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Lennon v McCartney: How John eclipsed his old rival Paul with the Imagine box

Eight years into Paul McCartney‘s sloth-like reissue campaign and Yoko Ono has just announced a box set from his old bandmate and songwriting partner that eclipses any of McCartney s deluxe editions.

While Macca’s deluxe book editions have consistently offered classy presentation and mined a second-to-none photo archive, when it comes to the audio content, these have often fallen foul of a conservative approach and a reticence to really dig into the any album recording sessions. You have to conclude that either McCartney has been badly advised about what constitutes great audio content for a box set reissue, or he simply hasn’t listened to good advice.

The John Lennon Imagine box set offers both a hi-res stereo of the album on a physical disc and a 5.1 surround mix. Nine albums into Paul’s campaign and we’ve had neither of those for ANY of the deluxe sets.

The Imagine Ultimate Collection offers an almost forensic look at the songs on the album with different takes, demos, rehearsals and rebuilt-from-the-multi-tracks new mixes. The McCartney deluxe sets appear to be more concerned with narrative, often placing Paul in supposed career jeopardy (starting again post Fab Four) and occasionally actual jeopardy (Paul’s infamous mugging while in Lagos to record Band on the Run).

The McCartney and RAM deluxe sets are centred on post-Beatles blues, falling in love with your wife and falling out with your friends, while McCartney II signposts the end of Wings. Band on the Run is triumph over adversity (Paul and Denny Laine abandoned by bandmates to record the album alone) while the swagger of Wings Over America is just top-of-the-world triumph (underlined by the girth and excess of 2013’s box set) – with none of that pesky adversity!

Paul McCartney’s established pattern with his deluxe reissues is to offer a bonus disc of around 8-10 tracks which bring together previously released B-Sides, a few minor oddities and maybe some live performance (not always from the same era).

McCartney opts for the ‘neat and tidy’ approach and, as was well documented in 2017 with the Flowers in the Dirt fiasco, if he can’t grasp the value in including commercially released B-Sides on CD, in his box sets, then an alternate take of, say, Monkberry Moon Delight isn’t going to happen any time soon.

To be fair, no one expects – or probably even wants – the likes of Wings at the Speed of Sound or Wild Life as 135-track, six-disc explorations, but major works like Band on the Run, RAM and even Tug Of War really disappointed when it came to the audio. 2010’s Band on the Run deluxe even lazily re-presented the same bonus disc, from the 1999 25th anniversary edition and while no one can blame Paul for the absence of those demos stolen by the muggers, he should have at least included the Quad Mix and featured some sessions (perhaps a listen to the audio before Tony Visconti worked on a few tracks).

Paul McCartney / Flowers in the Dirt 4-disc deluxe edition
Paul’s Flowers in the Dirt box set was his last archival reissue

The mono mix of RAM was genuinely interesting, but the Imagine approach would have been totally justified for this now highly-regarded work, however it never materialised. All energies and ideas were expended on an admittedly excellent box set (Little Book of Sheep etc.) but much like going to an expensive restaurant and coming out hungry, it seemed good at the time but you reflect back on a disappointing experience.

Paul seems to be creating his sets for himself, not his fans. He has a history of being an unreliable witness when it comes to the quality and value of his own output (Take It Away and No More Lonely Nights were never performed live, for example) and it’s not hard to imagine him dismissing the idea of content he personally sees no value (5.1 surround sound) or thinks is pointless or simply not up to par (alternate takes of album tracks).

With Imagine you can almost hear Yoko and her team, sitting around a table, punching the air and saying ‘let’s see someone complain about THAT!” The Imagine set tries hard to delight in a way that simply has not happened with McCartney. We get 5.1 AND the Quad Mix! Is the Quad any good? Probably not, but it’s both a historical artefact and something interesting to listen to. It deserves to be included. Imagine embraces blu-ray audio, while 10 years after blu-ray was established as the premium delivery mechanism for video content, none of Paul’s deluxe sets have included the format. His big deluxe packages normally add a DVD which are often short and scrappy. These might include some brief – but nicely done – promo films, some videos and the like, but are often inessential.

