John Lennon ‘Imagine Ultimate Collection’: Listen

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On October 5, four days before what would have been his 78th birthday, Geffen/UMe will celebrate one of the highlights of John Lennon’s solo career with a six-disc boxed set, Imagine—The Ultimate Collection. This remixed and remastered 140-track collection, announced August 22, is fully authorized by Yoko Ono, who oversaw the production and creative direction.

[Since the original announcement, several previously unreleased versions of songs have been released. Watch and/or hear them below, including an extended clip of Lennon with George Harrison, Nicky Hopkins, and others.]

Spread across four CDs and two Blu-ray discs, this expanded edition offers a variety of listening experiences, ranging from the new Ultimate Mixes of the album, to the Raw Studio Mixes that allow listeners to hear Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s original, unadorned performances, to enveloping 5.1 surround sound mixes, and a Quadrasonic Album Mix, presenting the original four speaker mix remastered in Quadrasonic sound for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Listen to some of the raw studio mixes. “John is directly in front of the listener, and the imperfections are chillingly perfect.”

The set features scores of previously unheard demos – including the iconic title cut, rare outtakes and isolated track elements, and also includes The Evolution Documentary, a track-by-track audio montage that details the journey of each song from demo to master recording via instructions, rehearsals, recordings, multitrack exploration and studio chatter.

John and Yoko’s house at Tittenhurst Park 1971.
(Photo: Peter Fordham © Yoko Ono)

Imagine will also be released in concurrent multiple physical and digital configurations including as a 2-CD Deluxe Edition, 1-CD remaster, and 2-LP 180-gram heavyweight black vinyl edition, as well as 2-LP limited edition 180-gram clear vinyl. The digital Ultimate Collection will include all audio from the four CDs and the Deluxe and Standard will also have digital equivalents.

Imagine was created with immense love and concern for the children of the world. I hope you enjoy it,” said Yoko Ono in the preface of the 120-page book that accompanies the box set.

According to a press release announcing the project, “While sifting through boxes upon boxes of the original tapes, engineer Rob Stevens discovered something truly remarkable that had gone unnoticed all these years. ‘Early 2016, during the gestation period of this project, I’m in the Lenono archives with my people going through tape boxes that have labeling that’s unclear, misleading, or missing entirely,’ says Stevens. ‘There’s a 1-inch 8-track that says nothing more on the Ascot Sound label than John Lennon, the date, and the engineer (Phil McDonald), with DEMO on the spine.  No indication of what material was on the tape. One delicate transfer to digital later, the ‘Imagine’ demo, subsequently enhanced superbly by Paul Hicks, appears within this comprehensive set. It was true serendipity.’”

Listen to the original demo of “Imagine”

Also on October 5, Eagle Vision will release two films by John and Yoko, Imagine and Gimme Some Truth, on DVD, Blu-ray and digital platforms. Both films have been hand-restored from the original film reels and remastered in HD, and their soundtracks have been remixed in surround sound by triple Grammy Award-winning engineer Paul Hicks. Both physical releases feature exclusive, never-before-seen extras including previously unheard “raw” studio mixes, and an insight into a photo shoot with David Bailey. Pre-order here.

Imagine will also have a limited theatrical run highlighted by an exclusive, immersive Dolby Atmos mix of the music in selected theaters, with further exclusive extra material.

Watch the “Imagine (Ultimate Mix)” restored, remixed and remastered

This new edition, says the announcement, “takes listeners on incredibly personal journey through the entire songwriting and recording process—from the very first writing and demo sessions at Lennon’s home studio at Tittenhurst Park through to the final co-production with Phil Spector—providing a remarkable testament of the lives of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their own words.”

The original Imagine album – released in the U.S. on September 9, 1971 and in the U.K. a month later on October 8 – has been faithfully remixed from the ground up by the aforementioned Paul Hicks at Abbey Road Studios under the supervision of Yoko Ono. Hicks utilized high-definition 24-bit/96kHz audio transfers of the album’s original first-generation multitrack recordings for the task and the result is that the instruments and vocal now have a completely new level of clarity, especially when it comes to the surround-sound mixes on Blu-ray Disc 1. As Hicks reveals in the book included in the Super Deluxe, “Yoko was very keen that these Ultimate Mixes should achieve three things—to be totally faithful and respectful to the originals, be generally sonically clearer overall and should increase the clarity of John’s vocals. ‘It’s about John,’ she said. And she was right. His voice brings the biggest emotional impact to the album.”

Additionally, Hicks remastered the original four-speaker Spector/Lennon/ Ono mix of Imagine in Quadrasonic sound, the first time that particular quad mix has been touched since the original release.

