In 1988, the John Lennon estate released the documentary Imagine: John Lennon. A loving, airbrushed look at his life, the film offset the negative press generated by Albert Goldman's vicious unofficial bio The Lives of John Lennon, providing an unabashedly biased and entertaining chronicle of one of rock's greatest icons. Fanatics cherished the rare footage scattered throughout the documentary, and they also were thrilled by the first official release of "Real Love," a demo Lennon recorded at his Dakota apartment during the late '70s. (It would later be overdubbed and released as a Beatles' track on Anthology 2.) Despite the inclusion of this and a rehearsal take of "Imagine," the soundtrack is geared toward casual fans. There's a brief roundup of nine major Beatles songs (including "Help!," "In My Life," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "A Day in the Life," and "The Ballad of John & Yoko"), then a summary of his solo works. Imagine may be a double album, but as it turns out, 21 tracks barely scratches the surface of a catalog as deep as Lennon's, especially if it attempts to cover both band and solo recordings. That means, of course, that many great songs -- particularly early singles like "Cold Turkey" and "Instant Karma" -- are missing. The featured songs emphasize Lennon's sensitive ballad side -- it's all the idealistic dreamer, with Lennon the rocker or the social activist pushed to the side. Such an approach is bound to frustrate some fans, but the end result is an entirely listenable compilation and one that says a great deal about how Lennon was perceived at the conclusion of the '80s.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Plastic Ono Band