Monday, February 26, 2024

Alt Rock Review: Ratboys - The Window

Score: 84/100 
Release Date: August 25, 2023
Genre: Alternative, Indie
Similar Artists: Big Thief, Sun Kil Moon, Kevin Morby, Big Thief

A low-key and low-fi dynamo, Chicago-based Ratboys have been making music since songwriters and guitarists Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan met at Notre Dame in the early 2010s. 

The band's standout album, Printer's Devil, in 2020, when the band expanded from a duet to a quartet, was this writer's first exposure and embodied an eclectic and otherwise ineffable sound that defied labels. All I knew was that I liked it, especially the heavy groove, Flaming Lips-channeled "Alien With a Sleep Mask On," and the relaxed, hooky, disaffected vibe of "I Go Out at Night."  

Earlier this year, an early release from The Window, a song called "Black Earth, WI," came onto my radar, and I became hooked. It is the type of slow bass groove that locks you in from the start. When Steiner's charming yet broken voice enters the fray, one can envision a bird flying into a windstorm, and you know you're in for a ride. There is no question that that bird will fight its way out, and that battle is scored by Sagan's soulful and blistering four-minute guitar solo. When the clouds pass, our faith is rewarded with the return of that sweet bird, the resolution of a conflict, and a most satisfactory conclusion. This song is a masterwork and the highlight of the album.  

If you're not into eight-minute masterworks, the rest of the songs, albeit shorter, are equally unpredictable and vary in sonic tone and theme while skillfully alternating between the sweet and the sour to create a sensation to the ears, not unlike a mouthful of Sour Patch Kids to the mouth. 

Opening The Window is "Making Noise for the Ones You Love." It's a screamer that, like other songs on The Window, such as "Break" and "No Way," are both soft and loud, making a Pixies influence difficult not to draw, albeit more of an even keel. It's Alive is the most accessible and sure to appeal to a broad audience. It is quintessential Ratboys and will hopefully draw listeners into the rest of the fine work on this album.  

Bad Reaction closes The Window in an impassioned and affected fashion. Here, Steiner draws on a formative experience coming out clean on the other side. 

Drove to the graveyard where you were not
Found a nice little hill with an empty plot
I threw the wheels in reverse so fast
Lost in the headache, didn't look back

The velvet hammer method in which Steiner delivers cutting phrases wrapped in soft tones only makes them more powerful and draws comparisons to Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker. 

Overall, The Window is wide open to the rest of the world. With the release of this exceptionally diverse and exhilarating album, no longer shall they be Chicago's best-kept indie-rock secret.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Banging in Bangor - Greta Van Fleet Rocks the Cross Insurance Center

Score: 91/100 
Release Date: 8/2/23
Genre: Rock

On a cool October evening in Bangor, Maine, the Cross Insurance Center buzzed with the vibrant sounds of the soulful Greta Van Fleet. 

First up was Robert Finley, a blues and soul artist, who wowed the audience with his powerful vocals and impressive guitar skills. His music transported everyone to the classic blues era, leaving a lasting impact.

Following Finley, Houndmouth brought indie rock vibes to the stage, getting the crowd dancing and singing along. Their harmonies were tight, and they seamlessly switched between upbeat tunes and heartfelt ballads, showcasing their versatility and infectious enthusiasm.

Finally, the much-anticipated moment arrived as Greta Van Fleet hit the stage, delivering explosive rock anthems. The audience was immediately captivated by frontman Josh Kiszka's soaring vocals and the band's exceptional musicianship. 

Greta Van Fleet’s performance cannot simply be classified as classic rock. It is a testament to their own unique talent, which infuses a fresh, modern edge while paying homage to their blazing hard rock influences. 

From the rootsy blues of Robert Finley to the high energy of Houndmouth, the night reached its crescendo with the explosive rock of Greta Van Fleet. It was a concert experience that exceeded all the audience's expectations.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Alt Review: Panda Bear & Sonic Boom - Reset

Score: 92/100 
Release Date: August 22, 2022
Genre: Alternative, Indie

The music of Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) has historically sampled the past. This was especially true as a solo artist with Animal Collective and now as a collaborator with Sonic Boom (aka Pete Kember).  

