Sunday, October 9, 2011

John Lennon 17: Signature Box

While it seemed we had been through this already, Yoko and an eager EMI decided to celebrate what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday with a small pile of new catalog items. Power To The People: The Hits was supposed to replace Lennon Legend, apparently, while offering a more affordable option to 2005’s Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon double-CD package. Those who wanted to tread a little further were invited to enjoy Gimme Some Truth, which evenly divided 72 songs across four thematic CDs. And Double Fantasy Stripped Down applied the “naked” philosophy to the last album he released in his lifetime.
The big deal of the program was Signature Box which offered up the eight studio albums from Plastic Ono Band through Milk And Honey, remastered from the original mixes (unlike the batch everyone had picked up over the previous decade) with new liner notes but no extras that weren’t on the original LPs. A six-track CD entitled “Singles” covers “Give Peace A Chance”, “Cold Turkey”, “Instant Karma”, “Power To The People”, “Happy Xmas” and “Move Over Ms. L”, and to further entice the completist, “Home Tapes” presents 13 demos and outtakes, some familiar but legally purchasable for the first time ever. Most of the studio alternates come from Plastic Ono Band, except for a radically different “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier”. Of the demos, it’s nice to have clean copies of “One Of The Boys”, “India” and another “Serve Yourself” variation.
Since we’re fans of (most of) the original albums, we’re always happy to have an excuse to listen to them. The packaging is slim and sleek, with full lyrics and extra photos (though Yoko seemed to think Some Time In New York City needed more mid-1969 shots). Naturally, the biggest complaints concerned what was left out of the set. Besides ignoring most of the bonus tracks from the earlier CDs, previous Yoko-approved sets, like Menlove Ave. and Live In New York City were missing in action, although a handful of songs from those albums (as well as Live Peace In Toronto) did find their way to Gimme Some Truth. And if you wanted the Stripped Down version of Double Fantasy, that meant you ended up with two copies of that album.
If it were truly all-encompassing, we might be more inclined to rate it higher, yet at the same time, we don’t know if we’d be able to stand having (to buy) everything all over again. Though something will likely emerge to commemorate his 75th birthday in 2015, and therefore inspire further gnashing of teeth, we’d all much rather have had the opportunity to hear what other music he might have created beyond that ten-year window.

John Lennon Signature Box (2010)—

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