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Rock - Released November 17, 1980 | BEATLES CATALOG MKT (C91)

The most distinctive thing about Double Fantasy, the last album John Lennon released during his lifetime, is the very thing that keeps it from being a graceful return to form from the singer/songwriter, returning to active duty after five years of self-imposed exile. As legend has it, Lennon spent those years in domestic bliss, being a husband, raising a baby, and, of course, baking bread. Double Fantasy was designed as a window into that bliss and, to that extent, he decided to make it a joint album with Yoko Ono, to illustrate how complete their union was. For her part, Ono decided to take a stab at pop and while these are relatively tuneful for her, they nevertheless disrupt the feel and flow of Lennon's material, which has a consistent tone and theme. He's surprisingly sentimental, not just when he's expressing love for his wife ("Dear Yoko," "Woman") and child ("Beautiful Boy [Darling Boy]"), but when he's coming to terms with his quiet years ("Watching the Wheels," "Cleanup Time") and his return to creative life. These are really nice tunes, and what's special about them is their niceness -- it's a sweet acceptance of middle age, which, of course, makes his assassination all the sadder. For that alone, Double Fantasy is noteworthy, yet it's hard not to think that it's a bit of a missed opportunity -- primarily because its themes would be stronger without the Ono songs, but also because the production is just a little bit too slick and constrained, sounding very much of its time. Ultimately, these complaints fall by the wayside because Lennon's best songs here cement the last part of his legend, capturing him at peace and in love. According to some reports, that perception was a bit of a fantasy, but sometimes the fantasy means more than the reality, and that's certainly the case here. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 27, 1970 | BEATLES CATALOG MKT (C91)

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Rock - Released November 27, 1970 | BEATLES CATALOG MKT (C91)

Without a doubt, George Harrison's first solo recording, originally issued as a triple album, is his best. Drawing on his backlog of unused compositions from the late Beatles era, Harrison crafted material that managed the rare feat of conveying spiritual mysticism without sacrificing his gifts for melody and grand, sweeping arrangements. Enhanced by Phil Spector's lush orchestral production and Harrison's own superb slide guitar, nearly every song is excellent: "Awaiting on You All," "Beware of Darkness," the Dylan collaboration "I'd Have You Anytime," "Isn't It a Pity," and the hit singles "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life" are just a few of the highlights. A very moving work, with a slight flaw: the jams that comprise the final third of the album are somewhat dispensable, and have probably only been played once or twice by most of the listeners who own this record. Those same jams, however, played by Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, and Jim Gordon (all of whom had just come off of touring as part of Delaney & Bonnie's band), proved to be of immense musical importance, precipitating the formation of Derek & the Dominos. Thus, they weren't a total dead end, and may actually be much more to the liking of the latter band's fans. © Richie Unterberger & Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 27, 1970 | BEATLES CATALOG MKT (C91)

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Without a doubt, George Harrison's first solo recording, originally issued as a triple album, is his best. Drawing on his backlog of unused compositions from the late Beatles era, Harrison crafted material that managed the rare feat of conveying spiritual mysticism without sacrificing his gifts for melody and grand, sweeping arrangements. Enhanced by Phil Spector's lush orchestral production and Harrison's own superb slide guitar, nearly every song is excellent: "Awaiting on You All," "Beware of Darkness," the Dylan collaboration "I'd Have You Anytime," "Isn't It a Pity," and the hit singles "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life" are just a few of the highlights. A very moving work, with a slight flaw: the jams that comprise the final third of the album are somewhat dispensable, and have probably only been played once or twice by most of the listeners who own this record. Those same jams, however, played by Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, and Jim Gordon (all of whom had just come off of touring as part of Delaney & Bonnie's band), proved to be of immense musical importance, precipitating the formation of Derek & the Dominos. Thus, they weren't a total dead end, and may actually be much more to the liking of the latter band's fans. © Richie Unterberger & Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 27, 1970 | BEATLES CATALOG MKT (C91)

