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John Lennon albums ranked (2021 update)

A less biased look at the smart Beatle’s discography This includes collaborations with Yoko Ono
12John Lennon
Wedding Album

I have a lot of tolerance for John and Yoko’s antics. The Bed-In, Nutopia, the smug political statements. But my patience can only go so far. Wedding Album is barely music; hell its barely even an album. The first side is 20 hellish minutes of John and Yoko screaming each other’s names and the second is a collage of interviews and song snippets. Long, boring and not worth the time and effort. The original packaging with all the fancy odds and sods is nice though.

Best: Amsterdam

11John Lennon
Some Time in New York City

After the blockbuster success of the lushly produced ‘Imagine’ and the Lennons’ subsequent transferral to New York City, John and Yoko released a double album that was to be ‘ripped from the headlines’ and focus on current political issues. The result was disastrous. Bar the unmentionable first song, John’s uptempo and bluesy ‘New York City’ and ‘John Sinclair’ and Yoko’s jazzy rock n roller ‘We’re All Water’, the rest of the album is marred in excessive overproduction, outdated and extremely unsubtle lyrics and an overwhelming sense of ‘holier-than-thou’ness. The live disc is equally shambolic, though the 16 minute rendition of ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko’ is pretty spectacular.

Best (Studio): We’re All Water
Worst (Studio): Attica State
Best (Live): Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)
Worst (Live): Any of the fucking bullshit on Side 4

10John Lennon
Live Peace In Toronto 1969

Recorded as a supergroup alongside Eric Clapton, Alan White and Klaus Voormann, ‘Live Peace in Toronto 1969’ is a messy little live album, albeit one high on energy. While John rushes through a few covers and originals (including the first appearance of the then unreleased ‘Cold Turkey’), Yoko brings the house down with a frantic rendition of her own ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko’ before a lengthy (and admittedly not very good) freak out to cap the album off. While the original releases of these songs are obviously far superior, there some charm to be found here, and it’s noteworthy in being the first public live gig by a solo Beatle.

Best: Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)
Worst: John John (Let’s Hope for Peace)

9John Lennon
Milk and Honey

Released four years after John’s murder, ‘Milk and Honey’ is a pretty scattershot listen. With the release date for ‘Double Fantasy’ looming, the Lennons’ cut the album down from a planned double album to a single disc and intended to finish the rest of the songs the next year. John was killed three weeks later. As such, Milk and Honey isn’t exactly finished per say, and many songs feel underdeveloped and sketchy at best, though the domestic warmth of ‘Double Fantasy’ still rings through here, even in fuzzy lo fi cuts like the heartbreaking ‘Grow Old With Me’ and the simplistic lite reggae of ‘Don’t Be Scared’. Messy and bittersweet, but still a decent listen.

Best: Grow Old With Me
Worst: I Don’t Wanna Face It

8John Lennon
Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins

Likely one of the most notorious albums ever released, ‘Two Virgins’ is often seen by listeners as the point where John lost the plot and allowed Yoko to dictate his musical direction and taste. While this is obviously incorrect, ‘Two Virgins’ can be a hard pill to swallow at times. But behind the infamous stark naked cover, this a strange, noisy almost dreamlike mess that has a lot of charm. If you’re not into avant garde music, this is probably awful and it’s hardly something you can just pop on for a casual listen, but if you’re tuned into this sort of music, ‘Two Virgins’ is an odd but charming portrait of a couple just having fun, and falling in love.

7John Lennon
Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions

After the infamous ‘Two Virgins’, John and Yoko released the second entry into their ‘Unfinished Music’ series. Even more atonal and brutal than ‘Two Virgins’, ‘Life with the Lions’ is a punishing listen. It’s also extremely dark and disturbing. While the first side contains a single lengthy improvised noise piece (‘Cambridge 1969’), the second, recorded entirely in a hospital wing, is an uncomfortable look at the couple as they suffer through the miscarriage of their child. Drifting from the strange lullaby like ‘No Bed for Beatle John’ and drifting into the frightening ‘Baby’s Heartbeat’ (a literal recording of their unborn child’s heartbeat) and then... two minutes of complete silence. The album ends with ‘Radio Play’, a strange lengthy piece of radio sounds and muffled talking that soon wanders into nothingness. This is some DARK shit.

Best: Cambridge 1969
Worst: The two minutes silence, I guess?

