John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth" Box - The Ultimate or No?

Collection is a fresh, first-rate deep dive into Lennon’s solo oeuvre
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JOHN LENNON

Gimme Some Truth. The Ultimate Mixes.

Capitol/UMe

5 stars

Released to coincide with John Lennon’s eightieth birthday in late 2020, Gimme Some Truth purports to contain “the ultimate mixes” of 36 slices of classic solo Lennon (or 19 slices if opting for one of the abridged editions). Of course, whether these new mixes are actually the “ultimate” or something close to it is sure to be bandied about with much fervor by fans and critics, but one thing is certain: many of the tracks presented here have never sounded better.

First the particulars on the different versions of the collection: there’s a 2CD+Blu-ray deluxe featuring 36 tracks (and surround sound Blu-ray); a 4-LP vinyl set with 36 tracks; a 2-CD set, also containing 36 tracks (no Blu-ray); a 2-LP, 19-track vinyl edition housed in a gatefold sleeve; and a 19-track CD edition. (The 2CD+Blu-ray deluxe comes with a stunning, 124-page book that includes several rare photos and detailed track notes from Lennon, Yoko Ono and others.)

Produced by Sean Ono Lennon (who also chose the songs, along with Yoko) each track has been completely remixed from the ground up by Paul Hicks (who also handled the mixes on 2018's Imagine - The Ultimate Collection) and mastered in analog. Reportedly, one of the goals with the remixes was to shine the spotlight on Lennon’s lead vocals; this has been achieved by pushing them forward in the mix on many of the tunes here (witness “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,” “Love,” and “God,” all of which are presented in stunning clarity). The integrity of the original mixes has been kept intact, though, with nothing sounding out of place.

Elsewhere, the results are often breathtaking, particularly on the more acoustic-based, intimate-sounding cuts: on “Isolation,” for example, Lennon’s vocals are so vivid and clear that it’s almost unsettling, and the lyrical vitriol of “Working Class Hero” is driven home by a passionate reading that has never been more “in your face.” A few of the rockers are imbued with even more of an edge thanks to the remixing: the spiky guitars and Lennon’s anguished howl of a lead vocal on “Cold Turkey” are both front and center, and “I’m Losing You” (one of six songs from Double Fantasy; only “Cleanup Time” is missing) gains a newfound toughness that makes it sound far less antiseptic than the original version.

Among the 36 tracks are a few left field ringers: Mind Games’ “I Know (I Know),” Walls and Bridges’ near-easy listening “Bless You,” and the Lennon/Ono duet “Angela,” from Sometime in New York City. Also present is an outtake from the riotous Rock ‘n’ Roll sessions: Lennon’s reading of Rosie and the Originals’ “Angel Baby.” Originally included on the 1986 odds ‘n’ sods collection Menlove Ave., the new remix brings Lennon’s previously buried vocal to the forefront, to good effect. (Missing this time around, though, is his sweet spoken word dedication to Rosie Hamlin over the song’s opening bars.) Only two of Lennon’s 1970s singles are not part of Gimme Some Truth’s playlist: 1970’s “Mother” and 1972’s execrable “Woman is the Nigger of the World.”

Although the sonic differences between some of the remixes and their predecessors is negligible at times and a few of the tunes suffer from rather claustrophobic sound (the glorious “#9 Dream” is sadly the biggest culprit), overall Gimme Some Truth provides a fresh, first-rate deep dive into John Lennon’s solo oeuvre.

- John M. Borack 

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