John Lennon's “Imagine” Re-imagined For New 2 Audio Blu-ray + 4 CD Box Set and Double Vinyl Edition

Imagine, the follow up to John Lennon’s raw, at times vitriolic and still packing a punch Plastic Ono Band 1970 solo debut—an album heavily influenced by primal therapy and coming to grips with personal childhood issues—is considered by many observers today to be his most enduring, though when originally released some of the overt and impossibly idealistic political posturing was wrongly thought by many critics to doom the album’s long term artistic viability.

For purists and “originalists”, nothing other than an original American pressing mastered by Sam Feldman at Bell Sound will do, and that record remains the original “document” of that turbulent time. A 2000 digital remix/remaster issued by Mobile Fidelity on vinyl (MFSL 1-277) added nothing to the original but subtracted plenty, so much so that Yoko went back to the original for the 2010 catalog reissue series "John at 70".

For this new project, produced under Yoko Ono’s supervision, the core idea was to produce re-mixes that were “totally faithful and respectful to the originals” while being “sonically clearer overall” with an increase in clarity to the sound of John Lennon’s voice (though it’s well known that Lennon didn’t particularly like the sound of his voice). Release is slated for October 5th, 2018

The resulting project is a complicated, meticulously produced affair that includes a deluxe edition containing 5.1 and stereo 96/24 album and singles remixes, a remaster for the first time in 50 years of the original QUADRASONIC mix by Allan Steckler (who worked for British Decca when it was run by Arthur Haddy) with Roy Cicala engineering, stereo outtakes from the album and singles sessions “faithfully remixed in a style similar to the originals”, “ELEMENTS” mixes, that open up and expand upon heretofore buried in the mix elements including “mono’d” string arrangements here expanded to stereo and other items of interest including for instance Nicky Hopkins’ piano plus bass and drums only on “Jealous Guy” among others, and “RAW STUDIO” mixes, which, along with some other components of this project, I got to hear recently in a New York City studio. These “Raw Studio Mixes” are of live performances of the various takes, some extended, used on the finished album, but presented here in unfinished form. There’s also yet another version of the “raw” album built upon outtakes. The box includes a 120 page book and an audio documentary titled “EVOLUTION”.

But wait! There’s more (though these are NOT included in the box but are separately available) including the the “IMAGINE” film starring John and Yoko with guest stars Fred Astaire (!), Dick Cavett (which will have a limited theatrical run), and the “GIMME SOME TRUTH” film, edited from outtakes of the “IMAGINE” film..

All of the material (in the deluxe box only) is divided thusly: BluRay 1 contains the original album 96/24 remixes in 5.1, stereo and the original Quad mix, the singles and extras in new 96/24 5.1, and stereo and outtakes in new 96/24 5.1 and new stereo. BluRay 2 contains the RAW STUDIO extended album LIVE 96/24 extended album 5.1 and stereo mixes, 5.1 and stereo outtakes live, ELEMENTS 96/24 5.1 and stereo, the EVOLUTION documentary mono 96/24 and the ELLIOT MINTZ documentary mono 96/24. I’ll skip what’s on the 4 CDs, which is much of the same stereo material at “red book” resolution.

The only thing not presented here is the original 1971 master tape transferred at 96/24 to provide a grounded reference for all of these remixes. Perhaps that’s because the producers figure anyone interested in this set already has that?

You will find interesting and probably heartening (assuming you are not completely turned off by revisionism) the meticulous production methodology, which is best covered in a full review, (should Geffen/UMe generously provide a review copy).

I got to hear some of the ULTIMATE “original album remixes” in stereo and 5.1 and some of the RAW mixes in 5.1 and stereo. One interesting factoid contained in the PDF file I got with the announcement was that Phil Spector “…tended to record instruments directly onto the tape with all the reverb effects included (as was the case with George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album"). But here, John and Yoko insisted that all tracks be recorded “dry”, which made easier the remixes here as well as the production of the “raw” edition.

By far, my favorite track at the listening session was the “raw” version of the Paul attack, “How Do You Sleep?”, where minus the reverb and other production elements, the vicious condescension can be heard fairly dripping from the instruments! Et tu, George?

