John Lennon

Classic Albums: Plastic Ono Band [DVD]

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The Classic Albums series does its usual impeccable job with this hourlong documentary of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band record, his first true solo long-player. It's hard to imagine how they could have gotten more key firsthand interviews, with the expected exception of Phil Spector. Those offering their memories specifically for this documentary include Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman (who played bass on the LP), several members of the Abbey Road production staff for the sessions, and (most surprisingly) Arthur Janov, the primal scream therapist who strongly influenced the tone of Lennon's singing and compositions of the era. Vintage footage of Lennon (and, often, Lennon and Ono) is featured from a variety of late-'60s/early-'70s sources, and John's own voice is heard discussing the album on some of the soundtrack via excerpts from interview tapes. Other cool aspects of the disc include Voorman running through some of the basslines he devised, the engineers isolating some specific parts of the tracks, and brief snippets of some outtakes/alternate versions from the sessions. Even for those extremely knowledgeable about Lennon's career, there are some surprising nuggets, like the revelation that Spector actually wasn't at and/or heavily involved in some of the sessions, Voorman's illustration of how he sometimes played chords on his bass, and Janov's memory of how the opening lyric for "God" evolved from a discussion between him and John. Though the principal hourlong feature was broadcast on television prior to this DVD release, the disc also contains almost 37 minutes of pretty interesting bonus material, including more extensive discussion (especially analysis by the recording engineers) of some of the album's songs, among them some tunes not discussed in depth in the main section; Lennon's live performance of "Mother" at Madison Square Garden; and a 1970 Plastic Ono Band TV performance of "Instant Karma."