John Lennon/Yoko Ono Wedding Album – Unboxing

Our copy of the John and Yoko Wedding Album arrived today – but if there’s anyone who is entitled to do an unboxing video of the box set contents, it’s this guy:

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John Lennon – Record Store Day 2019

Universal Music and the organisers of Record Store Day have announced that John Lennon’s Imagine [Raw Studio Mixes] will be released as a Limited Edition on heavyweight 180-gram black vinyl for Record Store Day 2019:

“These mixes capture the exact moment John and The Plastic Ono Band recorded each song raw and live on the soundstage located at the center of Ascot Sound Studios at John & Yoko’s home in Tittenhurst. The tracks are devoid of effects (reverb, tape delays, etc.) offering a unique, unparalleled insight & an alternate take on the record. These mixes have been pressed in the original album sequence appearing for the first time on vinyl.”

Side A
• Imagine – Take 10 / Raw Studio Mix
• Crippled Inside – Take 6 / Raw Studio Mix
• Jealous Guy – Take 29 / Raw Studio Mix
• It’s So Hard – Take 11 / Raw Studio Mix
• I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier, Mama – Take 4 / Raw Studio Mix
Side B
• Gimme Some Truth – Take 4 / Extended / Raw Studio Mix
• Oh My Love – Take 20 / Raw Studio Mix
• How Do You Sleep? – Take 11 / Raw Studio Mix
• How? – Take 40 / Raw Studio Mix
• Oh Yoko! – Take 1 / Raw Studio Mix

The official Record Store Day release list is a little confusing as it lists this as a 2xLP package, but in other places it is referenced as definitely just one disc. There will be 5,500 copies made available worldwide.

Rob Stevens, who worked on the Raw Studio Mixes for the John Lennon Imagine: The Ultimate Collection box set from last year says:

“The Raw Studio Mixes are the basic track performances of the musicians playing together in the same rather cramped room….There are no effects placed on the instruments or vocal, e.g. chamber reverb and tape slap for example. Just a bit of EQ and compression when the nature of a particular track warranted it.

John was notorious for wanting his voice bathed in both, and mixed as part of, rather than above the track, so at times you had to really focus your ears and mind to hear his nuances and lyrics clearly.

In the Raw Studio Mixes, there is none of that. John is front and center – clear, unadulterated, live and raw.

Whereas Double Fantasy Stripped Down does have some production enhancements and overdubs, The Imagine Raw Studio Mixes are completely raw and unadorned – they capture the sessions before the gloss was added. The unique challenge in mixing the songs with Yoko was to balance the instruments in a way that fused them into a whole while keeping each individual performance clear, but without the benefit of reverb and effects to do so.”

Record Store Day this year is Saturday, April 13.

Lennon Ono “Wedding Album” Reissue

On her 86th birthday Yoko Ono has announced that the next installment in her lengthy album re-issue project will be the often-maligned John Lennon/Yoko Ono Unfinished Music No.3: Wedding Album from 1969.

The release date of March 22, 2019 will be two days after the 50th anniversary of the couple getting married in Gibraltar, near Spain (see “The Ballad of John and Yoko”):

The new box set (issued via Secretly Canadian and Chimera Music) will re-create the original, which in typical fashion was well ahead of its time in offering a plethora of extras along with the album inside. It was a white box filled with souvenirs of John and Yoko’s nuptials: photographs; a replica of their marriage certificate; their own drawings of the wedding and famous Bed-in honeymoon/peace event which followed; a picture of a slice of wedding cake; more sets of photos; and a booklet of press clippings about the couple.

The box and it’s contents were created by graphic designer John Kosh who is probably better known for his work with The Beatles (he did the cover of Abbey Road, and the lavish box and book that accompanied early editions of Let It Be).The ongoing Yoko Ono Reissue Project was launched in 2016. It aims to remaster and reissue all eleven of Ono’s studio recordings between the years 1968 and 1985. Each will painstakingly reconstruct the original vinyl packaging. There have been six releases to date: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968, with John Lennon); Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions (1969, with John Lennon); Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band (1970); Fly (1971); Approximately Infinite Universe(1973); and Feeling the Space (1973). Still to come are Season of Glass (1981); It’s Alright (I See Rainbows) (1982); Starpeace (1985); and A Story (1997, but recorded in 1974).

The Wedding Album is available on white vinyl, on CD, and as digital download, and there are a very limited number (300 copies) being made available on clear vinyl exclusively through the British record store chain, Rough Trade Records.