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When it was originally released in 1971, George Harrison's first solo rock album managed the impressive feat of being both expansive and consistent. With four LP sides of gentle, spiritual, and highly melodic songcraft and two more of loose, muscular rock jams, it was a consummate expression of everything that Harrison had creatively held onto during the Beatles years. But for an album that was already seen as sprawling on its original release, it's simultaneously surprising and appropriate that there was enough unreleased and complementary material to fill up this expansive new edition beyond what had already been included on the 30th anniversary edition. That earlier edition tweaked the album's running order for the sake of CD sequencing, tacked on a good selection of bonus tracks, and was remastered under Harrison's guidance, making it feel like a definitive statement. However, it was again remastered 10 years later, and now, a half-century after it was originally released, we are getting even more bonus tracks, another remastering, and, perhaps most notably, a brand new mix. The album's original running order is restored here, but that's where fealty to the original All Things Must Pass ends. All of the studio recordings have been dramatically remixed, dialing back the overwrought reverb from Phil Spector's original production (an approach that Harrison wanted for the 30th, but demurred on) and making numerous other tweaks throughout. Of course, as with anything related to the Beatles, these changes are not without controversy. Some fans will love them, some fans will hate them, but to anyone coming to this album with no preconceptions, the new mixes evoke the warmth and spaciousness of the original album without some of the touches that now sound quite a bit dated. Beyond the new mix though, there's lots more to dig into. The 30 demo versions reveal these songs in their most simple forms, and while many of them may give some diehard fans the fully de-Spectored version of these songs they've been clamoring for, the truth is, the true power of this work came from the combination of songwriting, playing, and studio care that went into it. Far more illuminating and enjoyable is the final disc of alternate takes. Yes, there are some goofy asides—"Isn't it so shitty/ Isn’t it a pain/ How we do so many takes" from "Isn't It A Pity (Take 14)"—and (amazingly!) a Lennon/McCartney number ("Get Back"). But among those bits of studio detritus are nestled gems like take 27 of "Isn't It A Pity," which presents the song in a slower version that is dirgelike in its intensity, yet still possessed of its innate ethereality. The fact that a cut like this was kept in the vault all this time either means that this edition is indeed the final word on this classic album or that there's even more in store for the centennial edition that will be downloaded straight into our brains. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz
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Rock - Released November 27, 1970 | BEATLES CATALOG MKT (C91)

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When it was originally released in 1971, George Harrison's first solo rock album managed the impressive feat of being both expansive and consistent. With four LP sides of gentle, spiritual, and highly melodic songcraft and two more of loose, muscular rock jams, it was a consummate expression of everything that Harrison had creatively held onto during the Beatles years. But for an album that was already seen as sprawling on its original release, it's simultaneously surprising and appropriate that there was enough unreleased and complementary material to fill up this expansive new edition beyond what had already been included on the 30th anniversary edition. That earlier edition tweaked the album's running order for the sake of CD sequencing, tacked on a good selection of bonus tracks, and was remastered under Harrison's guidance, making it feel like a definitive statement. However, it was again remastered 10 years later, and now, a half-century after it was originally released, we are getting even more bonus tracks, another remastering, and, perhaps most notably, a brand new mix. The album's original running order is restored here, but that's where fealty to the original All Things Must Pass ends. All of the studio recordings have been dramatically remixed, dialing back the overwrought reverb from Phil Spector's original production (an approach that Harrison wanted for the 30th, but demurred on) and making numerous other tweaks throughout. Of course, as with anything related to the Beatles, these changes are not without controversy. Some fans will love them, some fans will hate them, but to anyone coming to this album with no preconceptions, the new mixes evoke the warmth and spaciousness of the original album without some of the touches that now sound quite a bit dated. Beyond the new mix though, there's lots more to dig into. The 30 demo versions reveal these songs in their most simple forms, and while many of them may give some diehard fans the fully de-Spectored version of these songs they've been clamoring for, the truth is, the true power of this work came from the combination of songwriting, playing, and studio care that went into it. Far more illuminating and enjoyable is the final disc of alternate takes. Yes, there are some goofy asides—"Isn't it so shitty/ Isn’t it a pain/ How we do so many takes" from "Isn't It A Pity (Take 14)"—and (amazingly!) a Lennon/McCartney number ("Get Back"). But among those bits of studio detritus are nestled gems like take 27 of "Isn't It A Pity," which presents the song in a slower version that is dirgelike in its intensity, yet still possessed of its innate ethereality. The fact that a cut like this was kept in the vault all this time either means that this edition is indeed the final word on this classic album or that there's even more in store for the centennial edition that will be downloaded straight into our brains. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz