Review Summary: Up there with Plastic Ono Band and Imagine. I implore you to listen to this album.1 of 2 thought this review was well written
'Walls and Bridges', in my opinion, was clarification that Lennon had returned to full form after the disappointing 'Some Time in New York City' and the pleasant 'Mind Games'. There ain't a bad tune in the set, but that doesn't stop Lennon from writing a few 'mediyoko' ones. I type that pun ironically, in a sense, because there aren't any song-writing contributions from Ono, and the tone of this album is definitely more enjoyable because of her absence. Not only that, it suggests that Lennon has moved on and doesn't need to focus his attention entirely on a subject listeners were getting a bit tired of. Nonetheless, Ono does receive some attention but these lyrics are more apologetic and lonesome so it's not as 'Oh god, John, give it a rest' as some of his other songs ('Oh Yoko!', 'God'). As for the rest of the album, the lyrics range from very upbeat to downtrodden, so a mix of musical styles are incorporated, though most songs are dominated by lovely horn arrangements which I myself never tire of.
The album kicks off with 'Going Down on Love', a nice mellow number which sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album. It's quite R&B orientated and is pretty fresh concerning the rest of the Lennon catalogue. Overall: 8/10.
The first single on the album, 'Whatever Gets You thru the Night' is probably the most upbeat song you will hear on 'Walls and Bridges'. It's an Elton John duet featuring a funk-inspired groove and screaming saxophones which all work tremendously well. It's not meant to be serious lyrically and is a nice return to laid back, non-political theme. Overall: 9/10.
Taking up the third space on 'Walls and Bridges' is 'Old Dirt Road', a track that I would classify as average. It's pleasant enough, but it definitely isn't a stand out. Overall: 6/10.
'What You Got' is the first certified rocker on 'Walls and Bridges'. Surprisingly, it's kinda funky too. Lennon has never been too well known for blending musical styles, but hey, the guy screams his way through this with some passion; he's missing Yoko, and he needs one more chance. Overall: 8/10.
'Bless You' is a calm ballad - sort of - which I enjoy a certain degree, but Lennon makes it ever so slightly muzak-y. This is the guy who ripped on McCartney for having muzak for music. But I'm sure after 3 years the dust had settled and Lennon decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to write music that is dangerously relaxed. Overall: 5.5/10.
We travel to the darker side of Lennon's psyche on 'Scared', which is a marginally dark song lightened up by those oh-so jazz-inflicted horns. Without them, this track would be a whole lot less powerful. Overall: 7/10.
'#9 Dream', the second single on 'Walls and Bridges', is a wonderfully dreamy song. I was surprised to learn after I heard this track that John Lennon alone produced this album without any aid from Phil Spector. It has a very lush 'wall of sound' theme and is probably the best effort on the album: a beautiful song, simple as. Overall: 10/10.
Following up '#9 Dream' is 'Surprise, Surprise', a nice enough track though nothing completely special. Great use of horns. Overall: 6.5/10.
'Steel and Glass' is a very bitter number, suspiciously similar in sound to 'How Do You Sleep?'. It plods around a bit and never really finds a perfect angle, but is enjoyable enough. Overall: 7/10.
'Beef Jerky' sits as a the only instrumental track on 'Walls and Bridges'. It's melodies are thick, swingin' and funky, but really, what's the point? Cutting the track from the album would only strip back the whole thing's running time. It's a good tune, but overall unnecessary. Overall: 7/10.
The penultimate track, 'Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)', is a personal favourite of mine on the album. It's melancholy, subtle and uproarious all rolled into one, thanks to those damned irresistible horn arrangements. Overall: 10/10.
I'm hardly going to review 'Ya Ya', 'cause it's a joke track. It doesn't bother me due to it's length and Julian has a nice little cameo, but it's in the same vein as 'Beef Jerky'. Overall: 4/10.
To conclude, I really do suggest you buy this album. The reason? It's a nice break from the rest of Lennon's solo stuff. Although 'Walls and Bridges' is slightly uneven and does drone on a bit, Lennon doesn't bother you with his devotion to Yoko or his political leanings, adopts a funk/R&B sound to boot, and pulls it off. 4/5.