Reset is more than an album title. It's a declaration to the world of modern music that anything is possible. The underlying rhythm is intricate and infectious, transporting the listener to a children's music room filled with skilled musicians. You'll hear what sounds like xylophones, plastic drums, washboards, and maracas.  

The opening track, "Getting to the Point," borrows from Eddie Cochrane's "Three Steps to Heaven," adding the schoolhouse rhythms, synths, and infectious vocals to create an infectious pop song.  

The album cover of brightly colored paddles and whole and half circles indicates symmetrical punctures in the fabric of time. These black holes transport us to other dimensions in the rock and roll continuum. There are strains of 1968 America when the Monkees and Archies sang sugar pop harmonies mixed with 1982 England when Joy Division and The Fall shook our senses with horror and delight. The listener also tastes the modern era, with hints of Tame Impala, Flaming Lips, and Gorillaz.  

Reset forces the listener to stop and look backward in order to move forward. Lennox and Kember have embraced the sounds of the past and skillfully placed them in context with the contemporary music landscape providing a clear path toward the future.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Alt Rock Review: Jerry Cantrell - Brighten

Score: 87/100 
Release Date: October 29, 2021
Genre: Alt-Rock, Country-Rock, Grunge, Blues
Similar Artists: Alice in Chains, Mark Lanegan, Thurston Moore

Former Alice in Chains guitarist releases his first solo work in 19 years, and the results are pleasantly compelling. An all-star cast of characters (Duff Mckagen, Gil Sharrone, and Greg Puciato) joined Cantrell in the studio, and Cantrell produced this remarkable work.

Cantrell describes the album as "a journey up through darkness to light." Brighten is filled with space; within that space, Cantrell reflects on the past two decades of healing and growth.  

The opening track, Atone, is one that Cantrell tells us has haunted him for twenty years. It is a soundscape that could serve as a soundtrack for a late-sixties spaghetti western. His grunge has mellowed with age and, as mixed with country and folk, creates something altogether new. 

Prism of Doubt, the most rhythmic and harmonious track, is a triumph of wills in which the singer recognizes his shortcomings, and no matter how his perspective has changed over the years, it is an unshakable prism of doubt that shapes his thoughts.  

The undertones of Brighten are that of a guilty man who feels he has gotten away with something and does not deserve his lot in life. The pathos is palpable and identifiable, yet the story is spun with threads of lessons learned and hope - as if stepping out into the sun after a long season of rain.  

When the dust of Cantrell's not-so-everyday life settles, we're treated to a surprisingly fitting finale, a cover of Elton John's "Goodbye." Here we hear Cantrell's voice in relative isolation, in this reviewer's opinion letting listeners know that what we have just experienced only comes around every few decades and don't expect anything more for quite some time. 
- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Metalcore Review: Architects - For Those Who Wish to Exist

Score: 82/100 
Release Date: August 26, 2022
Genre: metalcore, progcore, ambient postmetal
Similar Artists: While She Sleeps, Killswitch Engage

British metalcore phenoms, Architects are back with their ninth full-length release.  It is their second since Tom Searle's (lead guitarist, synth programmer, songwriter, and lyricist) passing after a three-year-long battle with skin cancer at the age of 28. At the time, his brother, drummer Dan Searle, refused to mince words or offer any false reassurances "I don't know what will become of Architects." The good news is that they became something better, something more evolved.

On For Those Who Wish to Exist, Architects progressive sound is less metalcore and more progmetal. The sonic texture is more Porcupine Tree than As I Lay Dying. For someone who prefers not to be screamed at, it's a welcome shift. The arrangements are diverse and skillfully blended. Metal riffs, singalong melodies, and slow jams ride an undercurrent of palpable punk angst. 

The production is flawless as it emphasizes these shifts quite dramatically. That said, the band does go back to the well on "Goliath," where lead singer Simon Neil's vocal onslaught shot from a cannon of earth-shaking bass and machine gun guitar riff is enough to have you running to your mommy.  

Let's face it.  It is difficult to sound original in a genre so homogenized. I get it; you want a sound all your own but need to be true to your fanbase, so you rest on your laurels a bit and branch out as tactfully as possible. Architects do this well.  They are a band that prevails and stands out in a crowd of followers. 

Lyrically, the band doesn't stray from the theme of surviving on a warming planet rife with political divide. An inescapable horror and sense of impending doom pervade, which, depending on where your head is, can come across as either scary or cathartic.

