When the John Lennon catalog was first issued on CD, the original mixes were used – but so were liberal amounts of noise reduction. Then in 2000, the CDs were remastered – but also remixed, save for Double Fantasy and its sister album Milk and Honey which were just remastered – leaving fans of the original versions forced to seek out used CD versions or the original vinyl. Confused yet?
In honor of what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday, Capitol is attempting to set things right by reissuing the entire catalog again, this time with the original mixes and no noise reduction with the same production team used on the Beatles remasters from 2009 save for the 1980 material. The results as evidenced on the Gimme Some Truth CD sampler are by and large a revelation, particularly for the ’70s material.
The biggest sonic improvement is by far on the Plastic Ono Band tracks. Fans used to the remix will notice the guitar intro to “Hold On” is truncated as on the original release, but there is a warmth here not present on the 2000 version. Lennon’s voice is immediate and it sounds as if he is in the room with you. The original mixes on the Imagine and Sometime in New York City tracks recall the “wall of sound” effect Lennon and producer Phil Spector were going for with these albums, something not as evident on the 2000 versions.
The two Walls and Bridges tracks included – “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)” and “Bless You” are particular highlights and if the entire remastered CD sounds like this, fans are in for a treat. Where things get a bit dodgy is, ironically enough, on the most recent material featured here, The Double Fantasy/Milk and Honey tracks were loud and compressed in 2000 and sadly, they are here too. This misstep is the only thing keeping this from being a perfect reissue campaign.
The sampler also features two demos from the John Lennon Signature Box – “God” and “India, India” in surprisingly good fidelity and two tracks from the new release, Double Fantasy Stripped Down, an album not unlike the Beatles’ Let it Be Naked, where the tracks are reduced to bare-bones versions to emphasize Lennon’s vocals.
In an age of horrible-sounding CDs, these reissues are mostly a home run. Certainly the 1970s material is worth upgrading and Double Fantasy Stripped Down is an interesting listen. Fans of the 1980 material would be better served with original CDs or vinyl, however. Overall though, these CDs merit almost a 9/10.
Article first published as Music Review: John Lennon-Gimme Some Truth (Sampler) on Blogcritics.