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Author Topic: Microscope: Mind Games  (Read 6903 times)

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Bobber

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Microscope: Mind Games
« on: August 06, 2014, 12:44:33 PM »



Mind Games
From Wikipedia: By the start of 1973, John Lennon began distancing himself from the political and social issues he had embraced in the previous 18 months. It was also around this time that he and his wife, Yoko Ono, were going through marital problems. As Ono was completing her fourth album, Feeling the Space, Lennon decided he also wanted to record a new album, and liked the studio musicians that their assistant and production coordinator May Pang had assembled for Ono's album. Shortly thereafter, he asked Pang to book them for his sessions. Wanting to produce an album that would be more accepted than his previous politically charged commercial flop Some Time in New York City, Lennon began writing and demoing a few songs for Mind Games in his Greenwich Village apartment. He began composing after a period of almost a year of not writing any material. Amid frequent court appearances battling to stay in the US, Lennon became stressed, a situation that was only worsened by constant surveillance by the FBI, due to his political activism. Lennon said "I just couldn't function, you know? I was so paranoid from them tappin' the phone and followin' me." All this combined made Lennon begin to feel emotionally withdrawn. Lennon put his suffering aside to write the songs for Mind Games, writing all the songs for it in a week.
Under the moniker of "The Plastic U.F.Ono Band", Lennon engaged the services of session drummer Jim Keltner, guitarist David Spinozza, Gordon Edwards on bass, Arthur Jenkins on percussion, Michael Brecker on saxophone, Ken Ascher on piano and organ, and the vocal backing of a group called Something Different. Difficulties between Lennon and Ono became more and more noticeable around this time. Just as the sessions were to get under way in June at New York's Record Plant Studios, John and Yoko separated. At Ono's urging, Pang became Lennon's companion and lover in what would become an 18-month relationship later renowned as Lennon's 'lost weekend'. Ends wikipedia.

01 Mind Games
The opening track is a refreshing song. That is, it’s refreshing to hear John really in a solo album, without the annoying interference of Mrs Lennon. John is obviously still in his peace period (Chanting the mantra peace on earth), but it’s alright and the message is brought to us in a more, erm, peaceful way. John’s voice is alright, although he tends to kill his voice in the chorus (1.30 for instance). The song has a nice hook produced by the electric guitar.
There’s not really something building up in this song, despite a nice drumfill at 2.07. Later on in the song, John sounds as if he’s struggling to sing the song properly (3.20). Anomalie at 3.26 when John is starting to sing in the right ear (so keep on playing those), following on the other side with the rest of the chorus. Nice ending from 3.40.
The song sounds somewhat thin. It could be my headphones, but a bit more bass in the mix should be welcome. Not a bad song at all, but then it was started while John was still with the Beatles. Go figure.

02 Tight A$
John doing a bit of 50’s rock ‘n roll. A throwaway really. An example of how quick John could pull off a rocker like this. Every decent band can produce a song like this and it’s nothing special. A filler. John’s long ‘Weeeellllll’ at the start of the verse is getting annoying after a while.

03 Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)
This starts off as a nice blues ballad, meant to be an apology to Yoko. The song is somewhat reminiscent of John’s earlier work during Plastic Ono Band. Nice chord switch at 0.38. The middle eight starting at 2.09 is not the song’s best part, but it’s alright. Glad that John slips back into the verse at 2.30. The song becomes a bit boring a the start of the guitar solo (3.31), by this time my feeling goes towards an ending, but John goes on for another good minute. Overall, one of the better songs on the album.

04 One Day (At The Time)
Completely sung in falsetto gives this song a feeling of ‘not take it too seriously’ and a lack of energy. That lack of energy is on overall feeling on almost the whole album, but is at its strongest in this song. The echo-delay on the snare drum is annoying and slows the song down further. Backing vocals are alright and gives this song something to remember. The little sax solo is a highlight. Another filler.

05 Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple)
The slide guitar makes it sound like a George Harrison songs during his solo efforts. Or better, a mix between George and John’s more popular songs. A simple verse followed by a singalong chorus, reminiscent of Power To The People. The chorus keeps the song alive, especially the backing vocals. There’s that annoying ‘Weeelllll’ again (3.08). Just alright.

06 Nutopian International Anthem
Three seconds of silence. Probably has a deeper meaning, but still it’s three seconds of silence. Well, at least I’m happy that Yoko didn’t fill it up.

07 Intuition
I enjoyed this one, it sounds light and almost as if John is enjoying himself. This is a fairly simple song tho, and another one that is clearly written in half an hour or so. The honky tonk piano solo adds to the light feeling of the song. A pity John has a soft spot for sax solo’s: the sax at the end of the song kinda ruins it.

