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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