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Plastic Ono Band vs. Imagine

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Plastic Ono Band is usually revered by rock critics as John Lennon's masterpiece, while the follow up Imagine tends to be considered as a second rate, sugary produced record. Is this fair? I mean, POB has the magical combination of minimal production and supposed sincerity, all right, but how about the songs? Are them better than those on Imagine? Actually, beyond production issues, I think that "Jealous Guy" and "Oh My Love" are better ballads than "Love" and "Look At Me". The lyrics of "How?" are as introspective as anything on POB. The nasty John is also well represented by "How Do You Sleep?". "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier" may not have the genial words of "Working Class Hero", but musically it works better as a protest song. And I still didn't mention "Imagine", the most transcendent song in John's solo catalog. Moreover, I don't mind the inclusion of catchy tunes like "Oh Yoko!", diversity is always welcome in my ears.

I usually read that POB is one the three greatest solo Beatles albums, along with Band On The Run and All Things Must Pass. I agree with the mention of the last two, but in my opinion the trilogy is completed by Imagine.

I think Imagine is a more balanced record in the classic sense. For all the reasons you outline. I suppose though that POB was such a gutsy, minimalist album, in an era where elaborate virtuosity was becoming the gold standard in rock and pop, that it was always going to earn the critical kudos. I can see why it's a critical favourite. But it's not always the most enjoyable listen. As I get older I tend to appreciate Imagine more. A few years I'll have ditched them both and plumped for Val Doonican.

I long checked out by 'Imagine' but I keep the POB album as a kind of end-piece in the collection and play it infrequently. It's not the kind of album anyone would play often, is it?
The Beatle-related jewels in 1970 remain, for me, 'Let It Be' (obviously) and 'McCartney'.

With the exception of "Maybe I'm Amazed", McCartney sounds like a half-finished product to me. And my last view of POB, in addition to what I've said, is the image of a therapeutic record, where the portrait of "poor John" is more important than the music itself. I dislike the "jovial John" of Double Fantasy too. I prefer the introspective John of Imagine, the ironic John of Mind Games, the clever John of Walls And Bridges and even the nostalgic John of Rock 'N' Roll.

They are very different albums in concept and execution. 'Imagine' is more polished, more catchy, less bitter and ultimately more accessible and commercial. 'Plastic Ono Band' is one of those albums that could've been made at only one particular time by only one particular artist, a heart-on-the-sleeve type of deal, a tortured work. It's become more polarizing than it used to be, but it's weird to me that it was that appreciated in the first place. Not that it isn't good, it's just that it can be a difficult listen. I'll always take it over 'Imagine' even though the latter may be better on a song-by-song basis. Why? For the same reason I'd take Neil Young's 'Tonight the Night' over 'Harvest', Pulp's 'This Is Hardcore' over 'Different Class' or Lou Reed's 'Berlin' over 'Transformer'.


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