 
The book included with the Imagine deluxe set is 10″ x 10″ and 120 pages

With only one archive reissue in almost three years, has Paul McCartney’s campaign run out of steam? Has he been left annoyed by lacklustre sales and instead of conducting a root-and-branch examination of why they have underperformed, his team have simply shrugged off disappointments, and moved on to easy ‘wins’ such as coloured vinyl reissues and focusing on promoting the new album. I do believe we will see more of the archive reissue campaign (with Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway likely to be next) but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the archive reissues have been de-prioritised and virtually everything in McCartney’s ‘to do’ list skips ahead of the bullet-pointed entry which reads “reissue the rest of my Wings and solo albums”.

The forthcoming Imagine box set should serve as a wake-up call to Paul. Yoko, on John’s behalf, has demonstrated that a six-disc archival set, packed full of interesting sounding content and a 120-page book can be delivered for around £65. This is almost exactly HALF of what Paul wanted fans to pay for his flawed Flowers in the Dirt package.

Will Yoko take any quiet satisfaction from outdoing Paul and delivering such an excellent set on behalf of Lennon? We can only speculate, but it’s time for McCartney to channel the competitive spirit that drove himself and John to such heights in the Sixties and respond to this reissue with something similar, next time around.

The Imagine reissue is out on 5 October 2018. There are currently no announced reissues from Paul McCartney at the time of writing, but his new album Egypt Station is out on Friday.

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Imagine – The Ultimate Edition: 6-disc Super Deluxe Edition

CD 1 

Remixed Stereo Album

1. Imagine
2. Crippled Inside
3. Jealous Guy
4. It’s So Hard
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die
6. Gimme Some Truth
7. Oh My Love
8. How Do You Sleep?
9. How?
10. Oh Yoko!

Remixed Singles and Extras

11. Power To The People
12. Well… (Baby Please Don’t Go)
13. God Save Us
14. Do The Oz
15. God Save Oz
16. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

CD 2 

Elements Mixes

1. Imagine (strings only)
2. Jealous Guy (piano, bass & drums)
3. Oh My Love (vocals only)
4. How? (strings only)

Album Outtakes

5. Imagine (demo)
6. Imagine (take 1)
7. Crippled Inside (take 3)
8. Crippled Inside (take 6 – alt guitar solo)
9. Jealous Guy (take 9)
10. It’s So Hard (take 6)
11. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die (take 11)
12. Gimme Some Truth (take 4)
13. Oh My Love (take 6)
14. How Do You Sleep? (takes 1 & 2)
15. How? (take 31)
16. Oh Yoko! (Bahamas 1969)

Singles Outtakes

17. Power To The People (take 7)
18. God Save Us (demo)
19. Do The Oz (take 3)
20. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (alt mix)

CD 3 

Extended Album Tracks and Raw

1. Imagine (take 10)
2. Crippled Inside (take 6)
3. Jealous Guy (take 29)
4. It’s So Hard (take 11)
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die
6. Gimme Some Truth (take 4 – extended)
7. Oh My Love (take 20)
8. How Do You Sleep? (take 11 – extended)
9. How? (take 40)
10. Oh Yoko! (take 1 extended)

Outtakes Live

11. Imagine (take 1)
12. Jealous Guy (take 11)
13. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die (take 21)
14. How Do You Sleep? (take 1)
15. How Do You Sleep? (takes 5 & 6)

CD 4

Evolution (from demo to final mix)

1. Imagine
2. Crippled Inside
3. Jealous Guy
4. It’s So Hard
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die
6. Gimme Some Truth
7. Oh My Love
8. How Do You Sleep?
9. How?
10. Oh Yoko!

Blu-ray Disc 1 – Imagine – The Ultimate Mixes 
Remixed Stereo Album, Singles, Extras & Outtakes 

Imagine – The Album
Remix in 5.1 & Stereo 24-96
1. Imagine
2. Crippled Inside
3. Jealous Guy
4. It’s So Hard
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die
6. Gimme Some Truth
7. Oh My Love
8. How Do You Sleep?
9. How?
10. Oh Yoko!