The stereo version of the Imagine album proper and its related remixed singles and extras, such as the politically charged “Power to the People,” “God Save Us,” “Do the Oz” and the holiday classic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” comprise Disc 1. Both album and singles outtakes encompass Disc 2 alongside a quartet of what have been dubbed Elements Mixes, including strings-only versions of “Imagine” and “How?” as well as the vocals-only version of “Oh My Love” and the piano, bass, and drums instrumentation for “Jealous Guy.” The Elements Mixes have been created from a few basic elements from the original multitrack recordings to reveal deeper levels of detail and clarity in the sources used for the master mixes that were either buried or summed to mono in order to open them up and present them on a wider, clearer, and brighter soundstage.

Listen to a portion of “Jealous Guy (Elements Mix)” featuring Nicky Hopkins’ haunting piano

Yoko Ono: “Nicky Hopkins’ playing on ‘Jealous Guy’ is so melodic and beautiful that it still makes everyone cry, even now.” Drummer Jim Keltner: “Nobody in the world ever played piano like Nicky Hopkins.”

George Harrison played on five of the tracks: “Crippled Inside,” “Gimme Some Truth,” “Oh My Love,” “I Don’t Want to Be a Soldier” and “How Do You Sleep?”.

Listen to “Crippled Inside (Evolution Mix)”

Engineer Rob Stevens helmed what are known as the Raw Studio Mixes on Disc 3. These mixes capture the exact moment John and the Plastic Ono Band recorded each song raw and live on the soundstage located at the center of Ascot Sound Studios at John and Yoko’s home in Tittenhurst. The tracks are devoid of effects (reverb, tape delays, etc.) and a far cry from the finished product. Highlights include the extended renditions of iconic Imagine tracks like “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die,” “How Do You Sleep?” and “Oh Yoko!” On Blu-ray Disc 2, the Raw Studio mixes are presented in 5.1 surround sound for a unique enveloping listening experience that puts the listener in the center of Ascot Sound Studios with Lennon in front and the band playing all around and behind.

Watch never-before-seen footage of “How Do You Sleep?” in the studio with George Harrison, Nicky Hopkins, future Yes drummer Alan White, Klaus Voormann, and others, released on September 21

Meanwhile, Disc 4 presents the audio version of The Evolution Documentary, as engineered by Sam Gannon in mono. This documentary tells the full story of each Imagine song as it goes on its own specific, individual journey from demo to master take via instructions, rehearsals, recordings, multitrack exploration, and studio chatter.

The second Blu-ray disc is subtitled “In The Studio and Deeper Listening,” and it features both surround-sound and stereo mixes of the extended album versions, outtakes, and Elements Mixes found on the CDs. It also plays home to DJ and longtime family friend Elliot Mintz’s 29-minute tribute to the artists, consisting of his revealing, philosophical, honest and humorous interviews with John and Yoko.

Meanwhile, both the Imagine and Gimme Some Truth video releases coming from Eagle Vision have been frame-matched to the original negatives, with every frame hand-cleaned and restored, and the respective soundtracks remixed and remastered in 5.1 surround sound.

The Imagine film is described as “a cinematic collage of color, sound, dream and reality. Produced and directed in 1971 by John and Yoko, who—along with numerous guest stars including George Harrison, Fred Astaire, Andy Warhol, Dick Cavett, Jack Palance and Jonas Mekas—all create a world of imagination as rich and moving as the music that accompanies it.”

Watch a trailer for the Imagine film

Shooting began during the summer of 1971 at John and Yoko’s Tittenhurst home in Ascot, England, as they began recording sessions for the Imagine album. Shooting continued in New York where the album was completed at the Record Plant, with Phil Spector co-producing.

The Imagine film is widely regarded as one of the first “video albums,” since it features a different visual treatment for every song on the record. The limited theatrical release of Imagine benefits from a Dolby Atmos mix, along with cinema-exclusive, never-before-seen extras from the recording of the album.

John and Yoko (Photo Iain Macmillan © Yoko Ono)

Gimme Some Truth is the Grammy Award-winning film that chronicles the creative process of how the Imagine album came into being, in turn providing a glimpse into Lennon’s creative genius and including many striking, special moments between John and Yoko. The progress of the making of the songs featured on the album is followed through from their inception to the final recording process in Gimme Some Truth, with the film “serving as a stunning, fly-on-the-wall document of how one of the most iconic and important albums of the rock era came into being,” according to the release.

Related: Lennon was honored with a stamp by the United States Postal Service on September 7, 2018

Finally, Thames & Hudson (UK) and Grand Central Publishing (US) will publish Imagine John Yoko by John Lennon and Yoko Ono on what would have been Lennon’s 78th birthday, on October 9. Personally compiled and curated by Yoko Ono and packed with exclusive, previously unpublished material, Imagine John Yoko is the definitive inside story-told in revelatory detail-of the making of the legendary album and all that surrounded it: the locations, the creative team, the artworks, and the films, in the words of John and Yoko and the people who were there.

Watch a short teaser for the boxed set

[Further details here.]

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  1. mickey fern
    #1 mickey fern 29 August, 2018, 11:44

    Will the Ultimate Collection also be offered in a DVD version in addition to Blue Ray?

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