Two Interviews Worth Reading

Here are two interview-based articles – one featuring Paul McCartney, the other the John Lennon Imagine re-issue box set from late last year. If you haven’t seen these already they are both worth a look.

The first is from GQ magazine and dates back to September, 2018 when Paul McCartney was very much in publicity mode for his then new album Egypt Station.

In it he’s quite revealing and, as the opening hype paragraph states, the article takes in some familiar ground, but traverses some very new territory too:

“He’s as famous and accomplished as a man can be. He could just stay home, relax, and count his money. But Paul McCartney is as driven as ever. Which is why he’s still making music and why he has loads of great stories you’ve never heard—about the sex life of the Beatles, how he talked John Lennon out of drilling holes in his head (really), and what actually happened when he worked with Kanye.”

One pertinent section deals with his brand new song ‘Get Enough’, which was only made public earlier this month (on New Years Day actually).

The song is right now polarizing listeners because of the heavy use of Auto-Tune as an effect on the vocal. At the time of the interview the song wasn’t yet in the public domain, but what McCartney says about it in the interview gives some valuable context now, shedding light on where he was coming from, why he recorded it, and why he released it:

“McCartney proceeds to tell me that he recently used Auto-Tune on a song—one that’s not even on his new album—and how he worried for a moment about it. “Because I know people are going to go, ‘Oh no! Paul McCartney’s on bloody Auto-Tune! What have things come to?’… At the back of my mind I’ve got Elvis Costello saying, ‘Fucking hell, Paul!'” But then he considered it some more, and what he thought was: “You know what? If we’d had this in the Beatles, we’d have been—John, particularly—would be so all over it. All his freaking records would be…”

McCartney demonstrates a version of how he’d imagine a modern-day John Lennon singing in an extreme Auto-Tune warble, and then he gets out his iPhone and plays me some of the song in question, another collaboration with Ryan Tedder, called “Get Enough”, which has an emphatically full-on Auto-Tuned McCartney vocal, plenty more than would be required to horrify any passing purists. It also sounds pretty good.”

The GQ article is accompanied by photographs of McCartney modelling some stylish and expensive menswear. It’s also associated with a lengthy YouTube video the magazine uploaded to its channel where the songwriter steps through the background to some of his best-known works, both solo and Beatle:

The second article is an interesting (if a little rough around the edges) insight into the recording of John Lennon’s classic Imagine LP – which was beautifully remixed, remastered and re-issued late last year in a number of formats. It provides fans with cleaned-up sound and a wealth of previously un-heard outtakes, demos and more.

The article comes from Rock Cellar magazine and takes the form of interviews with three of the musicians who made key contributions to the iconic recording: bass player Klaus Voormann; drummer Jim Keltner; and guitarist Joey Molland.

In contrast to the GQ offering, Rock Cellar is an online magazine operated by volunteers so the attention to detail is a bit lacking in places. They could really use a good sub-editor to lift the quality of simple things like spell-checking and grammar. But there are some really valuable recollections, insights and information here on how Imagine came together from three artists directly involved at the time:

What were the things that most impressed you about John as an artist, both professionally and personally?

Jim Keltner: Well, he was John Lennon. He always found it interesting and funny when I told him I never liked rock and roll. When he was a young guy, we were all around the same age, Ringo’s a little bit older than me, Klaus is a little bit older too — John was older than me by just a little bit. As we were coming up he was a rocker. Along with Paul and George and Ringo, he loved American blues and rock more than anything, it affected their lives big time.

They dedicated their whole lives to that, and we know what happened. But for me, over here during that same time I was just listening to Miles (Davis) and (John) Coltrane; I didn’t want to have anything to do with any rock and roll. I hated it. John just thought that was so funny. And then when I started playing with him I could tell that he liked my feel. I could feel it because we shared the same kind of attitude about feel. By the time I had gotten with him I made a commitment to understand this rock and roll thing. So I was doing it from my gut, plus I had listened to Ringo so much.Whether you wanted to or not, if you were a drummer you were influenced by Ringo. Whether you even knew it or not you definitely were influenced by Ringo because any Beatles music you listened to it was all about Ringo’s feel.

