John Lennon – Rock ‘N’ Roll

Rock 'N' Roll

In 1975, ex-Beatle Lennon paid homage to his rock and roll roots – something Paul McCartney wouldn’t get around to until 1999’s Run Devil Run. Lennon’s early-rock credentials were beyond repute, as anyone who ever heard the Beatles’ versions of “Money” or “Twist And Shout” can attest, but I’m afraid Sir Paul beat him at the retro game (and there’s no telling how great a rockabilly album George Harrison could have made).

While McCartney wisely chose to get four or five guys in the studio and cut a bare-boned, spontaneous record, Lennon enlisted producer Phil Spector for the first sessions that made it to this album (cut in late ’73). He later essentially reproduced Spector’s “wall of sound” (rather uncannily) with himself at the helm. But while that approach may have made sense for songs like the Drifters’ “Stand By Me” and Lloyd Price’s “Just Because,” it proves totally inappropriate for rockers from the Little Richard/Chuck Berry/Gene Vincent canons. Thankfully, Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” is spared the overblown production, and kicks hardest as a result.

The thing is, Lennon’s vocals sound on the money, if you could strip away the layers and layers of echo and reverb, and the band, while a tad subdued, is rocking pretty well. And what about that band? Just who’s playing on this stuff? Well, you won’t know by looking at the CD. True, no session credits were listed on the original vinyl, either, but this is, after all, a reissue – expanded with four bonus tracks – so you’d think Capitol would include some liner notes, credits, maybe photos from the sessions. A little research reveals that Jesse Ed Davis is playing slide on “Stand By Me” and “You Can’t Catch Me,” that Steve Cropper is present (most likely on rhythm), with longtime Beatles associate Klaus Voorman on bass, and Jim Keltner and Hal Blaine sharing drum chores. (Was that so hard?)

This article originally appeared in VG‘s June ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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