Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Music Review - John Lennon - Double Fantasy

A grand album I first owned on cassette tape. I understand it a whole lot more as an adult than I did as a twelve-or-so year old kid. Originally released in 1980 after a five-year absence, Double Fantasy was presented as a "dialogue between men and women, and their fantasies" with the tracks alternating between Lennon and Ono penned songs. Released just a month before his tragic death, Double Fantasy was Lennon's final album. Now digitally remastered and with three bonus tracks, this odd mix of Lennon classics and Ono experimentalism is again available for public consumption. The original artwork has been retained and enhanced with additional photographs from the era. While this album contains three classic Lennon songs ("Starting Over", "Watching the Wheels" and "Woman"), the strength of his writing only contrasts more strongly with Ono's, ahem, songs. Back in 1980, I had to either listen through the Ono tracks or try to fast forward through them just enough to get to the next Lennon song. Thanks to the miracle of these new-fangled compact disc players, you can program just the Lennon songs, resulting in a much shorter, but in my opinion a much more enjoyable, album.

In addition to the well-known Lennon trio of classics, there's also "Cleanup Time", a great bath time song for kids that begins with Lennon mumbling about bubbles before the jazzy horns and fairy tale lyrics kick in, and "Beautiful Boy", a song used to contrivance in Mr. Holland's Opus. On the Ono side there's her orgasmic groans on "Kiss Kiss Kiss", a barely post-disco "Give Me Something", and her strongest track, the palatable vaudevillian "I'm Your Angel." I had forgotten the two-song cycle of "I'm Losing You" and "I'm Moving On" which uses the same instrumentation and similar musical ideas to effectively contrast the two sides of a deteriorating relationship… fun for the whole family!

The first bonus track is a roughly recorded Lennon demo of piano and vocals, framed by humorous Lennon chatter. "Walking on Thin Ice" is the Ono track that was completed on December 8, 1980 just hours before Lennon was assassinated. There are quite a few interesting timbres but again, the classic Ono monkey-wails detract more than they add. The final bonus "track" is a mere seventeen seconds of dialogue between Lennon and Ono. Despite the fact that I find nearly half the tracks unlistenable except with a morbid curiosity, Double Fantasy stands as a classic album with many songs worthy of your time.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, January 2002.

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