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

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review, especially for the newer fans who would not otherwise be familiar with the artist... and his adoring wife Yoko...