“Yoko and I always live about two-thousand light years’ speed when we’re working,” John Lennon says in one of the 1971 interviews unearthed on the new box set Imagine: The Ultimate Collection. “It’s usually moving very fast and there’s always a small hurricane around us.” But John was kidding about the “small” part—in 1971, he was caught up in a full-scale creative hurricane. His solo classic Imagine is an experiment he only tried once, making a state-of-the-art professional rock album with a rotating cast of top-notch studio hired guns. But because he’s John Lennon, it’s also weird and raw. It’s his slickest, glossiest album, his most grandly beautiful—the one where you hum the Nicky Hopkins piano solos. But it’s also his toughest and meanest. Marching into his thirties, throwing himself into collaborations with Yoko Ono and Phil Spector, he sets out to capture all the chaos raging inside his head, along with the turmoil he sees in the world around him.
Imagine: The Ultimate Collection is a lavish celebration of John’s masterwork, on four CDs and two Blu-Ray discs. It’s here just in time for his birthday—he would have turned 78 on October 9. It stands alongside the great new Yoko-curated coffee-table book about the making of the album, as well as the theatrical re-release of the 1971 films Imagine and Gimme Some Truth. It comes at a time when the Beatle presence is high—the essential new White Album box set arrives on November 9, with hours of previously unheard treasure and demos that finally prove, among many other things, the Beatles were very much a functioning band in 1968, with John rediscovering his voice as a songwriter. And oh yes—all this is happening while a certain Paul McCartney is on top of the charts, with his Number One smash Egypt Station. MORE