The project credits are: “Produced by Yoko Ono, Mixed and Engineered by Paul Hicks at Abbey Road Studios and Sear Sound (the “ULTIMATE” remixes) and Rob Stevens (the “RAW” mixes). The EVOLUTION documentary/Evolution mix was by Sam Gannon. Mastered by Gavin Lurrsen, Reuben Cohen and Paul Hicks at Lurssen Mastering, Vinyl Mastering Ron McMaster at Capitol Studio".

What I go to hear in a small recording studio played from files through Genelec speakers did not sound “smashed”. Let’s hope the final versions are not as well. Whether or not this record is deserving of such a thorough dissection and re-assembly is something only you, the music consumer can decide. I’d like to see (and hear) the John Lennon/Plastic Ono album reissued from tape. When I play the original UK pressing for visitors, they go bonkers!

Where were you on December 8th 1980 when you heard the awful news that John Lennon had been assassinated (assuming you'd been born and were old enough to remember anything)? When the phono rang I was having dinner with my then girlfriend, another couple and Arnold Schwarzenneger and Maria Shriver. Bryan Ferry's achingly melancholic "Jealous Guy"issued shortly thereafter, musically put it best, at least for me, and still brings me to tears.

recordhead's picture

I was in 6th grade. Went to school and decided I had to get home and listen to the radio. So I faked sick went to my Grandma's house and listened all day to the radio. Throughout the day I gave my grandparents updates as they came in. I'll never forget my Grandpa saying "you better quit worrying about Jack Lemon and get back in that bed!"

StonedBeatles1's picture

Enough of these meaningless cash grabs already. 50 years of it is way long enough, But yeah, having my original pressing of The Plastic Ono Band clipped from me some 42 years ago a new AAA pressing sounds like a good suggestion. I don't recall ever going bonkers of it, however, I don't own a 130K turntable. Guess I'll have to revisit the hi rez version, or better yet, send your dedicated Labor Day readers your vinyl rip Boychick! :)

Chemguy's picture

...I must agree. It’s a bit much, but there are those who may appreciate it, so...

Like many of us, Howard Cosell broke the news to me on MNF.

Michael Fremer's picture
I didn't write that!
foxhall's picture

I didn't hear about it until the morning of the 9th.

My mom was driving me to school and it was on the news. Oddly, I remember asking her who John Lennon was but I don't remember her answer; I imagine she mentioned the Beatles but I would not have known about them either.

fritzg's picture

Are the 2010 lps AAA and from the original master? What about the high res from then? From the original master or not?

Anton D's picture

I was living in Fort Collins, Colorado, walking to the study cubes at Colorado State and Monday Night Football was on a little TV when Howard made the announcement.

I was only a tepid Lennon solo fan, but always kind of hoped for rapprochement between John and Paul.

Jim Croce had died in 1973 and the next 12 months was Jim Croce on every freaking FM channel, you couldn't escape the guy. I had a selfish thought when I heard about John and thought, "Oh, man, I'm about to face hearing John Lennon all the time for the near future."

No need to flame me, I pre-apologize for that uncharitable thought, just recalling and confessing to a completely self-centered moment and how the music industry works.

I don't know if we ever got a chance to hear the real John Lennon. He seemed to need someone to be his dominant half and first he had Paul, then transitioned to Yoko. I think his best work would have come later, in fact. John at 50 might have been a musical force to be reckoned with!

alucas's picture

even though it's one long sentence, it described the lp perfectly! I do put it on once in a long while, just to hear Yoko's beautiful voice...

Paul Boudreau's picture

"A 2000 digital remix/remaster issued by Mobile Fidelity on vinyl (MFSL 1-277) added nothing to the original but subtracted plenty..."

Digital? How is that an "Original Master Recording?" What about the 1984 version (MFSL 1-153)?

I remember it was during my five glorious years of group-house living. Several of us grabbed a "White Album" portrait, put it in a black frame and took it to a Tex-Mex bar/eatery downtown. The bartender put it behind the bar while we toasted Winston O'Boogie for a couple of hours.

Catcher10's picture

I am not a Beatles fan nor a fan of any post Beatles band member music, so a release like this is meaningless to me. I am sure the fanatics will buy it and add to their countless versions.
What gets my bowels moving is why is there a picture of the CD box version and a digital review on Analog Planet?? I come here for analog information....not digital stuff.