John Lennon

Peace, Love & Truth

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The cover of the 2005 compilation Peace, Love & Truth bears an explanation of the album's purpose: it's "The Musical Life and Times of John and Yoko. The dream lives on..." Yes, Peace, Love & Truth is another installment in the canonization of St. John, the first Lennon LP devoted to the heavily marketed idealized caricature of John that has been incessantly peddled by his estate since the late '80s. The concept is to collect all of John's songs about, well, peace, love, and truth, but since he was wilier than the cartoon of St. John suggests, this isn't quite as successful as it might seem to be initially. First of all, there's the problem of culling this from a variety of sources. There are hits -- non-LP hits, actually, like "Instant Karma," "Give Peace a Chance," and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," which are always nice to have on a collection, plus such hit singles as "Imagine," naturally -- and a bunch of LP tracks, plus previously released demos. There's also "Listen the Snow Is Falling," the Yoko Ono-led B-side to "Happy Xmas" that featured the full Plastic Ono Band -- a reasonable inclusion since, as the insipid liner notes say, "it was produced by John & Yoko & Phil Spector." More problematic are the inclusions of Ono's unspeakably awful trip-hop remix of "Give Peace a Chance Y2K+" and yet another remix, "Give Peace a Chance Remix 2005," featuring "the Voices of Asia," which is regrettably not overdubbed vocals by John Wetton, Steve Howe, and Geoffrey Downes, but overdubs from "some of Asia's best known singers," including Parking Lot Pimp, that combine for a version that "stays true to John's original musical anthem for peace." It's wretched, a jumble of stale drum loops and silly, awkward rhymes that has very little to do with any music that John made, and only hammers home how irritatingly small and cartoonish the St. John myth is. In fact, the Lennon songs themselves here undo that myth quite handily on their own -- songs like "I Don't Want to Face It" and "Bring on the Lucie (Freeda Peeple)" are too loose and funny to be pious, "Instant Karma" is too knowing and sardonic, "Mind Games" is too open-ended to really be pigeonholed as merely warm, fuzzy thoughts about peace. So, the music not only defies the St. John stereotype, but is pretty damn terrific -- and it's almost good enough to excuse this shoddy recycled compilation, but not quite, since it's better heard elsewhere (and it's easy to get elsewhere, too).

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