Recorded: 23 June - 5 July 1971
Released: 9 September 1971 (US), 8 October 1971 (UK)
Produced by: John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Phil Spector
Album Rating: 10/10 Imagine and Plastic Ono Band are my two favourite John Lennon solo albums. I consider them both to be equally good, though very different. While Plastic Ono Band was honest, confessional and emotional, often with a stark, bleak sound, Imagine is much more commercial...which is not necessarily a bad thing!
The title track deserves its reputation as one of the greatest songs ever written, even though I personally prefer some of John's other songs. In Imagine, John describes his vision of a perfect world - a world without religion, countries, or any other reasons for war. Critics are always quick to point out the irony of a millionaire singing 'imagine no possessions' - well, in my opinion the whole point of the song is that he is talking about an imaginary world...he's not trying to tell us what we should and should not do, he's simply asking us to imagine what it would be like.
Crippled Inside is a wonderfully catchy country-style song dealing with the subject of hypocrisy - "You can live a lie until you die, but one thing you can't hide is when you're crippled inside." I love the lyrics of this song!
The next song is the heartbreakingly beautiful Jealous Guy, which is probably my all-time favourite John Lennon song. It's another of his deeply personal and confessional songs, in which he apologises for his possessiveness and insecurity. "I didn't mean to hurt you, I'm sorry that I made you cry; Oh no, I didn't want to hurt you, I'm just a jealous guy." Musically, the song is based on Child Of Nature, a song John had written in India in 1968 and had intended for inclusion on the Beatles' White Album. However, Child Of Nature never made it onto the album but was later rewritten with new lyrics as Jealous Guy. Whenever I hear this song I can literally close my eyes and just lose myself in it.
It's So Hard is an upbeat bluesy song, and is fun to listen to, but not one of the better tracks on the album. However, it brings us down to earth again after the dreaminess of Jealous Guy. My least favourite track, however, is I Don't Want to Be a Soldier. It's very long, at over 6 minutes, and the lyrics quickly become very repetitive. I used to find it boring, but now I don't mind it; it's not a bad song - just not as good as the other tracks.
Another brilliant song is Gimme Some Truth, with the most overtly political lyrics on the album. It also features great vocals and some great guitar playing from George Harrison. The following track, Oh My Love, is an absolutely beautiful ballad with a delicate and haunting melody. I can't describe how gorgeous this song is. Along with Love on Plastic Ono Band, it's one of the greatest love songs I've ever heard.
How Do You Sleep? was John's famous attack on Paul McCartney, written in reply to songs on Paul's Ram album which John felt were aimed at him. Lines like 'the only thing you done was Yesterday and since you're gone you're just Another Day' may be harsh, but whether you approve of the lyrics or not, it's another great song.
How? is another personal favourite of mine. It's a gentle ballad which poses philosophical questions such as 'How can I have feelings when my feelings have always been denied?' and 'How can I give love when love is something I ain't never had?'
The final track on the album, Oh Yoko!, has a lovely uplifting melody and is a simple love song about John's feelings for Yoko. The harmonica is great too. This is a song that I never used to rate very highly, but I recently 'rediscovered' it and now I can't stop listening to it!
This album is a true classic. If you're a new John Lennon fan wondering which album to buy first, this would be a good one to start with.
My highlights: Imagine, Jealous Guy, Gimme Some Truth, Oh My Love, How?, Oh Yoko