All elements considered, the Architects manage to pull off a difficult feat, blending finely written compositions with an undercurrent of palpable angst.  For Those Who Wish to Exist is a gripping experience from start to finish, and Architects remain comfortable and confident within their newly created surroundings.

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Friday, March 5, 2021

Indie Rock Review: Shambertans - Wallflower

Score: 85/100 
Release Date: November 16, 2020
Genre: Indie Rock/Pop
Similar Artists: Housemartins, Libertines, The Jam

The Shambertans' debut EP, Wallflower, is an achievement in sonic alchemy. Formed in Cambridge, England in 2019, the band's sound is an extraordinary diversity of melody and mood, a blend of post-punk pop and modern no-frills rock. These balances are difficult to strike, and most modern rock bands end up producing grocery store music – one of a hundred varieties of the same product.

While the band stands on their own solid ground, the influences are clear. On the title track, “Wallflower," one can hear the strains of "Happy Hour" by The Housemartins. The pop hooks and the mellifluous tone of lead singer James Malone's voice bears an uncanny resemblance to Housemartins frontman Paul Heaton. Further on, songs with harder edges, such as "Sun in Your Eyes," bring to mind The Libertines in their ability to cut searing guitar licks between subtle yet impactful lyrics.

The theme throughout these understated lyrics is one of alienation and the fear of fading into the woodwork. On "Wallflower," Malone sings, 

"No life lives forever, deadmen rise up never, I'm a sleeper without a dream, searching for something." 

"Standing on The Dancefloor" takes us into the mind of the lovelorn, astounded that in a crowded bar he somehow has the woman of his dreams alone to himself. 

"’Cuz I want to be you; I need to be. Letting all the liberties fly. I see you. I want to be near you. It's what everyone wants, and only you can make them cry."  

The band’s power is restrained only by the pop song structure, and one gets the sense that Malone, guitarist Simon Jupp, bassist Sam Hester, and drummer Adam Mansfield are just itching to let loose live. Post lockdown, I'm hopeful that the band will do just that.

All in all, Wallflower is an impressive debut by a band on the brink of a breakout. Like a perfectly mixed cocktail, Shambertans blend influences and stylings to produce a modern, stylish sound that goes down easy and packs a punch. This band is establishing its footing as a force to be reckoned with for years to come. 

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Rock Review: Foo Fighters – Medicine at Midnight

Score: 75/100 
Release Date: February 5, 2021
Genre: Hard Rock
Similar Artists: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Audioslave, Pearl Jam

Having risen from the ashes of grunge rock, Foo Fighters have gifted their hardcore fan base with a tenth studio release and the first since 2017’s Concrete and Gold.  With Medicine at Midnight, the band remains deeply entrenched inside a groove they’ve carved for themselves out of which it is so difficult to climb. Let’s face it, the formula pleases fans, supports the crew, appeases the record company, and further solidifies their standing in the pantheon of rock royalty.  

Make no mistake, their standing is well earned. Dave Grohl has carried the band forward through tragedy and travesty, proving that which does not kill a rock band only serves to make it stronger. Nirvana was but a starting point. Grohl seasoned that sound with flights of fancy taking it to new sonic heights. Remarkably, Foo Fighters come across as an amalgamation of the history of rock music.  There are traces of early ‘70’s Mountain and Foghat fused with ‘80s Rick James and ‘90’s Wu-Tang Clan. Alongside Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters rescued rock music from the fraudulent grasp of hair metal.

Medicine at Midnight starts with a bang and then retreats to the safety of the commonplace. 
“Making a Fire” is as fresh and intoxicating as you’ll hear from this band. Riding on a funk groove that would make Nile Rodgers sit up and take notice, “Shame Shame” is the real standout. The groove stays sharp on “Cloudspotter” while “Waiting on a War” turns back to an acoustic backbone supporting so many of their past hits. From this point on, the album takes a turn toward the typical failing to move the listener emotionally in any clear direction.  

All in all, Medicine at Midnight keeps the Foo Fighters legacy of hard-driving rockers with a hybrid sound replete with nods to their forefathers well intact.

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Prog/Electronic Review: Steven Wilson - The Future Bites

Score: 73/100 
Release Date: January 29, 2021
Genre: Electronic, Prog-Rock
Similar Artists: Pineapple Thief, Moby

With his 6th studio album, former Porcupine Tree frontman and Prog Rock wonderboy turns sharply into the digital netherworld, challenging his most ardent followers' expectations. 

