The Lennon Legend: The Very Best Of John Lennon

John Lennon

Whenever a new John Lennon record or film is released, I find myself asking the same question: Is this something John Lennon would have put out? It seems his widow Yoko Ono has pillaged the vaults for every note of music, every frame of film, every doodle drawn, and every photograph taken. But somehow, another layer is uncovered, another angle revealed, and another dollar is made. The Lennon Legend: The Very Best Of John Lennon DVD has plenty to offer those whose only desire is to have the whole ball of wax in one package. For the more perceptive Lennon fan, it's obvious that while some of the videos here are worthwhile, some are contrived paste-ups that repeatedly tell the late ex-Beatle's story in excessive detail. It sometimes feels like Ono, as the keeper of the flame, is recycling the lot without much reverence to the music or the man who made it. We've all seen the film reels of John and Yoko, walking hand in hand, marching in protest, sitting in bed, dancing in the park, etc. A soundtrack that includes "Love," "Mind Games," "#9 Dream," "Stand By Me," "Woman," "Beautiful Boy," "Watching The Wheels" and "Borrowed Time" is attached to home movies and random clips, mostly of John and Yoko and their seemingly idyllic life. It all seems vaguely familiar.

Of course, seeing Lennon cavorting around New York, signing autographs and making a general ass of himself has its moments, if only to show how human he really was. It's better than watching his impish squiggles become animated during "Whatever Get You Through The Night." Filling time during "Mother" with dramatic images from the famous John Lennon scrapbook might just be slightly similar to viewing your own life story with the same song. Slowly, the videos that accompany the songs sort of lose their footing. "Just Like Starting Over" and "Working Class Hero" are eerily analogous in tone and presentation to the "Free As A Bird" video from The Beatles Anthology series. The dubbed-in studio version of "Cold Turkey" synched over actual live footage of the song is criminal. Ono must think her husband's fans are a bunch of ham-fisted saps. Yeah, like we're supposed believe the concert sounded this good. And the riots and protests portrayed in "Power To The People" and scenes of third world poverty and war shown during "Happy Xmas" do little to bolster the significance of the songs.

This isn't to say the DVD isn't without merit. It's great to have a clean video of "Imagine" shot at Lennon's sprawling estate in the English countryside. And "Instant Karma," complete with dancers and Yoko Ono knitting a sweater of some kind, is priceless with Lennon wailing away and future Yes drummer Alan White plugging the holes with some stupendous fills. Even "Nobody Told Me" is captivating with guest appearances from Dick Cavett, Fred Astaire, Andy Warhol, Miles Davis and George Harrison. There are a couple of things to get excited about in the Extras section. Of note is an in-studio performance clip of "Slippin' And Slidin'," originally broadcast on The Old Grey Whistle Test, and a live version of "Imagine" from the Salute To Lew Grade show on April 18, 1975, Lennon's final appearance before an audience. If you're after the remastered audio, and could care less about the images, this DVD is well worth the investment.

~ Shawn Perry

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