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Friday, September 3, 2010

Double Fantasy: Stripped Down Version

Hello people,
         I recently read in Rolling Stone that John & Yoko's Double Fantasy is going to be re-released again, but this time without the '80's production.  '80's production?  Hello!  Aside from maybe the backing vocal on "Clean-Up Time" and the honky, synth harmonica on "Dear Yoko," there's no '80's production the way we as a culture expect to hear when we talk about music of that period.

         Somebody stop the disease that is unplugged, acoustic, raw, organic, etc.  A great idea, for sure, but this is not a record that suffers from the gloss of the '80's.  This album stands-out as being a classic for its songcraft, professional production, and whip-sharp band playing with the intent suitable for the messages at hand.

         Losing John Lennon shortly after the release of this album is the most uniquely tragic event in music history.  Not only was he from the most famous pop-rock band of all time, he was a truth-sayer and a gifted songwriter of the highest caliber.  After dated efforts from the '70's, which although having great songs, certainly didn't have the purpose of the 1980 comeback.  The songs on this album and on the last album, Milk And Honey, would be his greatest statements (as a whole) since his Plastic Ono Band solo debut.  There's a majesty and maturity to his songs from 1980 that the production on Double Fantasy brings to the fore for the whole world to see.  What was a melancholy album in mood to begin with, became gut-wrenchingly sad after his death.  Though Milk And Honey has more upbeat moments, it's of the same ilk and the tears flow just the same as I smile at the enjoyment of hearing lyrical wit coupled with great instrumentation and vocal prowess.  His humor, wisdom, and melodic sense completely intact, these two records are a joy to hear, regardless of the sadness.

         This new edition of Double Fantasy may be enjoyable, and a must for my library, but let's just not get to thinkin' that less production equals "more real."  There's a time to be raw & simple and a time to be multi-tracked.  Let's not forget that multi-tracking is what blows the mind when we hear Revolver, Sgt. Pepper..., and Magical Mystery Tour.  The bare versions on the Anthology albums (and various bootlegs) are a revelation, but though some are great, some remind you why the finished track is a proper final statement.  I'm glad to own Let It Be ... Naked if that's what was truly intended by The Beatles, but that album is a special case.  We know they threw up their hands when it came to that project and listening to both versions of the album has a similarity that can't be found in listening to a bare version of one of their psychedelic tunes.

         So, let's all enjoy the latest edition (like the last one ... Acoustic) knowing it's just a fun side trip into the songwriting process. Let's not spread any rumors of how much better it is than the original.  Maybe, there really isn't a threat anyway.  Maybe I'm overreacting.  Maybe it doesn't matter anyway.  I'm just thinking that if his songs from 1980 didn't move you then, then they probably won't move you in a different form now.

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