After Wilson's brilliant Hand Cannot Erase and To the Bone, it was anyone's guess as to which direction he'd turn. Yet, the deep and profound songs of alienation and marginalization backed by more digital underpinnings such as "Routine," "Perfect Life," and "Permanating" should have tipped us off.  The dangerous impact technology has in slowly stripping away our bodies' souls and transforming people into automatons continues to be the thread that runs through Wilson's most recent endeavors.   

Let's be clear, this is unlike anything you've ever heard from Wilson, and there are certain risks in steering down this path. It didn't bode well for Dennis DeYoung, and Styx with 1983's Kilroy was Here. "Mr. Roboto" remains the unfortunate example of how not to make this turn, and there are moments on this album that made me wonder if I was listening to a prog-rock mastermind or a failed Barry Gibb project from the late '80s.

Still, there's an argument to be made for suspending your disbelief, dispelling your preconceived notions, and giving this album a good honest listen.  In doing so, I was pleasantly surprised by several tracks. "12 Things I Forgot" is quintessential Wilson with confessional, soul-searing lyrics riding upon layers of acoustic guitar rhythm and piano. It would not be out of place on any Wilson or Porcupine Tree album. "Eminent Sleaze" is an innovative mix of genres and a song helped along by a strong chorus of backing female vocals, while " Follower" delivers poignant, timely lyrics upon smart and diverse sonic textures.

In full disclosure, Wilson's recent dissing of Eddie Van Halen's playing style after his death and his sudden shift in genres may have clouded my opinion. Once I accepted the man as the shape-shifting virtuoso he is, I was able to appreciate The Future Bites for the smart and complex achievement that it is.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Friday, January 29, 2021

Folk Rock and Soul Review: Skyway Man - The World Only Ends When You Die

Score: 87/100 
Release Date: October 23, 2020
Genre: Folk Rock, Soul, Gospel
Similar Artists:  My Morning Jacket, Wilco, M. Ward

James Wallace, singer, songwriter, and producer behind Skyway Man describes his third studio album, The World Only Ends When You Die, as "a spinning disc flashing the finest examples of cosmological country and sci-fi gospel blues." If that's not enough to give it a listen, I don't know what is. After I did, I found his description quite apt. There's a lot of soul here, a lot of good ole fireside foot-stomping, and enough howls at the moon to make the wolves think you're one of their own.  

Songs such as "Night Walking, Alone," "Sometimes Darkness…," and "Common Void" reveal the sonic easiness of early My Morning Jacket while "Muddy Water" is so early Dylan-esque it feels as if it belongs on one of the New Basement Tapes Dylan cover albums alongside Marcus Mumford's "Going Back to Kansas City."  

The World Only Ends When You Die is construed by the artist as a cinematic psych-folk opera about a person rendered incapable of coping with an uncertain reality following a near-death experience. Under a spell of mixed wisdom by several "trickster guides" hailing from the future, they leap back into the world of the dead only to spend a hero's journey climbing out, finally returning to the strange American existence of 2020. 

After Wallace's lyrics seep into the listener's consciousness, a realization sets in that while the struggles we've all faced within the uncertainty of 2020 have hardened us, that hardening has also left us stronger and better prepared to take on whatever the future brings.  

"Muddy water like a piece of ancient church glass flowing. We're on the darkest stretch, but the bend ahead is glowing."

"Sometimes darkness in the mind, sometimes it leaves us."

"Don't feel bad about being alive. Sometimes the ship rocks you side-to-side. Some hold tightly, some watch the moonrise bobbing up and down in the water."

I've given this album a good ten listens, and the beauty of it doesn't fade after two or three. In fact, the more I listen, it seems the more I discover. A welcome start to the 2021 year in music.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pop/Rock Review: Paul McCartney - McCartney III

Score: 80/100 
Release Date: December 18, 2020
Genre: Rock/Pop
Similar Artists: Jeff Lynne, John Lennon, Elton John

Since his departure from The Beatles, the beloved songsmith has alternated between skillfully-written pop masterworks to complete pieces of shite.  Who would deny the excellence of Ram, Band on the Run, and Flaming Pie?  On the other hand, who in their right mind can stomach head-scratchers like Wildlife, Press to Play, and the coma-inducing pablum, Give my Regards to Broad Street. Let's face it; what you get out of a Sir Paul release is anybody's guess.