08 Out The Blue
The album’s most beautiful song, a nice ballad that shows that John can still write a decent song. Everything is adding to the atmosphere. Again great backing vocals. Good piano, also the solo towards to end. John finally lets his voice go (1.37). Plus a proper ending.

09 Only People
Plodding along, John tries to sound convincing and folky. Instead he produces another filler. It’s not bad as a song, but it goes nowhere. The fact that the fade out starts almost a minute before the song is really over, proves that. Only People has a somewhat Eurovision Song Contest-kind of hook and makes it a bit enjoyable.

10 I Know (I Know)
The start is tense and promises a good song, but after the band joins in at 0.32, it’s obvious it’s another filler. John’s voice sounds alright in this song, the rest is forgettable.

11 You Are Here
The maracas are laughable, trying to give the song a Caribbean feeling or so. Slide guitar again, adding to the feeling that it’s a George Harrison album once more. And in my humble opinion, a lot of George’s albums are just more of the same trick. You Are Here is a nice song, but again nothing special. In fact the whole album is like that.

12 Meat City
Weeelllllllll. John adds another rocker and at least he’s putting some effort in it. And there’s a hidden message in it: after the first refrain of "Just gotta get me some rock and roll" there is a squeaky vocal which when played backwards has been deciphered as ‘f*** a pig’. Whatever. And aggresively played and sung song, which almost makes it an exception on the album.

Overall
Mind Games is not a bad album, it just lacks energy and outstanding songs. Most of the songs on the album are enjoyable AND forgettable.

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nimrod

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2014, 10:31:37 PM »

Good revue Cor, I agree mostly, another poor album from John  :-[

Probably thought 'I know I'll make an album while the guys are here'

 ha2ha
« Last Edit: August 07, 2014, 12:15:21 AM by nimrod »
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Moogmodule

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2014, 10:51:09 PM »

A good assessment I think. It was always an underwhelming album to me. I like Mind Games and having Bring on the Lucie as the closing track of Children of Men made me listen to it and like it a bit more.

Aside from that Tight A$ is a bit of fun. That's about it for songs I'd listen to.

The falsetto on one day at a time irritates me. Even without it it wouldn't be a great song but at least it'd be listenable and amiable. I read somewhere that Yoko suggested the falsetto with the intent being to make John sound ridiculous. If true 1) it worked and 2) it shows how John could be so easily led by her.



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Mr Mustard

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2014, 11:45:20 PM »

Hey Bobber, thanks for posting this!

It gave me an excuse to dust off an album I've not listened to in a long time....

And here's what I found!

Mind Games
A powerful and underrated fanfare which for me showcases John's awesome vocal talent. There is still a very 60s hippy idealism to it which rather dates it now - and probably dated even back then - but which, with hindsight, I find more touching than tedious. A sense of hope for the future prevails and I always find myself enjoying it. The kind of track I wouldn't seek out to play but would always turn up and listen to if it came on the radio.

Tight A$
Love this. Brimming with the kind of cheeky swagger that only John at his most precocious can pull off. A nice slice of irreverent rock & roll which bounces along uncompromisingly and injects a bit of mischief into proceedings. Great.

Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)
John was renowned for pouring his heart out in sometimes harrowingly personal songs and I often admired him for that - indeed, some of the results stand among the very best solo Beatle recordings. This is NOT one of them. Dull and turgid, I've no doubt it was genuinely heartfelt but unless you're Yoko Ono you don't need to hear it. Should have been kept as a private demo and for me adds nothing to the album - indeed I'd go so far as to say it's mawkish and instantly forgettable. A definite skip for me.

One Day (At A Time)
One of those inexplicable guilty pleasures which crop up all too often on solo albums - you feel you shouldn't like them but you do (you're reading the opinions here of someone who admits to regarding "Famous Groupies" as a real gem and a true highlight of Wings' "London Town"). So what's the appeal then? Maybe the novelty falsetto which grabs the attention, or those gorgeously twee rhyming couplets... unlike the track preceeding it it DOES at least have a tune too... I can't put my finger on it but I just like it, so there!

Bring On The Lucie (Freeda People)
Love it, love it! That wonderfully Harrisonesque slide guitar and John's fabulous world weary, cynical verses wrapped around a classic Lennon-anthem chorus. Sounds like a slow marching battle weary band ascending some triumphant summit. What's not to like? And as usual, brilliantly sung (by the way, I LOVE John's "weeeellll" vocal idiosyncracy; great little trademark). Nice to hear some of the ascerbic Lennon of old surfacing in those wonderfully waspish lyrics too. An album highlight for me.

Nutopian International Anthem
Silence given the silly accolade of its own track listening. But that was John being John I suppose.

