Pazz and Jop 1971 – #5

John Lennon – Imagine

Critics always preferred Lennon to McCartney, probably because he seemed more serious, more of an artist. But Paul’s music was definitely a lot more fun. The title track seemed very profound to me as a child when, of course, it’s really rather trite and simple and very much of its time. Yet the sentiment it expresses remains the noblest goal, and seemingly farther away than ever. “Crippled Inside” is a jaunty romp if you ignore what he’s singing about, and “Jealous Guy” remains as awesome as ever (though maybe a bit less now that I’ve just read it’s directed at PAUL!). There is no good reason for “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama” to be 6 minutes long other than no one told him not to do that. (Phil Spector circling the drain can be blamed if you need a scapegoat.) There’s a lot of rage here, but it feels very mannered and without much subtlety. (Except the Paul dis “How Do You Sleep?” – referencing the cute Beatle’s “pretty face” is bloody brilliant.) Also, it’s great that you love your wife, but how many sappy ways do you need to tell us that on one album? (Though “Oh Yoko” is at least bouncy and fun.) Overall, the kind of ponderous work you’d expect from the smart Beatle – a few genuinely great songs, but not really something I’d ever venture to play straight through again.

BTW, I discovered a great site, Cover Me Songs, that gathered various cover versions of the songs on this album. A Perfect Circle’s sugar-free version of “Imagine” is soooooo good, and Donny Hathaway on “Jealous Guy” is Donny-fucking-Hathaway, so, yes, it’s brilliant and why are you even still reading this and not out looking for his version on Spotify?

(Originally posted on Facebook, March 13, 2021)