John and George both told me, John especially, that Ringo was his very favorite drummer. I loved hearing him say that, because he was my favorite drummer too. John was the easiest person to play with. It’s interesting for me because John and Bob Dylan and were on my radar right at the same time. I played with Bob right around that same time with Leon (Russell) and Carl Radle and Jesse Ed (Davis) in New York. I got the same feeling from both of them. They were so strong in the way they played and sang and of course when you’re talking about rising to the level of a good song, if you’re talking about John Lennon or Bob Dylan it’s a no-brainer. You knew the songs were gonna make you wanna play at your best.

You can check out the full interviews here.

John Lennon photo by Peter Fordham © Yoko Ono

John Lennon The Ultimate Edition – Finally

Guess what landed on the front doorstep yesterday? Our Universal Music bundle of the John Lennon Ultimate Edition box set, Imagine 2 LP (on clear vinyl), Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Blu-ray, and the Imagine movie poster!

Ordered 24 August, officially released 5 October………delivered 30 October: 

This order was placed directly with Universal’s uDiscover UK music store. Despite being the commercial arm of the actual publisher and distributor of these titles, it has to be said uDiscover don’t have a great track record for delivering items on time, nor keeping their customers up-to-date on what is going on. Usually it’s because they can’t get stock. Go figure. This time they ran out of the Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Blu-ray, and so had to hold back dispatch of the bundle until more copies came in.

One needs patience when dealing with uDiscover. Stuff usually does arrive, it’s just a matter of when.

Thankfully, everything (except the poster) arrived in very good shape – this is despite the four items being shoved into a plastic courier bag with no additional padding around them. Yes, they were each in individual cardboard mailers, but they’d been banging around together in that bag all the way from Europe to Australia, so it was with a sigh of relief that we opened each to find no dings, bent corners, rips or other damage.

There was however one casualty. They’d packed the rolled-up movie poster into a long triangular-shaped box that simply wasn’t up to the task. It had been bashed around and squashed along the way, putting deep creases into the good quality paper stock the poster is printed on. It’s a shame because it is an impressive piece, but sadly now far from mint condition.

We’re counting that as minor collateral damage, and just thankful the main content (i.e. box set, 2 LP and Blu-ray) is finally here and in pristine condition….

John Lennon – Imagine The Ultimate Collection – First Listen

Earlier this week audiophile blogger and YouTuber Steve Guttenberg was invited to a John Lennon Imagine – The Ultimate Collection sneak preview listening session in New York.

Here’s what he heard:

John Lennon’s ‘Imagine – The Ultimate Collection’

Today the John Lennon camp finally announced the full details of the forthcoming Imagine – The Ultimate Collection in deluxe box set, double vinyl (black and clear), double CD, and single CD editions.

Here’s the official press release from Geffen/Universal Music:

John Lennon’s Imagine – “The Ultimate Collection”

The legendary singer/songwriter’s most celebrated solo album honored with a number of special audio releases on October 5 – via Geffen/UMe.

The six-disc Imagine – The Ultimate Collection includes a brand new remastered stereo mix, Raw Studio Recordings, Outtakes, Extras and an Audio Documentary that explores the Evolution of each song, plus new surround mixes on Blu-ray and an updated Quadrasonic mix for The Ultimate Deep Listening Experience.

The Imagine and Gimme Some Truth films are also restored and remastered with exclusive, never-before-seen extras for home entertainment release on October 5, via Eagle Vision.

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 23, 2018 /PRNewswire On October 5, Geffen/UMe celebrates the apex of John Lennon’s solo career with a six-disc box set, Imagine – The Ultimate Collection. This historical, remixed and remastered 140-track collection is fully authorized by Yoko Ono Lennon, who oversaw the production and creative direction.

Spread across four CDs and two Blu-ray discs, this truly unique expanded edition offers a variety of listening experiences that are at once immersive and intimate, ranging from the brand new Ultimate Mixes of the iconic album, which reveal whole new levels of sonic depth, definition and clarity to these timeless songs, to the Raw Studio Mixes that allow listeners to hear Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s original, unadorned performances, to enveloping 5.1 surround sound mixes, and a Quadrasonic Album Mix, presenting the original four speaker mix remastered in Quadrasonic sound for the first time in nearly fifty years.

This ultimate deep listening experience, which features scores of previously unheard demos, rare outtakes and isolated track elements, also includes The Evolution Documentary, a unique track-by-track audio montage that details the journey of each song from demo to master recording via instructions, rehearsals, recordings, multitrack exploration and studio chatter. The comprehensive nature of the full Imagine – The Ultimate Collection is the absolute best representation of a career artist working at the top of his creative game.

