John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band The Ultimate Collection  From UMe Drops April 16th

John Lennon's raw, jarring solo debut album first released December 11, 1970 gets the 50th anniversary treatment in a multi-release series coming this April 16th. For those experiencing the album when it was first released 50 years ago, it was at first an ugly shock to hear a former Beatle (the phrase "former Beatle" was to fans shocking enough) bare his soul and express his personal anguish and pain, while simultaneously declaring "the dream" (whatever it was) "over".

At the time the word "betrayal" was how some saw and heard an album of almost antagonistic eruptions aimed at Beatles loyalists resulting from Lennon's therapeutic transformation influenced by "primal scream" psychotherapist Dr. Arthur Janov. Others took the cold water dousing as a call to grow up and did.

While the album delivered to the artist at least a partial unshackling from a decade's worth of cultural chains, to many fans, listening delivered a series of painful blows even as it gave fans an intimate look at the damaged human being behind the legend.

For many at the time the album was a too difficult to actually enjoy "listen once and leave on the shelf" record. Having shattered the myth, Beatles fans took solace by returning to the decade of enchanting Beatles albums. Those who took a deep breath and returned to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band were rewarded with a deep and thoughtful album that actually enhanced rather than diminished listening to the rich Beatles catalog. In retrospect, the album's raw, direct communication and production clearly provided the template for the refreshing punk and "new wave" revolution that came more than a half decade later.

As with previous Lennon projects, this one is available in a variety of formats and depths. There's an eight disc (6 CDs, two Blu-rays) "Super Deluxe" box that in addition to new "ultimate mixes" includes elements, raw studio and "evolution mixes" plus scores of never before heard demos, outtakes, jams and for the first time the companion LP Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band album and live sessions—over 11 hours of audio featuring 159 new hi-res 192/24 stereo mixes plus 5.1 surround and a Dolby Atmos mix that literally takes the album to "new heights". the deluxe package includes a 132 page hardback book with lyrics, photos, tape box images, memorabilia and other "stuff".

The set reprises previous box sets' most interesting feature: the "Raw Studio Mixes", the unmastered live without effects, reverb or tape delay that lets you hear how things actually sounded in the studio, though the finished product was a spare minimalist record, especially compared to Beatles albums. The album reached the top 10 in both America and the UK. No doubt songs like the jarring "Mother", the bitter "I Found Out" and the others were not what most Lennon fans where anticipating when they plunked down their $4.98 or whatever the original cost.

For those less interested in the deep dive, there's a 2LP edition, one of which is the original album remixed and half speed mastered on 180 gram vinyl and the other two sides of out-takes plus a photo booklet and a "WAR IS OVER!" poster, which sadly turned out to not be true. There's also a two CD set containing the album plus singles "Give Peace a Chance", "Cold Turkey" and "Instant Karma (We All Shine on)" on one disc and 14 album and singles out-takes and a single CD edition containing the remixed album+ singles.

The remixes and audio production is from the same team that worked on 2018’s critically acclaimed Imagine – The Ultimate Collection, that included triple GRAMMY®-Award winning engineer Paul Hicks and mixers/engineers Rob Stevens and Sam Gannon.

firedog's picture

Incredible album.Some of Lennon's best songwriting and some of his best vocal performances. Can't wait to hear it.

2_channel_ears's picture

Definitely one for the ages. The raw power of emotions echoes all these years later. Superb backup, Ringo's solid drumming, Klaus's thumping bass.

There's a good breakdown of the CD/LP lineup on Lennon's official website; it appears the "raw studio" mixes comprise the 2nd LP:

I haven't heard the Imagine collection for a taste of the production. I just hope this team does a better job than the half-speed mastered McCartney released last year, which I found flat and uninviting compared to my 70's era Apple label disc.

Now I'm off to track down that high school English paper I wrote reviewing this once upon a time.

Michael Fremer's picture
I agree. I have an original U.K. pressing that's incredibly transparent. The 1/2 speed mastered reissue cut from a digital master is just "ok", definitely "uninviting" compared to the original...
Grx8's picture

I think it sounds good?!

cdvinyl's picture

Recently played my original copy and it was completely trashed-played to death. Loved the album when it first came out.

Lazer's picture

With the Kirmuss RCM

Michael Fremer's picture
Not even the Kirmuss RCM can rescue it...
Duke86fan's picture

this is probably going to lead to a big debate over which is the better plastic ono band album (lennon or ono).. personally i dont wanna choose because both are great

dial's picture

Have all the Lennon discs so can't wait to get this one. Thanks for review !'s picture

Good morning to everyone!

How would be the comparison with the Mobile Fidelity version (that is going quite expensive nowadays).


RG's picture

That’s funny, I thought this album was recorded in stereo, mixed and produced by John and yoko and Phil,Spector, so somebody, please tell me, what problem this remix is attempting to fix? Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, especially when the artist is no longer with us.

Here’s something that NEEDS remixing: Live Peace in Toronto 1969, side A. Previous releases have turned up the volume on Ms. Ono’s vocals, desecrating John’s excellent vocals. This was arguably the best band John ever played with that wasn’t named the Beatles. Please remove her vocals and reissue side A as an EP.

Alan Abentrod's picture

This remix biggest benefit is in john's vocals which he tended to bury in the mix, this remix they say brings out his vocals. I'm eagerly awaiting Michael's review.

Alan Abentrod's picture

Its out Friday, when will you post your review?

JMNIC66's picture

As always, thanks for the review. My wife bought this for me. Love her. But prior to listening to the box set, I pulled out my original US pressing, which sounds ok. But the one thing that bothered me most of all is that it's missing the original inner sleeve. Not sure how I missed that when I purchased this a few years back. Now I'm on the hunt for the UK first pressing.