John Lennon

Legend [DVD]

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Released for Christmas 2003, this collection of John Lennon's solo songs was prepared -- with the substantial involvement of Yoko Ono -- expressly for DVD. The track listing, order, and cover art mirrors the Lennon Legend CD, but most of the videos that had been included as part of 1992's John Lennon Video Collection have been updated or changed entirely. Whether these new ones are better is a personal issue for Lennon's substantial fan base, but what is here is still quite good. Rare and seldomly seen footage of John -- generally with Yoko -- wandering around New York, frolicking with infant son Sean, recording in the studio, getting busted for marijuana, and playing live on-stage is interspersed throughout the 20 tracks. It's professionally compiled, with the 30-year old film stock occasionally showing its age, and provides a vivid portrait of the chameleon-like Lennon's various post-Beatles looks (hairstyles, facial hair, clothing). Most importantly, the audio has been remixed into stunning 5.1 surround sound, making this undoubtedly the best these songs have sounded. The mix envelopes the listener, and even those with a moderately priced multi-speaker system will be thrilled with the care and integrity used for the surround approach. If the non-stop images of a generally smiling, beatific John and Yoko become too syrupy -- and they do have that effect over the nearly 100 minutes of the DVD -- just turn the TV off and enjoy the music stripped of any video embellishment. A few extras round out the disc, with Lennon's rather emotionless last live performance (of "Imagine") from April 18, 1975, being the most poignant. Some of the visual choices are questionable; pictures of war-torn children that accompany "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" are particularly disturbing and arguably in poor taste. And dubbing the studio version of "Cold Turkey" to live film of Lennon with the Plastic Ono and Elephant's Memory bands (recorded at Madison Square Garden August 30, 1972) makes it seem like a bad old MTV-styled clip. But between the exquisite sound, intriguing footage, and of course, timeless music, this is highly recommended for both fans and those new to Lennon's legend.