Intuition
Starts out breezily enough but sinks into a plodding malaise within a few bars and the brief chorus is downright soppy. Inoffensive enough I guess but really nothing more than throwaway, mushy filler.

Out The Blue
Better than I remembered it. I used to frequently skip this one and it still drags on a bit but as usual it's redeemed by John's sublime vocals. The backing singers do a fine job too. Still has the stamp of a superior filler about it though.

Only People
Another rallying call to the baby boomers in the vein of Mind Games and Bring On The Lucie, though lacking the persuasive weight and credibility of its album bedfellows. Plods along amiably enough but too frothy and lightweight to carry much of a message. Filler.

I Know (I Know)
Those opening seconds put me in mind of "I've Got A Feeling" but this one quickly drifts anonymously into the ether as perhaps one of the most forgettable, pointless offerings on the entire album. Not particularly unpleasant yet completely unengaging, and I begin to shift uncomfortably at the rising "filler" quotient becoming increasingly evident....

You Are Here
Oh dear! just pips the previous track as the worst on the album. I really don't like this and by now I'm feeling sadly shortchanged as I come to recall just how much bland mush pads out this initially promising LP. In many ways I am reminded of Paul's contemporaneous "Red Rose Speedway" - an album which promised so much but ended up delivering so little.

Meat City
Well done John! Just in the nick of time he takes the album out on a high with "Meat City" -  one of my favourite cuts, vamping things up at the finale with a generous thumping of feisty Lennon rock. But it's a bit too little too late.

For many fans, "Mind Games" was a pleasing return to melody after the aggressive political posturing that went before it. There certainly are some nice touches within its grooves - some good if not great tracks and the odd flash of Lennon fire. Probably fair to say it's a too often overlooked (rather than underrated) album, yet it never quite manages to fully lift off the runway and manifests instead as the unconvincing, diluted, lightweight little brother of "Imagine".
« Last Edit: August 06, 2014, 11:52:58 PM by Mr Mustard »
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Moogmodule

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2014, 03:48:01 AM »

Based on Bobber's and Mr Mustard's comments I revisited I know I Know, Out of the Blue and Meat City

I Know I Know is an ok song.  I could live with it on a Lennon playlist. Catchy with some nice singing.

Out of the Blue is almost a really good song. Just seems something lacking. Maybe it's some nice beatlesque harmonies and a George slide solo.

Meat City I can't say appealed greatly on first relisten but it's at least a bit fun and rocks.

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tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2014, 09:31:05 PM »

Well i'm on vacation and i'm leaving tomorrow. Guess i'll be listening to this album in the truck. Lol. Its been awhile for e and i'm curious as to how it'll be received.

Thanks Cor.

Bobber

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2014, 09:48:47 PM »

Erm, well, enjoy your holidays.
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tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2014, 01:48:14 AM »

Erm, well, enjoy your holidays.

Don't get snippy with me man. You act like your busy or something with a child and so forth.  ha2ha

Bobber

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2014, 09:22:00 AM »

I meant I may be a bit hard to enjoy the holidays with this album on.
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Mr Mustard

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2014, 09:18:40 PM »

It's worth remembering that a John Lennon "filler" would be an album "gem" for many lesser artists. At least two of those throwaway tracks I was rather dismissive of have been resurfacing into my ears on and off ever since I wrote my review...can't get the bloody tunes out of my head and can't now deny rather enjoying them.

Beware the earworm effect which both Lennon and McCartney had a knack of producing even amidst the most banal of their solo work!
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Moogmodule

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2014, 11:03:36 PM »

It's worth remembering that a John Lennon "filler" would be an album "gem" for many lesser artists. At least two of those throwaway tracks I was rather dismissive of have been resurfacing into my ears on and off ever since I wrote my review...can't get the bloody tunes out of my head and can't now deny rather enjoying them.

Beware the earworm effect which both Lennon and McCartney had a knack of producing even amidst the most banal of their solo work!

I know what you mean. I Know I Know has made it onto a playlist already.
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nimrod

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2014, 01:16:34 AM »

It's worth remembering that a John Lennon "filler" would be an album "gem" for many lesser artists. At least two of those throwaway tracks I was rather dismissive of have been resurfacing into my ears on and off ever since I wrote my review...can't get the bloody tunes out of my head and can't now deny rather enjoying them.

Beware the earworm effect which both Lennon and McCartney had a knack of producing even amidst the most banal of their solo work!

