‘Above Us Only Sky’ Set For Home Release

Last year when the John Lennon Estate re-issued the extensive, multi-disc and book Ultimate Collection of his Imagine album we thought we had it all. Multiple CD’s, Blu-ray’s and LP’s of audio alongside a coffee table style book, and the re-release of the two original  documentaries, Imagine and Gimme Some Truth on DVD and Blu-ray.

But at the time that massive re-issue program was unfolding there was a third, new documentary also doing the rounds – on subscription TV and eventually on free-to-air TV in various countries around the world.

The doco was called Above Us Only Sky and while it features a lot of footage from the two previous documentaries, these were supplemented and inter-cut with never-before-seen footage of John and Yoko, new interviews and archive material. It was made with the full cooperation from and exclusive access to Yoko Ono and the Lennon Estate.

Now Above Us Only Sky is coming to a store near you. On September 13 it will be issued on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download.The Universal Music and Eagle Rock Entertainment press release says:

“The feature-length film, directed by the Emmy Award-winning Oscar nominee Michael Epstein, tells the untold story of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s unique and enduring relationship and the creation of the 1971 album Imagine….Unseen film of the time is complemented by archive and brand new interviews, including an exclusive new conversation with Yoko.

Others featured in new interviews in the film include John’s son Julian Lennon and photographer David Bailey, who took the 1971 image of John and Yoko that was on the cover of Vogue. Also contributing their memories are gallerist John Dunbar, the man who set up Ono’s first art show in London in 1966 and introduced the couple there; her neighbour and later personal assistant Dan Richter; and studio design pioneer Eddie Veale, who build Ascot Sound Studios at the couple’s home in Tittenhurst Park in Berkshire.

Lennon’s musical collaborators Klaus Voorman, Alan White and Jim Keltner, all of whom played on Imagine, are also featured in new interviews. They add to a vivid insight into the making of the album, alongside the newly-seen film footage, audio and rare images.”

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:

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.

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

imaginejohnyoko.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)

John Lennon ‘Imagine’ – Film, Audio and DVD/BluRay On The Way?

Speculation and rumours that there would be a number of additional elements accompanying the forthcoming Imagine John Yoko book (due on October 9) has had an on again/off again nature over the last few days.

The story so far…..

Officially, all we know is that the book is happening, as is a cinema release of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono film Imagine, announced this week: This is the 1972 film with each of the songs from Imagine portrayed (plus four songs from the Ono LP FLY, recorded at the same time) in between glimpses into the lives of John and Yoko, plus some fun sequences featuring the pair and a host of celebrity mates. It looks like it’s the original 70 minute cut of the film, plus an additional 15 minutes or so of bonus material.

If you’d like to go along and see the movie on the big screen there’s a special site set up find out where it is on near you and you can book tickets. Screenings start from September 17.

We also now know that there will be definitely be a DVD and Blu-ray release of the 1972 Imagine film, coupled on the one disc with Gimme Some Truth – The Making of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ Album which dates from 2000 and is directed by Andrew Solt:Gimme Some Truth is a surprisingly good examination of the recording process, a fly-on-the-wall window on Lennon in the studio creating the Imagine album that stands the test of time. The DVD and Blu-ray will be available from October 5, and Amazon is taking pre-orders now. There will be bonus material included, but it has not yet been revealed just what this will be. These two films will be great to have in remixed sound, 5.1 mixes (if that is your thing), and fully restored visual content.

And that leads us to what hasn’t been announced yet regarding the last piece in the puzzle: the audio from the Imagine sessions.

There’s been lots of talk about a super deluxe box set; a single CD; a double CD; and a double LP (with a limited edition in clear vinyl for collectors too). Depending on who you believe this is about to be officially announced (like in the next few days, with an October 9 release date), or this part of the Imagine re-issue project has been delayed and we won’t see it until at least February, 2019. (This courtesy of Lennon producer, Jack Douglas, who apparently stated at the Chicago Fest for Beatles last weekend that the project had been shelved to February next year).

Until something official comes out it all remains speculation, but the big box set (which will be audio only) will likely contain four CDs, plus two Blu-rays of material. On these will be some 140 tracks – which is HUGE!

In the box we’ll get the remixed stereo Imagine album, plus singles and extras; outtakes from the album, singles and extras; the Quadraphonic album remastered; raw studio mixes; plus a host of other audio content. For example, someone well-connected to the project has posted this as the content on CD2:

CD 2 – ELEMENTS & OUTTAKES
Elements Mixes and Album & Single Outtakes
ELEMENTS MIXES
Imagine (Strings only) 
Jealous Guy (Piano, bass & drums)
Oh My Love (Vocals only) 
How? (Strings only) 
ALBUM OUTTAKES
Imagine (Original demo recorded at Ascot) 
Imagine (Take 1) 
Crippled Inside (Take 3) 
Crippled Inside (Take 6 alternate guitar solo)
Jealous Guy (Take 9) 
It’s So Hard (Take 6) 
I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier (Take 25) 
Gimme Some Truth (Take 4)
Oh My Love (Take 6) 
How Do You Sleep? (Takes 1 & 2) 
How? (Take 31)

That’s just for one CD. Those two Blu-rays alone will contain a massive amount of additional audio and this release (if it comes about) will set a precedent for the Apple/Universal box set re-issue approach so far. There will be raw studio mixes; “elements” mixes with instruments and voices separated out; documentary content about the evolution of the songs; plus interview material from the time of Imagine with John and Yoko included. To date the breadth of material planned for release is unprecedented.

The promotional music site Ultimate Classic Rock jumped the gun today and published an article called “John Lennon’s Imagine Album Explored in a Six-Disc Box Set“. As you can see if you click through, they’ve subsequently taken that story down, possibly with a big rap across the knuckles form Apple/Universal….

We reckon this big release program WILL happen. It’s just a matter of when.

UPDATE: The official Lennon site has now uploaded a teaser Imagine the Music page and a video (a beautiful short extract of just the isolated vocals from ‘Oh My Love’). Looks like we’ll know exactly what is on offer on August 23, when The Ultimate Deep Listening Experience will be officially announced.