Tuesday, November 23, 2010

John & Yoko, Plastic Ono Band with Elephant's Memory (et al.) • Some Time in New York City

Oh sure, I know what you're saying. You're saying, "Hey Gooch, I see you reviewed a bunch of those Lennon CDs there, but what about Some Time in New York City?" And you have proven how astute you are—I did, indeed, forget to include John & Yoko's 1972 release in my previous post. Well, forget isn't exactly true, because this often overlooked album, played by Lennon, Ono, the Plastic Ono Band with Elephant's Memory and the Invisible Strings (did I forget anyone?) is always there and yet rarely mentioned. When you start off an album with a song called "Woman Is the Nigger of the World," you're asking for trouble. But in '72 Lennon didn't give a shit whether he was asking for trouble or just your ear. He wanted to educate his fans and everyone else about what was going on in the world, so he decided to disseminate it the best way he knew how: in song.

Oh sure, I know what you're saying. You're saying, "Yeah, Gooch, okay. Premise accepted. But what about the quality of the album?" Well, well, well, mate, it's a mixed bag. First of all, it's the only album John & Yoko ever did where they're actually working and singing together, as band and wife. (You can't count Live Peace in Toronto because all Yoko did was sit in a bag and wail.) What's great about the record is it's pretty rockin' from beginning to end, "New York City" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" being the two most obvious rockers. The looseness of this record is also pretty cool, unlike any other record Lennon ever did. I think you could probably attribute Elephant's Memory with making this sound unlike yer typical Lennon. Lyrically, it leaves a bit to be desired. It feels like the words were written quickly and not really slaved over or edited to any degree, which may be part of the "here's what's happenin' today" vibe of the enterprise, but the seriousness of the songs is sometimes squashed by the lack of lyrical brilliance. On the other hand, you could look at it as Lennon's folk album, hinted at on "Crippled Inside" from Imagine and now delivered to your doorstep. You can choose to read any story you want (the lyrics are laid out like news stories on the cover), gloss over one, delve deep into another, or come back to one later as a different headline grabs your attention. Don't care about "John Sinclair"? Well, there's a story on "Angela" (Davis), "Attica State" (Prison), and much more.

Oh sure, I know what you're saying. You're saying. "But Gooch, I've been skipping over this album for years because I don't know much about it." And I say to you, why not pick up a copy now? If you don't want to shell out for the new reissue (restored to its original mix, thank you), pick up a used copy (this is its third time on CD) cheap. You may not have even been born in 1972 (I was nine), so it's all news to you. And there's some great music on this set, which includes a second disc of John, the POB and Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention recorded live for some added entertainment. Newspapers may be dieing, but Some Time in New York City will live on long after other living things have died.
4/5 (Capitol/Apple)

No comments:

Post a Comment