I disagree with you the Mr M, imo other artists in the period were producing much better music than solo Beatles, just a quick look at 73 gives you;

Elton John
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Mike Oldfield
Tubular Bells
Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon
Stevie Wonder
Innervisions
Genesis
Selling England by the Pound
Black Sabbath
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy
King Crimson
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
The Who
Quadrophenia
David Bowie
Aladdin Sane

plus a few dozen more that leave Mind Games for dead

Mind Games for me showed that John had lost his muse - Paul McCartney  (and vica versa)
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Fab4Fan

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2014, 04:23:33 AM »

Hey, Nim, maybe so, but Elton covered One Day At A Time so apparently he liked it!  :)
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Moogmodule

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2014, 04:35:39 AM »


Elton John
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Mike Oldfield
Tubular Bells
Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon
Stevie Wonder
Innervisions
Genesis
Selling England by the Pound
Black Sabbath
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy
King Crimson
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
The Who
Quadrophenia
David Bowie
Aladdin Sane


Oh come on you made that one up!
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nimrod

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2014, 05:26:32 AM »

Hey, Nim, maybe so, but Elton covered One Day At A Time so apparently he liked it!  :)


 ;D

No Moog

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larks'_Tongues_in_Aspic  ha2ha

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nimrod

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2014, 12:39:14 PM »

I just listened to Mind Games

My favourite track by far is Out Of The Blue

actually a great song and really well sung

Heartfelt
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Hombre_de_ningun_lugar

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2014, 02:42:26 PM »

A decent album. But John's peak as a solo artist had already passed away.
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oldbrownshoe

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2014, 03:51:49 PM »

Looking at that list, and remembering just how ho-hum 'Mind Games' was, reminds me just how shocking was the change from the colour and hope of the 60s to the dirge of the following decade.....not to mention the awful clothes.
Even the cover of the LP looks hastily assembled and lacklustre - compare the cover art to 'Pepper's' or the 'White Album' or 'Blonde on Blonde'.

Anyone who was in their teens in 1973 should go and get a refund from one of those No Win/No Fee firms!
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Mr Mustard

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2014, 05:34:08 PM »

Looking at that list, and remembering just how ho-hum 'Mind Games' was, reminds me just how shocking was the change from the colour and hope of the 60s to the dirge of the following decade.....not to mention the awful clothes.
Even the cover of the LP looks hastily assembled and lacklustre - compare the cover art to 'Pepper's' or the 'White Album' or 'Blonde on Blonde'.

Anyone who was in their teens in 1973 should go and get a refund from one of those No Win/No Fee firms!

Depends which part of those decades we're looking at in my opinion. Mid 70s were a bit of a drag but early and late 70s were great. Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison aside, The pre-Beatles 60s were awful (just my opinion remember!).

1973 was a fabulously outrageous and colourful year - think Aladdinsane Bowie, Elton with his foil suits and giant spectacles, Slade in all their top-hatted, garish tartan finery... plus all the glittery makeup, space age platform boots and silver capes sported by groups like The Sweet, Wizzard and T.Rex. In the UK at least the pop (if not rock) industry reached a zenith of fun and flamboyance, despite - or perhaps because of - the grim times of petrol rationing, IRA bombs, industrial strike action, power cuts and the three day week.

Contrast that with the almost identical boring clones of 1963 in their black suits, thin ties and brylcreemed hair. Not including The Beatles, obviously - if not for them we'd have still been stuck with crap like Frank Ifield and the Singing Nun.

If any generation deserves a "refund" it's those poor unfortunates who happened to be about 15 in the late 80s when the charts were swamped with a mixture of charity records, rap, aciiiid/house "music" and manufactured Stock-Aitken-Waterman bubblegrum garbage. At least things improved in the 90s.


 
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Mr Mustard

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Re: Microscope: Mind Games
« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2014, 05:53:01 PM »

I disagree with you the Mr M, imo other artists in the period were producing much better music than solo Beatles, just a quick look at 73 gives you;

Elton John
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Mike Oldfield
Tubular Bells
Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon
Stevie Wonder
Innervisions
Genesis
Selling England by the Pound
Black Sabbath
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy
King Crimson
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
The Who
Quadrophenia
David Bowie
Aladdin Sane

plus a few dozen more that leave Mind Games for dead

Mind Games for me showed that John had lost his muse - Paul McCartney  (and vica versa)

Don't disagree about John/Paul losing their way a bit without each other.... but my point was that even an average album track from Lennon would have been a highlight on many other similar style artist's albums - not just in 1973 - reinforced for me by the list of (as always, just in my opinion) very overrated albums you have presented. For me, probably the best on that list is "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" - in itself generously padded out with forgettables; and the best cuts from "Mind Games" are way superior to the average track from GYBR.

Also I don't think you can compare "Mind Games" with 1973's "Dark Side Of The Moon" or "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" any more than you can judge "Rubber Soul" against 1965's "The Sound Of Music" or "Going Places" by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass - all popular, but they're mainly aiming towards rather different audiences, surely?
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