John Lennon

Acoustic (Capitol)

Jan 12, 2005 at 4:00 am
John Lennon disappeared before most people had him figured out; compare what you know of him to your ideas about Paul McCartney, who's given us more than two decades to understand him via goofy Christmas songs, bizarro pop-star collaborations and the occasional crappy solo album. So you'd think this set of acoustic live tracks and demos by the ex-Beatle would clear up some of the mystery still surrounding him -- the intimacy of a man and his guitar, you know? Yet all these songs do is re-emphasize the enigma of his artistry. Here we have the philosophical smart bombs he dropped in "God," in which he doesn't believe in anything but himself; "Woman Is the Nigger of the World," which doesn't really bother to unpack the title's terrifically loaded statement; the psychological turmoil in "Cold Turkey," wherein a roughly strummed acoustic only makes his "I wish I was dead" more believable; and the political urgency in "John Sinclair," in which Lennon rails bitterly for the freedom of the '60s radical. The relative simplicity of the album's love songs -- historical models of lyrical elegance and melodic whimsy -- doesn't really help: "Even after all these years, I miss you when you're not here," he sings in a tinny "Dear Yoko." Imagine that.