Music DVD Review: Classic Album Series: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

I try to imagine what it was like for a group like The Beatles to break-up.  I wasn’t there, I simply wasn’t around in 1970.  I cannot fathom it.  As an artist myself, I try to place myself in John Lennon’s shoes, and think about the break-up of the group that he began, and evolved into a world phenomenon.  The evolved into what defined himself as an artist.  It was time to break away.  The times must have been nothing short of confusing for the artist John, disheartened, and yet a huge relief all at the same time…What a mix of emotions.

Plastic Ono Band

We all know, all too well, that John was not one to hold back his emotions.  He always spoke of what was on his mind, and what was effecting him directly, like any good artist. The Plasic Ono Band debut album finally allowed him to present raw emotion free of the mold of being a Beatle.  This wonderfully produced and insightful DVD illustrates the creation of John’s most emotionally gripping, and raw album in the greatest detail.  If you are the slightest fan of John Lennon’s solo work you will get to see the inner-workings of this album first hand.

The DVD series itself, for those who are unaware, take us on a behind-the-scenes look at classic albums across all genres of music.  We are privy to hearing first-hand interviews with most of the folks who were there.  Often, these interviews are exclusive to the film, and never seen before.  Viewers are also treated to hearing the original tracks from the albums isolated and interjected with stories from the producers or studio technicians who were there.  It is a rare insight to hear isolated tracks, and/or stories.  Here you get the complete package.

The Plastic Ono Band DVD is no different from others in the Classic album series, except for a few differences.  The Lennon DVD begins with non-album tracks.  Cold Turkey and Instant Karma are the first songs, not on the Plastic Ono Band album that are highlighted, as these were the singles released prior to the album.  Not only are we privy to hearing isolated, and live tracks (some of which collectors have already heard), but we get to hear the story in John’s own words as well.  The bonus material, outside of the actual film lets viewers sit down with the studio technicians and hear even more tracks in detail.

The album tracks are illustrated through the use of isolated track-by-track playback, with commentary from studio technicians, and producers.  These stories and sounds are supplemented by interviews from the people, and musicians who were present at the recording sessions.  We get to hear Klaus Voorman’s stories of playing in the Plastic Ono Band, we get Ringo’s tender reflections of the time, Yoko Ono tells of John’s feelings surrounding the album’s recording.  It’s a full-picture of what it was like to there.  Sadly, no known video footage exists of the recording sessions.  I initially thought this would be a drawback to the DVD.  Instead, viewers are left with wonderful photo montages that really force you to get into the mood of the album, and spark imaginations of what it was like to be in the sessions.  It’s more effective than seeing video footage, it really sparks a mood that all interviewees refer to throughout the album.  One of the more interesting, and less frequently seen interviews is Arthur Janov.  You get a good context from him regarding John’s mindset, and imlpementation  of the primal cream therapy techniques.  We even get to see some of Janov’s practices, and techniques through old footage of the therapist.  It’s quite haunting.  The only things missing from this set are, understandably, interviews from Phil Spector, and Billy Preston.  While we do get to see Klaus Voormann sitting and playing bass, we do not get to see Ringo behind a drum kit, but even he admits, nothing he plays is the same way twice.

The video itself covers each track on the album, except for My Mummy’s Dead, which plays through the credits.  We are treated to stories from prominent journalists, Jan Wenner and Mark Lewisohn, and these interviews, provide a nice history and overview to some history which is familiar to most fans.  It’s a nice supplement to the main interviews of Yoko Ono, Klaus Voorman, and Ringo Starr.  Spening time watching this DVD is not the easiest task.  It is John Lennon at his most emotional, his most visceral.  It is a bit saddening to see, as are most Lennon films since his senseless murder.  As one internet review stated, the album’s predominant theme and, moreover, its message, lay in one cryptic line: “The dream is over.”  Yes, folks the dream was officially over with this album, but it’s nice to go back and revisit the emotions that poured out of that time. 

This DVD is an essential addition to anyone’s treasure trove of Lennon material.  It would be truly soemthing if each Lennon album was examined in this kind of detail.  It would make a great complement to an already amazing body of work.

  • Checkout a video clip from the DVD’s official website, on the formation of the Plastic Ono Band.
  • Checkout an e-card for the DVD.

You can order the DVD directly from Eagle Rock Entertainment.

Here’s the description of the set from Eagle Rock’s website.

“John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band” was John Lennon’s first solo studio album after the break up of The Beatles. Both John & Yoko had been undergoing primal scream therapy in the lead up to the recording of the album and both this and Yoko Ono’s companion album (“Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band”) were deeply influenced by their therapy. This latest addition to Eagle’s acclaimed Classic Albums series explores the creation of this groundbreaking album through new interviews, archive footage and detailed analysis of the original multi-track masters. Interviewees include Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and bass player Klaus Voorman.

Features excerpts from:
Hold On
I Found Out
Working Class Hero
and more…

Source: Eagle Rock Entertainment



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