Join Date: Jan 20, 2001
Location: Santiago, Chile
In 2000, Yoko and Capitol/EMI started to reissue each one of John's studio albums. When they finished the reissue process, they also released a cash-in (sorry, compilation) called Working Class Hero, which sold almost nothing because us fans already had all of the tracks in the albums, and casual listeners already had Lennon Legend... and the John Lennon Collection... and Shaved Fish... and Imagine: John Lennon, for that matter.
But I believe now it's the time to evaluate the process. Some of the reissues were really good, improving the presentation of the album and making it work in a better way... while some others were smash disasters with a complete lack of taste.
This is what I think about each. Feel free to add your own comments.
Imagine (reissued 2000)
Original album: It was one of his best. For many, the best of them all, and it features some of his best known and love tunes, and some other quite underrated gems. It's a pop masterpiece.
Reissue sound: To me this album is the one which benefitted the most from remixing. The songs sound magical, beautiful, like never before. When John sings "How", the voice comes from the same room as the listener's. And "Gimme Some Truth" appears to be shouting next to you. Great job!
Bonus tracks: There aren't any. I'm actually thankful there weren't. Imagine "Power to the People" ruining the feel of a great album... oh, you wouldn't have to wait too much for that. This time the bonus tracks could have ruined the flow of the album, and it's nice that it finishes with John's harmonica over "Oh Yoko".
Reissue packaging/booklet: Cool. Has full lyrics, beautiful graphics, never-before seen photos, full credits. Nothing to complain here. Really improved the job.
Double Fantasy (reissued 2000)
Original album: While John's songs featured maturity and an amazing songwriting power still active, Yoko's songs were... well, Yoko's songs... I hardly listen to it anymore, because the radio tends to play the best songs from here.
Reissue sound: Couldn't notice much difference this time, really. Perhaps John's vocals on "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him" are more upfront, who knows. Could be a self-suggestion.
Bonus tracks: Really cool. Yoko's "Walking on Thin Ice" is better than almost anything of hers off the album, and John's "Help Me To Help Myself" is very touching. "Central Park Stroll" is a short pastiche that adds nothing to the mix, IMO.
Reissue packaging/booklet: Cool! Great pictures from the era, full lyrics.
Plastic Ono Band (reissued 2000)
Original album: My favorite of John's. Primal scream, sincere lyrics, you can almost hear John's heart beating through the songs.
Reissue sound: Improves a lot, mostly in the rockers, like "Well Well Well" and "I Found Out" which are much clearer, in my view. Also "Love" sounds softer but clearer.
Bonus tracks: Totally ruin the whole album, and I never listen to them anymore. "Power to the People", IMO, is one of John's worst songs (it's my least favorite of his), and "Do the Oz" isn't great either. Plus, they both have nothing TO DO whatsoever with the feel of the original album. They are recorded with big bands, a lot of noisy sounds, mess. Could have found a better place in Some Time in New York City. First mistake in the series of reissues.
Reissue packaging/booklet: Nice. John's handwritten lyrics are valuable, even though they do not coincide with what's actually being sung sometimes. Who cares. Nice pictures of the era, as well.
Milk and Honey (reissued 2001)
Original album: A half-baked Double Fantasy, Yoko's songs improve from Double Fantasy, and John uses a lot of leftovers, even though some of the rockers are fantastic.
Reissue sound: Once again, the original mix was really good. And they still can't fix "Grow Old With Me", to remove that awful drum machine that John used in the late 70's... Not much of a difference, IMHO.
Bonus tracks: Two demos ("I'm Stepping Out" and "I'm Moving On" - who would have guessed that a YOKO demo would have made it on here?) and a different mix of "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him"... nothing to worry, really. What's really interesting is the 22 minutes-long interview, supposedly given out on December 8th, 1980, just hours before John's death. It's a pleasure to listen to him, and Yoko as well, in peace with themselves, with great views of what was to come... If only...
Reissue packaging/booklet: Similar to DF. Nice enough.
Mind Games (reissued 2002)
Original album: One of John's weakest. Features some nice ballads, and a couple of terrific rockers, but the overall feel is quite underwhelming.
Reissue sound: Great job. Some songs recover their lost mystery... especially noteworthy when one hears the Hammond organ present on the title track. Mind you, I hadn't noticed it in the original mix.
Bonus tracks: The demos for "Meat City" and "Bring on the Lucie" were previously unheard anywhere (cool!) and "Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)" is a nice version as well. Nice choices.
Reissue packaging/booklet: To me, this is the example of how a booklet for a reissue MUST be done. It has full album lyrics, some of them handwritten by John, pictures of the era, drawings, chart info, complete personnel info, related newspaper/magazine material... all to give the listener/reader the full context of the work of art. One of the big advantages of seeing these albums reissued is to have the opportunity of having upgraded booklets like these. Great, great job.
Rock'n'Roll (reissued 2004)
Original album: A nice collection of oldies featuring odd arrangements, but an enjoyable listening experience nonetheless.
Reissue sound: Yes, it does improve. It will not blow your mind necessarily, though.
Bonus tracks: I'm especially fond of the alternative version of "Just Because", but I'm afraid it's because of the nod he gives to his ex-pals. The other bonus tracks from the sessions are cool as well... I bet they could form a complete second disc with all the material recorded... but of course they never will. Also, where's "Move Over Ms. L"?
Reissue packaging/booklet: To me, this is the example of how a booklet for a reissue must NOT be done. The sticker in the cover says "includes original drawings". They are on the in-tray, and they are not too impressive. The "booklet" is really small, it barely has the songwriting credits (no words about playing credits or lyrics or pictures, or the story of the album...)... they could have made a Mind Games-like booklet, with the full story of the Roots-Rock'n'Roll issue, but they chose to reissue this thing, even with the "copy-protected" sticker added to the actual cover (and not to the jewel case), so that it is now part of the picture. A shame.
Some Time in New York City (reissued 2004)
Haven't bought it yet. But I'm not crazy about the idea of taking off the whole "Live Jam" except for "Baby Please Don't Go" and adding the unrelated "Happy Xmas" and "Listen the Snow Is Falling" as bonus tracks...
Walls and Bridges (reissued 2005)
Original album: My second favorite from John, I love his experiments in power pop, funk rock and sad ballads. It is a cry-for-help album, and I love its sincerity.
Reissue sound: Why not remixing the whole blessed thing? You can actually note, without trained ears, which tracks have been remixing and which ones just stayed "remastered". That, of course, makes one lose the idea of a connected album, and makes you stay with the concept of a group of loose, unrelated songs. It might be a silly detail, but heck, I noticed it, without even sesing which tunes had the asterisks (*) in the tracklisting.
Bonus tracks: The version of "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out" appears to be a reduction of one of the takes in Anthology... there's John's vocal and guitar, but you can also hear some drumming from behind. "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" live with Elton was a smart choice. John's speech in the end was not. I've heard much better interviews from the era in bootlegs. One in particular, that I remember, was when John presented the complete album, reading the tracklisting song by song and making some funny comments. This interview adds almost nothing to the matter, even though he comments on some of the musicians who helped him in the instrumentation.
Reissue packaging/booklet: It all comes down to one question: WHY DID YOU CHANGE THE COVER? I know having John's original cool back cover with different fold-outs to form different faces must have been difficult, but there must have been a reason why John wanted that drawing in the cover, and not hidden in the booklet.