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JOHN LENNON Ė ROCK & ROLL - EMI MUSIC
Record Rating: *****

John Lennon - Rock & Roll - EMI Music John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were a mystical happening that many people still don't understand. Maturing overnight from happy mop-tops to psychedelic gurus, they revolutionized their own style and rock music itself. When the Beatles broke up in 1970, each one embarked to discover themselves and thanks to their innate genius, some studio wizardry and perhaps a touch of chemical inspiration, their solo careers tried to overturn the conventional pop music of the day as well.

Rock & Roll was John Lennonís solo album of cover songs reflected the music that Lennon loved growing up in the 1950s. The biggest problem with the original 1975 release was the over production and the arrangements. Phil Spector produced the former Beatle, as he turned his back on celebrity and the music world and focused more on being a husband and father. The album wasnít as tight as previous Lennon records before it, and was dubbed a mill of the run effort by the press and fans alike. This 2004 reissue of Rock & Roll (whose production is supervised by Yoko Ono) attempts to remedy those quibbles with the production team pushing down the keyboards and horns, pushing up the guitars and drums and tries to bury, even remove the 70ís over production. Most of the thirteen tracks covered here were written by artists that the Beatles covered on their early records (such as Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly) and Lennon took a bunch of his favorite rock and roll songs and interpreted them in his own way, just as David Bowie did on his Pin Ups album. Tunes covered include Buddy Holly's Peggy Sue, Ritchie Valens' Rip It Up and Chuck Berry's You Can't Catch Me. But what really makes the package worth getting for hardcore Lennon fans are the four bonus tracks. Thereís even a take on Elvis Presley's My Baby Left Me, here inaccurately titled Since My Baby Left Me. The other tracks include a ballad version of Phil Spectorís To Know Her Is to Love Her, a reprise of the album track Just Because and the outtake Angel Baby - which by far is the best track on this record. The original big single from the album was the cover of Ben E. King's Stand By Me (which has shown up on all the essential Lennon greatest hits packages) and it sounds exceptionally good here.

John Lennon was one of those greatest rock & roll singers, and it's a pleasure to hear him sing this set of old tracks. If anything, these songs represent the days before the Beatles became famous and maybe even before he formed the Quarrymen for that matter. For these are the sounds Lennon grew up listening to, the music he learned from, and the songs that drew him into forming his own rock and roll band. Itís a great album by any measure, since it offers an appealing glimpse of the Lennon legend by revisiting his early days of yore.

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