John Lennon Anthology

By Brad Howard

Mon, 30 Dec 1998

We are grateful to The World Beatles Forum for permission to print this review of the John Lennon Anthology. where it appears in the November/December 1998 issue.

Brad replied to my initial query:
Yes.  Absolutely, I recommend the John Lennon Anthology.  Here is a copy of my review from 
our November issue of TWBF.  Also, if you are a member of Costco/Price Club, they have the 
box set for under $58!!!!!
P.S.  We will have an exclusive interview with Roger McGuinn (of Byrds fame) in our January 

John Lennon Anthology

Capitol 7243-8-30614-2-6 
(4-CD Box with 62-page booklet)
John Lennon

Ascot CD1
(21 Tracks) Total Time: 65:52 
When I first heard the hype concerning the release announcements for this set, I was not impressed. I felt that the material was weak, considering that the Lost Lennon Tapes radio series had run for three years. Where were the dozens of unreleased Lennon gems? Capitol first promoted the box as having "100 new tracks." They quickly revised this to state "nearly 100 new tracks." The exact count is 94 tracks, with 80 actually containing music. What happened to Mark Lewisohn's involvement? Why did Yoko act as co-producer, when so many others could handle the job?

I was also disappointed that the compilation disc, Wonsaponatime, was coming out on the same day as the box-set. A separate, early release date, with a reduced retail price and a discount coupon for the main box-set would have been a smart move. Wouldn't it have made more marketing sense to release this disc, say, on John's birthday, October 9? It would have been a great publicity strategy. And speaking of publicity . . . whose idea was it to resurrect that silly Lennon-McCartney feud as a way to fuel sales? It certainly is nonexistent here.

But, stop! I am impressed! The sound quality of disc one is fantastic. This is a studio-quality disc of outtakes of mostly familiar material. Even bootleg collectors will be surprised. Some of the tracks are barely songs (Hold On is just 44 seconds and "Fortunately" is only 19 seconds). I was expecting the expletive version of How Do You Sleep, but another take is included here, proving that Yoko is a classy lady. I was pleasantly surprised to hear an alternate Love. Long Lost John is the best "lost" track on this disc.

New York City CD2
(23 Tracks) Total Time: 65:13

The second disc contains some of Lennon's more political, difficult music. Attica State, Luck Of The Irish, and John Sinclair were never favourites. These live versions are interesting, but the anger in the lyrics is a reminder of John's radical side.

But, there are also some great moments on this CD. The demos with guide vocals for Ringo's I'm The Greatest and Goodnight Vienna are true jewels.

The inclusion of the introduction tracks by Geraldo Riviera, David Frost, and Jerry Lewis is not necessary.

An original demo for Real Love is a highlight. Hearing this track in its restored condition is remarkable. Comparisons between this and The Beatles version are inevitable. Another treat is You Are Here.

Some fans may say that this is the weakest of the four discs. But, there is a lot of great music here. This disc cannot be dismissed.

The Lost Weekend CD3
(24 Tracks) Total Time: 63:35

I am amazed at how good the home demos sound (What You Got, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, and Stranger's Room).

One of my favourites, Nobody Loves When You're Down And Out, is an alternate take. An alternate, slower, studio version of Whatever Gets You Through The Night does not include Elton John. The Yesterday parody is listed as 34 seconds, but it is really only 10 seconds in length, after the banter before and after is discounted.

The oldies, Be Bop A Lula, and Rip It Up/Ready Teddy, Slippin' And Slidin', and Peggy Sue are solid versions. Finally, we get to hear the legendary Be My Baby in studio quality sound. There is no distortion, as can be heard on the Roots album.

Scared is draggy even as an outtake, although this version is better than the original. The alternate Move Over Ms. L is quite good! Although it is less produced than the released version, it still has an old-time Rock 'N' Roll feeling.

As interesting as they are, the three Phil and John talk tracks are lengthy and will get boring after a few plays. These should have been placed at the end of the disc.

Dakota CD4
(26 Tracks) Total Time: 73:00

This is probably my favourite disc. I love the innocence of Sean at age four in the few snippets that are included. This innocence is sharply contrasted in Lennon's sardonic swipe at organised Religion, Serve Yourself. My Life is a song that was stripped and overhauled to become part of (Just Like) Starting Over. The "Cheap Trick" version of I'm Losing You features Rick Nielsen on guitar and Bun E. Carlos on drums.

Dakota is filled with home demos. One demo, Life Begins At 40, is quite ironic. I will always remember Yoko stating that John wrote a song about his future, about life beginning at 40, and how for him, it didn't.

Woman is a double-tracked home demo. Its melodic tones are wonderful to hear in any form. It is interesting to hear how John's voice is sometimes out of sync with the other recording. Watching The Wheels, another home demo, is just John and his acoustic guitar. This gives the song a Dylan-like sound. The Rishi Kesh Song (John says it is The Happy Rishi Kesh Song) is a short home recording with another song tagged onto it (Something Is Wrong).

A previously unheard song, Mr. Hyde's Gone (Don't Be Afraid) is a home demo that may have been written for Sean. But it also seems to have lyrics and a tone that may be reflective on John's own "Mr. Hyde" personality.

The studio demo and guide vocal for Only You is another standout! Dear John is a home recording. It has possibilities as a song, but John keeps going out of time as he plays it.

Several spoken pieces, especially John doing Dylan off-the-cuff, are amusing. Reading the newspaper as Dylan would sing it makes a mockery of Dylan's creative genius.

Another unreleased song, It's Real closes the set. It is an instrumental with John whistling the melody.

But, the box winner (with no exceptions) is the Grow Old With Me track. Yoko went to the proven, the best. She took the track to George Martin. He and son, Giles, have produced a masterpiece. The orchestration score and the improved sound are remarkable. This is truly a fitting swan-song for George. It was his last work as a producer. George worked on it this Spring and was going to have Paul McCartney contribute a bass line. But this did not happen, due to the death of Linda.

I strongly recommend this release.

For an alternate opinion about this set, please see the article written by Eldorado Pfurious on page 6 of Nov/Dec TWBF. Please note my editorial inserts.

Capitol 7243-4-97639-2-0 John Lennon
(21 Tracks) Total Time: 69:55

This album offers selections from the John Lennon Anthology. Most of the tracks are shorter by several seconds than on the box set. A nice representation of songs is featured. Yes, it contains Grow Old With Me. If you are curious about the box, but can't afford to spend the bucks, then this disc will be a nice "temporary" purchase. The real message here is, "Get the box set!"