As a complement to the magnificent restoration of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Imagine album — featured in the new super deluxe multi-disc boxed set which we reviewed across a three part series (ICYMI, click here for one, two and three) — their related films have also been restored and re-issued on Blu-ray disc. Both look and sound great!
Imagine, the film, is a pioneering undertaking predating the long-form “video album” concept by many years. Made in 1971 coincident with recording of the album, the movie is as beautiful as it is challenging. The presentation is lovely in high resolution form with the images painstakingly cleaned and color corrected.
From the official website, we learn some detail on how the films were restored: “Following an intensive restoration process, the original cut of the entire film has been frame-matched to the first generation 16mm camera colour negative. Every frame has been subsequently hand cleaned and restored. The soundtrack has been remixed and remastered from all the original multitrack audio sources in glorious 7.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Atmos (for theatres) by multi-Grammy® Award winner Paul Hicks, all under the supervision of Yoko Ono Lennon.”
Capturing the foggy grace of John and Yoko’s Ascot country estate, where basic tracks for the album were recorded, there are moments of performance video as well as more avant garde and cinema verite moments. Some of it plays out more akin to the so-called “music video” as we know it today. This is not surprising that John & Yoko would undertake something like this as the Beatles were themselves drivers in the evolution of pop music films pretty much from the beginning (which was a necessity for promoting music on Television in England). They certainly made a host of movies which were vehicles for their music (Hard Days Night, Help, Magical Mystery Tour, etc.).
Looking at the film of Imagine with 20/20 hindsight also reveals a refreshing aesthetic which pre-echoes John and Yoko’s 1980 album Double Fantasy. The last album released in John Lennon’s lifetime, the duo presented their music as equals, alternating tracks throughout the record. The Imagine film starts to do that, showcasing several of Yoko’s songs in equal stature to John’s. This enhances the loving vibe underlying Imagine as a listening and viewing experience and it works remarkably well. I like the fact that the film doesn’t exactly mimic the track-listing of the LP; the Imagine film is its own thing, in that way.
The surround soundtrack is wonderful, of course, as we reviewed previously here at Audiophile Review. The high resolution stereo is also a splendid listen.
In addition to the Imagine film, on the Blu-ray disc we also get the stunning documentary from 2000 called Gimme Some Truth : The Making Of The Imagine Album. It is especially powerful seeing John and Yoko in such complete control of their project, directing and keeping in check legendary producer Phil Spector, who had a tendency to take over project when given too much rope. Incredible footage of the band recording reveals their super tight quarters, yet it makes the performance all the more spectacular.
As a lifetime fan, I must say that its honestly mesmerizing to watch George Harrison laying down his guitar solo to the scathing takedown of “How Do You Sleep?” This reviewer gets additional satisfaction seeing drummer Alan White in action just before he joined one of my other favorite bands, prog rock legends, Yes!
Gimme Some Truth is an incredibly honest film, unafraid to show John at his most difficult and demanding. You really get a strong sense of the ups ‘n downs of his personality at that moment in time. Yet at the end of the day it is clearly all about John and Yoko’s love as well as the passion for the music.
Imagine — the original long playing record — has also been re-issued on 180- gram high-quality black vinyl as well as a limited edition on clear wax (via mailorder). This too is a labor of love production, carefully re-creating the entire original package including the original poster (showing John playing at the white piano) as well as both postcards variant which came with initial and later pressings of the album (McCartney RAM parody and Pan-Pipe playing Gorilla versions). You also get a bonus LP featuring a cross section of demos and outtakes from the sessions (which appear in the box set on CD and Blu-ray). Generally the LP sounds really good, arguably better than the vinyl pressings most of us had here in America.
Perhaps my only gripe on this front is that I think it would have been cooler if they had put the stripped-down “raw” versions of all the songs on the vinyl LP version rather than the various takes used. They are presented in the box set on Blu-ray and CD in track-by-track form so you can play them as if you were listening to an alternate universe version of Imagine and it is arguably the coolest part of the box set. For the vinyl, those tracks could have been compiled in a similar fashion to the expanded reissue version of 1980’s Double Fantasy (subtitled “Stripped Down” ) which includes a second disc of unadorned core-band performances without the sometimes significant production touches found on the final album. So, vinyl lovers, I guess yer gonna hafta get the box set too if you want to hear those versions (and I recommend them highly!).
Regardless, if you don’t have a copy of Imagine or want a brand new copy for your collection, this new reissue should serve you just fine.
Kudos again must go out to Yoko Ono for seeing this mountainous project through to its successful conclusion, ensuring that everything was prepared and presented in a the highest possible quality with integrity, and of course, love.
Thank you Yoko.