Singles & Extras
Remix in 5.1 & Stereo 24-96
1. Power To The People
2. Well… (Baby Please Don’t Go)
3. God Save Us (Bill Elliot vocal)
4. Do The Oz
5. God Save Oz (John Lennon vocal)
6. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

The Out-takes
New Mix in 5.1 & Stereo 24-96

1. Imagine (demo)
2. Imagine (take 1)
3. Crippled Inside (take 3)
4. Crippled Inside (take 6 alt guitar solo)
5. Jealous Guy (take 9)
6. It’s So Hard (take 6)
7. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die (take 11)
8. Gimme Some Truth (take 4)
9. Oh My Love (take 6)
10. How Do You Sleep? (takes 1 & 2)
11. How? (take 31)
12. Oh Yoko! (Bahamas 1969)
13. Power To The People (take 7)
14. God Save Us (demo)
15. Do The Oz (take 3)
16. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (alt mix)

The Quadrasonic Mixes
Remastered in Quad 4.0 24-96
Original 1971 Quadsonic Album Remastered

1. Imagine
2. Crippled Inside
3. Jealous Guy
4. It’s So Hard
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die
6. Gimme Some Truth
7. Oh My Love
8. How Do You Sleep?
9. How?
10. Oh Yoko!

Blu-ray Disc 2 – In The Studio and Deeper Listening

The Raw Studio Mixes – Extended Album Versions – Live
New Mix in 5.1 & Stereo 24-96
Experience, in immersive Surround Sound, the moment John and The Plastic Ono Band record each song live, from a sonic soundstage at the center of Ascot Sound Studios at John & Yoko’s home in Tittenhurst

1. Imagine (take 10)
2. Crippled Inside (take 6)
3. Jealous Guy (take 29)
4. It’s So Hard (take 11)
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die (take 4 – extended)
6. Gimme Some Truth (take 4 – extended)
7. Oh My Love (take 20)
8. How Do You Sleep? (take 11 – extended)
9. How? (take 40)
10. Oh Yoko! (take 1 – extended)

The Raw Studio Mixes – Out-takes – Live
New Mix in 5.1 & Stereo 24-96
1. Imagine (take 1)
2. Crippled Inside (take 2)
3. Crippled Inside (take 6 alt guitar solo)
4. Jealous Guy (take 11)
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die (take 21)
6. How Do You Sleep? (take 1)
7. How Do You Sleep? (takes 5 & 6)
8. How? (takes 7-10)
9. How? (take 40 alt vocal)
10. Oh Yoko! (take 1 tracking vocal)

The Elements Mixes
From the Master Multitracks

New Mix in 5.1 & Stereo 24-96
Mixes from elements of the original multitracks that demonstrate some of the instrumentations from ‘behind the scenes’

1. Imagine (strings)
2. Crippled Inside (upright bass & drums)
3. Jealous Guy (piano, bass & drums)
4. It’s So Hard (strings)
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die (guitar, bass & drums)
6. Gimme Some Truth (electric piano & guitar)
7. Oh My Love (vocals)
8. How Do You Sleep? (strings)
9. How? (strings)
10. Oh Yoko! (acoustic)

The Evolution Documentary
New Mix in Mono 24-96
The story of the songs from demo to master in rehearsals, studio chat and mixed multitrack elements

1. Imagine
2. Crippled Inside
3. Jealous Guy
4. It’s So Hard
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die
6. Gimme Some Truth
7. Oh My Love
8. How Do You Sleep?
9. How?
10. Oh Yoko!
11. Power To The People
12. Well… (Baby Please Don’t Go)
13. God Save Us/God Save Oz
14. Do The Oz
15. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
16. Tittenhurst Park

Imagine John & Yoko – The Elliot Mintz Interviews
New Mix in Mono 24-96
Tribute by DJ and family friend Elliot Mintz featuring revealing, philosophical, honest and humorous interviews with John & Yoko.

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