6John Lennon
Walls and Bridges

Taped during an 18 month separation from Yoko and fuelled by drugs, alcohol and collaborations with Harry Nilsson, ‘Walls and Bridges’ is a somewhat messy but enjoyable pop rock record, with excursions into heavy funk, yacht rock and psychedelia. While classics like ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’ and ‘#9 Dream’ are some of John’s most celebrated solo compositions, deep cuts like the tense ‘Steel and Glass’, the rip roaring ‘What You Got?’ And the irresistible ‘Surprise Surprise’ see an unsure John embracing the chaos around him, and just having fun.

Best: Steel and Glass
Worst: Ya-Ya

5John Lennon
Rock 'n' Roll

Back in 1969, John wrote a song you might have heard of called ‘Come Together’. Since the song held more than a passing similarity to the Chuck Berry tune ‘You Can’t Catch Me’, John was sued by the song’s rights owner Morris Levy and as a compromise, agreed to record a cover album of songs from Levy’s library to subvert a court case. While the sessions were marred in debauchery and producer Phil Spector’s violent and bizarre behaviour, the finished product is an excelled slice of nostalgia, with razor sharp, energetic recordings that harken back to John’s days in Hamburg (fitting of the cover). While everyone knows ‘Stand By Me’, other gems like the proto punk ‘Rip It Up/Ready Teddy?’ and a cover of the very song that got him into this mess help make this more than a throwaway covers record

Best: Stand by Me
Worst: Do You Wanna Dance?

4John Lennon

While the title track has become both a universal pean for peace and an overused tone deaf cliche, there’s no doubting ‘Imagine’s eternal longevity. Significantly smoother and poppier than his soul bearing debut, ‘Imagine’ sees John in full pop mode, churning out classics like ‘Jealous Guy’, the piercing ‘Gimme Some Truth’ and the lovely ‘Oh My Love’. Elsewhere he gets snidey on the countrified ‘Crippled Inside’ and savage on the brutal and cruel ‘How Do You Sleep?’. While it dips into saccharine fluff in places (*cough ‘How?’ cough ‘Jealous Guy cough*), this is a pretty brilliant set of rock and pop tunes that will likely still be played 50 years from now.

Best: Crippled Inside
Worst: How?

3John Lennon
Double Fantasy

It’s kind of heartbreaking listening to ‘Double Fantasy’ in retrospect. Long a man of bitterness and pain, to hear John finally happy for once in his life, only for that to be snubbed out just under a month later has to be a pretty sick case of irony. Regardless, John’s final album is a wonderful album, with incredibly strong compositions from both him and Yoko about their happy domestic life. From the classic ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ and ‘Woman’, to spiky art rock tunes like ‘Kiss Kiss Kiss’ and ‘I’m Moving On’, to unabashedly silly pop a la ‘Dear Yoko’ and ‘Yes, I’m Your Angel’, ‘Double Fantasy’ sees both artists firing on all cylinders. Really, that just makes the whole thing even sadder in retrospect.

Best: Woman
Worst: Give Me Something

2John Lennon
Mind Games

Unjustly underrated, ‘Mind Games’ is a brilliant collection of tunes that has no right being received as badly as it was. Taped at the beginning of his infamous ‘Lost Weekend’, ‘Mind Games’ finds John struggling to adjust to his separation and his fall from public and critical favour. Tender and heartbreaking ballads like ‘Out the Blue’ and ‘Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)’ see John at his most earnest since his debut, while more upbeat tracks like the gospel tinged ‘Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple)’ and the rockabilly inspired ‘Tight A$’ show Lennon wasn’t all doom and gloom. A touching, subtle and charming collection of tunes that really deserves way more love than it gets. Oh and the title track kicks ass.

Best: Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple)
Worst: Only People

1John Lennon
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

While fairly common knowledge now, back in the day, no one really knew how troubled John was. Precisely why his debut album ‘Plastic Ono Band’ is one of the most brutal, dejected and pained albums ever recorded. From the rough as nails production (by Phil Spector of all people!) and performances, to the painfully personal song writing, ‘Plastic Ono Band’ is nothing short of a masterpiece. From the throat shredding opening ‘Mother’ to the reassuring ‘Hold On’, the furious blues of ‘I Found Out’, the bitter ‘Working Class Hero’, the beautifully simple ‘Love’ to the grand and climatic ‘God’, John tears apart his idols, friends, lifestyle choices and even his old band. He is no longer Beatle John, one of the most famous men on earth. He is just John. And that’s reality. The dream is over. Bravo, you specky scouse bastard.

Best: Hold On
Least good: Look at Me
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