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Release date: 9 September 1971
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Imagine (10/23/71, #3 US, #1 UK, #20 AR, #7 AC) / Crippled Inside / Jealous Guy (11/30/85, #80 US, #65 UK, #12 AR, #22 AC) / It’s So Hard / I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier / Gimme Some Truth / Oh My Love / How Do You Sleep? / How? / Oh Yoko!
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.3 UK, 10.0 world (includes US and UK)
Peak: 11 US, 12 UK
Review: Lennon’s “angsty Plastic Ono Band album has garnered the lion’s share of the acclaim” EK because Lennon “spoke those early critics’ language,” EK but this is his “most consistent solo work” TM and may be “his most important recording.” ZS Plastic Ono Band is “a searing personal statement in which a brilliant artist bares the depths of his soul, but Imagine is…a well-crafted collection of songs…to listen to on a Friday night.” EK He returns to “calmer, more conventional territory” AMG and strikes a “better balance…He’s still sour but it’s been tempered with a little sweetness.” JM “We get to see the many sides of a complicated man come together.” JM We see “four sides of Lennon clearly on display. We get Peacenik Lennon, Sharp-Tongued Lennon, Confessional Lennon, and Old School Rocker Lennon.” JM “The result is music defined by confrontation and conflict – yet at its core it retains a hint of touching school kid earnestness.” TM This is “self-analysis, love, venom, and politics with a backbeat.” ZS
Peacenik Lennon makes appearances on the “hypnotic antiwar song” AMG I Don't Want to Be a Soldier and the title cut. “Outside of the Beatles, ‘Imagine’ is probably the first thing most people would connect with Lennon.” JM It is “a beautiful, multi-layered plea for everyone to see the humanity within each other” JM and envision “a world with no gods, possessions, or classes, where everyone is equal.” AMG It became “a career-defining standard” EK which was “a pretty different animal from Lennon’s more sloganeering anthems…Instead of creating an ‘us vs. them’ dichotomy, ‘Imagine’ challenges the listener to move beyond everything that our culture deems importance: materialism, nationalism, and our own concepts of heaven and hell.” EK
Confessional Lennon “showed himself capable of insane romanticism” CL with songs like “the aching confessional” TM Jealous Guy (“underneath the sweet strings…lies a broken and scared man)” AMG and Oh Yoko, which “has a sense of joy to it that makes it seem way more universal than a song with the word ‘Yoko’ in the title has any right to be.” EK On Oh My Love “the melody is absolutely gorgeous, straightforward but shot through with surprise chord changes and melodic flourishes, especially in the descending lines of the verses. Couple that with the sparse lyrics that repeat variations on a theme throughout the song…and you have…a lost classic.” EK
Sharp-Tongued Lennon “nearly ruins the album with the bullying How Do You Sleep,” EK lashing out at Paul McCartney. His bandmate “wasn’t dumping toxic waste or running a crooked old folks home; he was writing silly love songs and arguing about royalties or whatever. The song seems like a pretty egregious overreaction.” EK
Old School Rocker Lennon makes appearances with the “bitter hard rock” AMG of Give Me Some Truth and “the jaunty Crippled Inside,” AMG and “excellent honky-tonk social critique” JM framed in “a mocking assault at an acquaintance.” AMG
“If Imagine doesn't have the thematic sweep of Plastic Ono Band, it is nevertheless a remarkable collection of songs that Lennon would never be able to better again.” AMG
Resources and Related Links:
- John Lennon’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
- album page on DMDB website (even more in-depth look at album)
- AMG All Music Guide review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- EK Eric Klinger Counterbalance series at PopMatters.com
- CL Colin Larkin (1998). Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums. Virgin Books: London, England. Page 56.
- JM Jason Mendelsohn Counterbalance series at PopMatters.com
- TM Tom Moon (2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, NY.
- ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 145.