Interspersed among his bipolar discography is a triad of numbered albums that beg the question, what is so special about this triumvirate?  What they appear to represent are three experimental shifts in style and direction. "I" was a lo-fi introspective shift away from Beatlemania.  Ten years later, after the dissolution of Wings, "II" set an experimental tone for his next era of pop profundity.  Fast forward forty years. In the middle of a pandemic, which he dubbs "rock-down," McCartney finds himself at the final transformational point in the triad.  

This current incarnation harks back to the first. Let's face it; Paul was the polished Beatle, the produced and precise Beatle, while John was rougher around the edges. The combination of the two is what made the magic. On "III", John lets himself go.  He skips the razor and hairbrush, and as a result, we see more of his authentic self. He creates grooves and then jumps into them to explore space within. There's a little John Lennon in these tracks, and thus, a bit of magic is conjured. 

"Long Tailed Winter Bird" sets the pace with a vibrant blues riff greeted by scuffled rhythm and vocals a third of the way. "Find my Way' shines the light of hope into the dark space of our modern times with pop savvy. "Women and Wives" is a refreshing conjuring of a bare-bones blues ostinato. "Deep, Deep Feeling" evokes the modern soulfulness of James Blake or Mac Miller. 

"Deep Down" contains the lyric 'Yankee toes and Eskimos can turn to frozen ice' which McCartney wrote upon impulse and later determined that "it's best not to question too deeply a lyric" and left it alone. The closing track, "When Winter Comes," revisits the album's opening blues riff, building and accentuating dramatically.  Much like 2020, we begin in the winter and end in the winter with a whole lot of struggle in between.  

In the long and winding road that is Paul McCartney's career, "III" is a rest along a scenic vista after a rough stretch of terrain. Fingers are crossed that "III" marks a pivot from the polished and predictable toward a deeper and more introspective McCartney in his remaining days.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Friday, December 25, 2020

Pop/Punk Review: The Cribs - Night Network

Score: 77/100 
Release Date: November 20, 2020
Genre: Pop/Punk
Similar Artists: Strokes, The Jam

After years of the label litigation, the crafty British indie-rockers have returned with a solid blend of soaring hooks and captivating harmonies. At Dave Grohl's behest, the Jarman brothers, Gary, Ryan, and Ross retreated to Grohl's Los Angeles studio to record Night Network. What feels like a new chapter for The Cribs, this release harks back to their signature 'Beach Boys meets The Strokes' sound with a bit of Motown thrown in for good measure. 

The tone is a unique blend of pop, punk, and harmony. Night Network starts with the alluring "Goodbye," which entraps the listener into a false sense of pop security before shifting into a consciousness-altering garage band fuzz solo at the 1:45 mark, which is both mesmerizing and enthralling. In a way, the album raises the bar with this gem and tries hard to reach its heights in the remainder of the tracks.  

"Running into You" feels like a throwback to the band's early 2000's origins with the constant and hooky chorus; it is apparently targeted as the hit song. More original and quintessential are songs like "Weather Speaks your Name" and "Siren Sing-Along." The latter's Motown stylings are mainly lifted from Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to be with you." Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo joins the fray on the adventurous "You Don't Know Who I Am," with backing vocals distorted guitar overdubs. 

Lyrically, the Cribs don't dive as deeply into the poetic realm as they have done in the past. One exception comes from the clever aforementioned "Weather Speaks your Name."

Sometimes yeah, the weather speaks your name/Like a childhood moment that felt the same/Keep wishing for an ever shorter day/I'd leave you alone, but you'd be lost in another age.

All in all, This is a tight and targeted release by an underrated band. The Cribs pull influences from many genres and stylings to produce a uniquely modern, elegant sound. They appear to have reestablished their footing as a force to be reckoned with.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Rock & Roll Review: John Lennon - GIMME SOME TRUTH: The Ultimate Remixes

Score: 85/100 
Release Date: October 9, 2020
Genre: Rock & Roll, Pop
Similar Artists: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Young

Forty years ago, tonight, December 8, 1980, I was a 17-year-old senior in high school when I heard the stunning, tragic news that John Lennon had been shot and killed in New York City. Anyone reading this review, old enough to remember that night, most likely remembers where they were when they heard the news. 

