The Plastic Ono Elephants Memory Band
John Lennon - Vocals, guitar, keyboards
Yoko Ono - Keyboards
Stan Bronstein - Saxophone
Richard Frank Jr. - Drums
Gary Van Scyoc - Bass guitar
Adam Ippolito - Keyboards
Wayne 'Tex' Gabriel - Guitar
August 30th, 1972 saw John Lennon's final full-length concert performance. The event, titled "One to One", was held to raise money for mentally handicapped children. Joining Lennon was the Elephants Memory Band, who had recently worked with him and Ono on their ill-received 1972 album, Sometime In New York City. Two separate performances were held, one in the morning of August 30, and the second in the evening, the former of which was included on this album.
The album kicks off with Geraldo Riviera introducing Lennon to much applause and chanting. One might expect the set to start with Lennon's 1971 single, Power To The People, as Lennon leads the audience in the familiar opening chant, but after about 15 seconds, the chant fades into the drum intro of New York City
. An upbeat Chuck Berry styled rocker, Ney York City tells the story of John and Yoko's first times in New York like meeting David Peel, joining with Elephants Memory, and their first concerts there. The nice crossfade and high-energy intro to this song provide an appropriate introduction to the album and is one of the stronger performances of the album.
And without missing a beat, the band launches into the slower, bluesy, It's So Hard
. Talking about the pressures of life and riddled with little sexual innuendos ("It's hard to get hard, sometimes I feel like going down") and neat guitar and saxophone licks, this song is well placed in the album in contrast to the high-paced rocker that precedes it. After this concludes, Lennon shares the origin of the next song's meaning, Woman Is The N***** Of The World
(I censor the title so as not to offend anyone). The song is another slow, bluesy ballad with lots of saxophone. The song was released as a single to coincide with Sometime In New York City, but the controversial nature of the song caused it to sell poorly and greatly affected the album's sales as well. Ableit, it is not a bad song, but it is rather weak. The lyrics can get annoying after a while but the instrumentation makes up for it. In my opinion, Woman Is The N***** Of The World could have been a much stronger song had it been shorter.
After a funny little interlude, Lennon goes into a shortened rendition of Well, Well, Well
from his debut solo album. I personally find the fact that it is much shorter than the studio recording as both an upside and a downside as it cuts off very abruptly just as the listener is getting into it, while the album version goes well into obnoxious repetitiveness. Still, this is a great rocker and tells of John and Yoko's meeting and peace rallies. Following Well, Well, Well's abrupt finish is one of Lennon's more "well" known numbers, Instant Karma!
. The songs features a prominent electric piano churning out chords while Lennon hollers out his famous lyrics to much audience participation. The song is played notably faster than usual but still retains it's overall catchiness.
Next up is one of Lennon's most emotional songs, Mother
. Lennon displays some of his trademark wit with his pre-song talk before delivering the count-in. The song is very raw, even live, featuring a constant drum beat tying together the chords banged out on the piano every two or so bars with Lennon's heartfelt vocals topping it all off. While not as strong as the original album version, Lennon's vocals are topnotch but he seems to strain a bit towards the end. After an ending substituting the original fade-out, Lennon remarks "Hope you recognise 'em!" and somewhat bitter announces "We'll go back into the past just once." and subsequently launches into his Beatles classic, Come Together
. Lennon miss-matches the lyrics, perhaps purposely, and reworks the song to feature more guitar and keyboard but still keeping the song funky. It's quite interesting to hear Lennon reprise something from the years he so wished to leave behind, and thankfully this rare gem was captured on tape.
What would a John Lennon concert be without performing his signature song? While many fans would say Imagine
is a highly overrated song, we can all admit that it is one of the most important anthems of our time and a great piece of music. This performance is no exception, as the keyboards are perfectly recreated and Lennon's vocals are magnificent as usual. No one can pull it of better than Lennon himself and it is done here with added sax licks and a new ending to cap it off. And then in perfect contrast, we are given Cold Turkey
, a very heavy song in it's own right, both instrumentalally and lyrically, telling the story of Lennon's heroin addiction and his battle to quit it. The heavy guitars andmelodic bass-line are complimented with extra keyboards and saxophone like the other tracks and a wailing vocal by Lennon. They even recreate the "orgasm section" on the end with a guitar solo added!
And just when you thought "Come Together" was going into the past for Lennon, the concert closes with a rousing rendition of the 50's rock classic, Hound Dog
. Lennon gives a great, belting vocal performance just like he did in his early Beatle days. The entire band gives it their all with shreading guitars and blaring saxophone to end the album with a BANG! Lennon and Yoko Ono then lead the audience in a short chant of the timeless peace anthem, Give Peace A Chance
a bring the album to a close.
While the album itself is superb, the as-of-yet-current CD edition has very poor sound quality and it slightly detracts from the album, so I'd advise anybody not sure as whether to purchase this disk or not to wait until a remaster comes out, but I you are a Lennon fan, or a Beatles fan in general, this album is a must-have, mediocre sound or not.
**** out of *****