though that’s not to say I hated it by any means – it’s just different. The second disc was much more pleasing for me and one that I’d probably play a bit more often than the first disc.
The blu-ray disc actually was a bit more of pleasure to listen to as I played it through my television system which has much smaller speakers and not as much bass ability.
This actually tamed the music a bit and made the mixes sound a bit fresher and less jarring. I’m guessing listening online through streaming improves these mixes as well as I think that’s what this project was aimed at versus any sort of audiophile experience. So be it.
Overall this set was enjoyable but if I had to pick I’d still reach for the original mixes if I was to really get into a Lennon mood.
I will say what really pushed this set up in my opinion is the terrific hardback book.
This book details each song in the set in Lennon’s own words and makes a really nice read with or without the 2 CDs. There’s also some really nice home photos I’ve never seen which makes this book a really nice way to celebrate Lennon’s life and 80th birthday.
To sum it up I’d give the deluxe set a solid B+ and would recommend it to any true Lennon fan. As to whether you need it or not I’d have to say no. Is it enjoyable, sure. The remixes are fun but I would definitely say not necessary by any means.
Whether or not the vinyl versions sound any better than the CD set I don’t know but I think this new deluxe version is enough for me. Famous last words probably but for now I’ll just stick to this set.
I’m guessing there will be another new John Lennon set on the horizon as the book lists a new deluxe set coming for Lennon’s most critically acclaimed album “John Lennon/Plastic One Band”.
That’s certainly something to look forward to and hopefully it will be released in the near future.
As usual I have posted several photos of this set above and below.
Until next time take care and be well and see you soon!