Imagine will also be released in concurrent multiple physical and digital configurations,  including as a 2CD Deluxe Edition, 1CD remaster, and 2LP 180-gram heavyweight black vinyl edition, as well as 2LP limited edition 180-gram clear vinyl.“Imagine was created with immense love and concern for the children of the world. I hope you enjoy it,” says Yoko Ono Lennon in the preface of the 120-page book that accompanies the box set.

While sifting through boxes upon boxes of the original tapes, engineer Rob Stevens  discovered something truly remarkable that had gone unnoticed all these years. “Early 2016, during the gestation period of this project, I’m in the Lenono archives with my people going through tape boxes that have labeling that’s unclear, misleading, or missing entirely,” says Stevens. “There’s a 1” 8-track that says nothing more on the Ascot Sound label than John Lennon, the date, and the engineer (Phil McDonald), with DEMO on the spine.  No indication of what material was on the tape. One delicate transfer to digital later, the “Imagine” demo, subsequently enhanced superbly by Paul Hicks, appears within this comprehensive set. It was true serendipity.”

This completely never-before-heard original demo, a sparse home recording of Lennon on piano and vocal playing one of his most famous songs, globally launches Imagine – The Ultimate Collection today.

Also on October 5, Eagle Vision will release two films by John & Yoko, Imagine and Gimme Some Truth, on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. Both films have been hand-restored from the original film reels and remastered in HD, and their soundtracks have been remixed in surround sound by triple GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer Paul Hicks. Both physical releases feature exclusive, never-before-seen extras including previously unheard “raw” studio mixes, and a fascinating insight into a photo shoot with David Bailey. All are also available for pre-order at: http://imaginejohnyoko.comImagine will also have a limited theatrical run highlighted by an exclusive, immersive Dolby Atmos mix of the music in selected theaters, with further exclusive extra material.

In 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono conceived and recorded the critically acclaimed Imagine at their Georgian country home, Tittenhurst Park, in Berkshire, England, and in the state-of-the-art studio they built in the grounds, as well as at the Record Plant in New York. The title track’s universally appealing lyrics were inspired by Ono Lennon’s “event scores” in her 1964 book Grapefruit, and she was officially co-credited as a writer on the track in June 2017. Upon release, the album went to #1 in six countries – Australia, Japan,  Netherlands, Norway, U.K. and the U.S.

The best-selling single of Lennon’s solo career, the titular song was famously written as a plea for world peace. It remains one of the most legendary songs of all time and has earned numerous accolades. BMI designated it one of the top 100 most-performed songs of the 20th century, the Recording Academy inducted it into the GRAMMY® Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted it into their 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Additionally, the Guinness World Records British Hit Singles book named it the second best single of all time and Rolling Stone ranked it number three in their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” The song has been covered by everyone from Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Ray Charles, Madonna, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Diana Ross, Herbie Hancock and Joan Baez.

This new edition takes listeners on an incredibly personal journey through the entire songwriting and recording process – from the very first writing and demo sessions at Lennon’s home studio at Tittenhurst Park through to the final co-production with Phil Spector – providing a remarkable testament of the lives of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their own words.

The original Imagine album has been faithfully remixed from the ground up by the aforementioned Paul Hicks at Abbey Road Studios under the supervision of Yoko Ono Lennon. Hicks utilized high-definition 24-bit/96kHz audio transfers of the album’s original first-generation multitrack recordings for the task and the result is that the instruments and vocal now have a completely new level of clarity, especially when it comes to the surround sound mixes on Blu-ray Disc 1. As Hicks reveals in the book included in the Ultimate Collection, “Yoko was very keen that these Ultimate Mixes should achieve three things – to be totally faithful and respectful to the originals, be generally sonically clearer overall and should increase the clarity of John’s vocals. ‘It’s about John’ she said. And she was right. His voice brings the biggest emotional impact to the album.”

Additionally, Hicks remastered the original four-speaker Spector/Lennon/Ono mix of Imagine in Quadrasonic sound, the first time that particular quad mix has been touched since the original release.

The stereo version of the Imagine album proper and its related remixed singles and extras, such as the politically charged “Power To The People,” “God Save Us,” “Do The Oz” and the holiday classic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” comprise Disc 1. Both album and singles outtakes encompass Disc 2 alongside a quartet of what have been dubbed Elements Mixes, including strings-only versions of “Imagine” and “How?” as well as the vocals-only version of “Oh My Love” and the piano, bass, and drums instrumentation for “Jealous Guy.” The Elements Mixes have been created from a few basic elements from the original multitrack recordings to reveal deeper levels of detail and clarity in the sources used for the master mixes that were either buried or summed to mono in order to open them up and present them on a wider, clearer, and brighter soundstage.

