Music Blu-ray Review: John Lennon - Imagine and Gimme Some Truth

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Photo: Bob Fries, Copyright: Yoko Ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 1972 film Imagine and the 2000 documentary Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon's Imagine Album are now available, for the first time, on Blu-ray via Eagle Vision. Not only is it a sweet deal for two feature-length pieces that might've been released separately by a greedier label, the fact is that this stuff is essential for Lennon fans. Both films have been fully restored and look terrific. They also sound incredible, with enveloping DTS-HD MA 5.1 mixes (also LPCM 2.0 stereo).

While Imagine is a vintage piece created by John and Yoko, it's Gimme Some Truth (previously available on DVD) that is the true gem. The former is basically a string of sometimes-interesting, sometimes-dull "music videos" for each song on Imagine, as well as a few pieces from Ono's album Fly. While a surreal chess game set to Ono's spooky "Don't Count the Waves" provides interesting visuals, much of the footage is indulgent. Were it not for Lennon legendary status, much of it would be easy to dismiss.

But Gimme Some Truth, which actually re-purposes some of Imagine's moments, is an honest-to-God documentary that provides invaluable insights to both Lennon's working style and personality. Classic moments include Lennon directing a rather befuddled Phil Spector (who co-produced the Imagine album) in singing background harmonies on "Oh Yoko," while also riding a tape op pretty hard for repeatedly failing to cue up the right spot). There's also the conversation Lennon has with a spaced-out, wayward fan who's convinced all the Beatles' lyrics were written about him. Lennon's response is touchingly earnest, yet disconcertingly open given what would happen with another confused fan (to put it too lightly) less than a decade later.

Kudos to Ono, who participated directly in the assemblage of footage that makes up Gimme Some Truth, for allowing the inclusion of some cringe-inducing moments involving herself. It's easy for detractors to take potshots at Ono, something of a pastime for Beatles/Lennon fans and non-fans alike over the last several decades. There is a scene in which Lennon and his musicians (including George Harrison) are preparing to record the infamous swipe at Paul McCartney, "How Do You Sleep?" After a particularly groovy take, Ono directs Lennon to not be so loose and swinging, then proceeds to instruct the other musicians how to play their instruments.

It's a real document of how much blind faith Lennon put in Ono's decidedly questionable musical sensibilities. In fact, Ono's influence on the visuals of the vintage Imagine film generally makes for a pretentious piece that is saved, of course, by Lennon's tremendous music. The earlier film is very likely to be something fans watch once—or maybe like, once a decade or something—only to be reminded how great the music is and how mediocre the accompanying visuals are. It's most striking imagery (including the famous "video" segment of Lennon at a white piano in an all-white room performing the title tune) has been used in many other contexts (including the 1990 theatrically-released documentary Imagine: John Lennon).

But Gimme Some Truth is a piece to return to for anyone fascinated by John Lennon. Also on Eagle Vision's Blu-ray are three "Raw Studio Outtakes" (with "Gimme Some Truth," "How?," and "Jealous Guy" all featured in untreated, un-produced studio versions) and seven minutes of "David Bailey Photo Shoot" behind-the-scenes material (some of which was utilized in Imagine).
Imagine Gimme Some Truth BD.jpg

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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