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Lennon Legend: The Very Best Of John Lennon

Classic Rock, Pop, and Rock album by John Lennon

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a more apt title than EMI intended

  • Mar 9, 2001
  • by
If you were to interpret the title of this album according to its dictionary defintion - "a story that has been passed down for generations, especially one that is presented as history but is unlikely to be true; a popular myth that has arisen in modern times" you'd have a fairer assessment of John Lennon than EMI can possibly have intended. If ever a man's achievement has been blown out of all proportion then John Lennon's surely has, mostly because he did the decent rock 'n' roll thing and got shot. It's better to burn out than to fade away, you see.

This isn't to say that Lennon wasn't a collossal figure in the history of rock 'n' roll; only a clown would dispute that. But, by dint of their longevity, neither Paul McCartney nor George Martin achieved anything like Lennon's status, yet on any sensible assessment of the evidence they're entitled to be seen in exactly the same light. They, equally, were the Beatles. (Yeah, I know - and George Harrison was pretty cool too.) If ever the Lennon Legend may have been justified, then it was for his part of the Beatles trinity.

Nevertheless, this collection features no Beatles material. It is two thirds Lennon's songs in the five years between the Beatles' dissolution and his "retirement" from rock 'n' roll in 1975, and a third from that peculiar comeback-cum-post mortem effort, Double Fantasy. For the most part, the reputed genius is hard to spot. Suckers, of which there are millions, fete "Imagine" as one of the pinnacles of achievement in twentieth century popular culture. It's a haunting tune, but the only pinnacle reached by its sentiment is that of hypocrisy. "Imagine no possessions," sings John, captured on film behind a white steinway concert grand, in the hangar-like drawing room of his stately English Manor. And how could the same man sing with a straight face about the world living as one and on the same album deliver a hatred-infused open letter to Paul McCartney in the form of "How Do You Sleep?". A petite failure in the self-awareness department, non? Then again, genius and a lack of self awareness often go hand in hand. "Mother", also hardly an exhortation for a love-in, stands as a bruising piece of self-dissection, but sits awkwardly with Lennon's famously distant relationship with his own son, Julian. (Given how enthusiastic he was in cashing in on his famous Dad, it's a wonder Lennon Jr. didn't record a song called "Father".)

Where Lennon does earn some his legendary status, though, is the material from Double Fantasy. It's a shame it gets written off nowadays as simply a sentimental favourite. It was more than that: five years away from the game instilled in Lennon the faculty self-criticism so obviously lacking from his earlier work, and the result is a record completely at home with itself. But it's not the earth-shattering stuff that comprised Revolver or Rubber Soul. It's a guy in his dotage, which turned out to be drastically short. So "Legend" is a unwittingly perspicacious title. But it is still a great sample of John Lennon, and as every collection should have some Lennon in it, it has to come recommended.

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review by . June 04, 2006
posted in Music Matters
For anyone who remembers John Lennon's early compilation, 'Shaved Fish,' 'Lennon Legend' will undoubtedly provide a great treat. The songs are selected and arranged far better. The compilers made a great C.D.--not just a sampler. The best of 'Shaved Fish' is retained, and some other essentials are added from the second half of his solo career. Because the quality of his albums is mixed, ('Plastic Ono Band' being a groundbreaking triumph and 'Walls and Bridges' a meandering failure with some key …
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Olly Buxton ()
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John Lennon's solo work has been anthologized so many times that it's hard to believe there wasn't a definitive compilation before this one. And, depending on your particular take, you might not findLennon Legendquite hitting the mark. However, since it does contain the brilliantly scathing "Working Class Hero," doesn't ignore the woefully underratedRock 'n' Rollalbum, and catches the hopeful renewal that came toward the end of his foreshortened life, it's probably about as close as anyone's going to come. His great songs shine, meditations like "Imagine" and his rockers had form and content, as in "Whatever Gets You Through the Night." He was an icon, and this does him justice.--Chris Nickson
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Label: Capitol
Artist: John Lennon
Genre: Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
Release Date: February 24, 1998

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