On October 9th of this year, what would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday, a compilation GIMME SOME TRUTH, produced by the love of John’s life, Yoko Ono was released. 

The overall song order is refreshing and thoughtful. Yoko’s selections bring some of Lennon’s best songs forward to speak to our times. As with many of The Beatles' songs, these timeless Lennon pieces continue to resonate deeply. “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” kicks things off with its opening lines, “Instant Karma’s gonna get you/Gonna knock you right on the head,” and who hasn’t been knocked on the head this year?  The next track, “Cold Turkey”, recounts, in throaty visceral screams and groans, John’s withdrawal symptoms from his heroin addiction that he decided to overcome at home on his own. 

Two songs in and it is clear that Yoko, knowing John so well, has selected songs that sing of autobiography, but also songs that speak to the masses, for we all suffer and feel. For example, “Isolation,” from his first post-Beatle solo release Plastic Ono Band (1970) speaks to the separation we all feel at times and the different things we try to do to remedy it.  His political anthem, “Power to the People”, sees the early seedlings of his political stances with The Beatles with such songs as “Revolution” come to potent fruition. 

The next three songs are from his second post-Beatle release Imagine (1971) starting with the title track, a song that reached around the globe and back with its utopian imaginings of a better world with the line, “You may say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one,”  which still moves many to keep the dream alive. “Jealous Guy” is another confessional song that speaks to his insecurities related to his deep love for Yoko. “Gimme Some Truth” sadly continues to resonate  in this age of fake news. I imagine this is what fueled Ono to use this song as the album title.

“#9 Dream” from Walls and Bridges (1974) is an ethereal walk, “through the heat whispered trees” in which Lennon wonders if it was real or a dream, “On a river of sound/Through the mirror go round, round/I thought I could feel/Music touching my soul.” One thing is for sure, as the songs on this compilation attest, John Lennon touched a lot of souls with his music and continues to. This very dreamy, cerebral song is followed by “Mind Games” from the album of the same name released in 1973. Lennon encourages all to keep exploring the endless frontiers of our mental landscapes.  “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” also from Walls and Bridges, pardons all for whatever it takes to make it through the nocturnal challenges of being human. “Stand By Me” from Rock ‘N’ Roll (1975) is an excellent cover of the classic Ben E. King song.

At this point, the compilation moves into the poignant tracks that appeared on John and Yoko’s last album Double Fantasy (1980) which is loaded with so much cruel irony that it is still painful to listen to 40 years later. “(Just Like) Starting Over” shows Lennon and Ono emerging from a five-year hiatus from making music in which they focused on raising their son Sean, with a new resolve and appreciation, “Our life together/ Is so precious together/ We have grown/ We have grown.” Lennon is ready to be starting over. 

Exactly three weeks from its release on November 17, 1980, Lennon would be shot dead. “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”, a love song to 5-year-old Sean adds to the cruel irony, “Every day in every way/It’s getting better and better…I can hardly wait/To see you come of age/But I guess we’ll both/Just have to be patient.” At the end of the song John sings, “Before you cross the street/Take my hand/Life is what happens to you/While you’re busy/Making other plans.” A message to us all.  Yes, Yoko clearly knew what she was doing in making these selections. “Watching The Wheels”, one of the finest songs John ever wrote, is Lennon’s declaration of “watching shadows on the wall” in which he sings, “I tell them there’s no hurry…/I’m just sitting here doing time” and that he “Just had to let it go.” Here, a healed and happier Lennon reintroduces himself to the world in a song full of the joy of hard-earned self-realization. 

“Grow Old With Me” released posthumously on Milk and Honey(1984) adds to the tongue in the ashtray cruelty where John sings, “Grow old along with me/The best is yet to be.” Yoko, being aware of the dark shadows of these selections ends the compilation with two uplifting, hopeful songs that leave us with the optimism that Lennon shared with the world despite all its problems starting with “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”, an annual rite of listening each December and “Give Peace A Chance”, Lennon’s ultimate anthem for peace and love in a world that is in need of both more than ever.

For a long time Lennon fan, this compilation is a freshly sorted feast and for a newcomer serves as an excellent introduction. 

- Richard Meadows | Guitar & Pen