Engineer Rob Stevens helmed what are known as the Raw Studio Mixes on Disc 3. These mixes capture the exact moment John and The Plastic Ono Band recorded each song raw and live on the soundstage located at the center of Ascot Sound Studios at John & Yoko’s home in Tittenhurst. The tracks are devoid of effects (reverb, tape delays, etc.) and a far cry from the finished product. Highlights include the extended renditions of iconic Imagine tracks like “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die,” “How Do You Sleep?” and “Oh Yoko!” On Blu Ray Disc 2, the Raw Studio mixes are presented in 5.1 surround sound for a unique enveloping listening experience that puts the listener in the center of Ascot Sound Studios with Lennon in front and the band playing all around and behind.

Meanwhile, Disc 4 presents the audio version of The Evolution Documentary, as engineered by Sam Gannon in mono. This documentary tells the full story of each Imagine song as it goes on its own specific, individual journey from demo to master take via instructions, rehearsals, recordings, multitrack exploration, and studio chatter.

On the first Blu-ray disc, Hicks’ masterful high-resolution surround sound mix of both the Imagine album proper and its related singles takes center stage alongside the updated Quadrasonic mix, in addition to hi-res stereo mixes of the singles and outtakes.

The second Blu-ray disc is subtitled “In The Studio and Deeper Listening,” and it features both surround sound and stereo mixes of the extended album versions, outtakes, and Elements Mixes found on the CDs. It also plays home to DJ and longtime family friend Elliot Mintz’s loving 29-minute tribute to the artists, consisting of his revealing, philosophical, honest and humorous interviews with John & Yoko.

Meanwhile, both the Imagine and Gimme Some Truth video releases coming from Eagle Vision have been frame-matched to the original negatives, with every frame hand-cleaned and restored, and the respective soundtracks remixed and remastered in 5.1 surround sound.

The Imagine film is a cinematic collage of color, sound, dream, and reality. Produced and directed in 1971 by John & Yoko, who — along with numerous guest stars, including George Harrison, Fred Astaire, Andy Warhol, Dick Cavett, Jack Palance, and Jonas Mekas — all create a world of imagination as rich and moving as the music that accompanies it.

Shooting began during the summer of 1971 at John & Yoko’s Tittenhurst home in Ascot, England, as they began recording sessions for the Imagine album. Shooting continued across the pond in New York where the album was completed at the Record Plant, with Phil Spector co-producing.

The Imagine film is widely regarded as one of the first “video albums,” since it features a different visual treatment for every song on the record. The limited theatrical release of Imagine benefits from a spectacular new and wholly immersive Dolby Atmos mix, along with cinema-exclusive, never-before-seen extras from the recording of the album.

Gimme Some Truth is the groundbreaking, GRAMMY® Award-winning film that chronicles the creative process of how the Imagine album came into being, in turn providing a glimpse into Lennon’s creative genius and including many striking, special moments between John & Yoko. The progress of the making of the songs featured on the album is followed through from their inception to the final recording process in Gimme Some Truth, with the film serving as a stunning, fly-on-the-wall document of how one of the most iconic and important albums of the rock era came into being.

Finally, Thames & Hudson (UK) and Grand Central Publishing (US) are set to publish Imagine John Yoko by John Lennon& Yoko Ono on what would have been Lennon’s 78th birthday, on October 9. Personally compiled and curated by Yoko Ono Lennon and packed with exclusive, previously unpublished material, Imagine John Yoko is the definitive inside story — told in revelatory detail — of the making of the legendary album and all that surrounded it: the locations, the creative team, the artworks, and the films, in the words of John & Yoko and the people who were there.

John Lennon is one of the world’s most celebrated songwriters and performers of all time. Lennon has been posthumously honored with a Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY® Award and two special BRIT Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Music, and he has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked Lennon in the Top 5 of the magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers Of All Time” list. With a message as universal and pertinent today as it was when the album was created, Imagine secures John & Yoko’s collective place in cultural history.johnlennon.com

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If you are a mad collector, here’s the entire selection of what is on offer:                                (as usual….click on images for larger versions)