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Walls and Bridges, John Lennon, 1974
Walls and Bridges is the fifth solo album from John Lennon. Written, recorded and releasdeed during his 18 month sepeartion from Yoko Ono. That period is known as 'The Lost Weekend', John moved to LA with his new 'companion' May Pang and fuellked by booz and parties embarked on recording an album of rock and roll oldies with Phil Spector. When that failed to materialise, Lennon started work on what was to become Walls and Bridges.
The album kicks off with the funky 'Going Down on Love' which is very reminiscent of Lennon's other work, but it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the album. Its upbeat and the polar opposite to an album like 'Plastic Ono Band' from a few years previously. It's the sound of a man having a bit of fun, while still yearning for his lost love at the time. So it sits perfectly in the melancholic pop sound that Lennon was famous for. This song also gives us a taste for the sort of sound that the rest of the album goes for - a heavy mixture of sax and rock.
'Whatever Gets You Through the Night' is a brilliant pop song and still gets a lot of airplay today. Helped out by Elton John on piano the song went straight to the top of the US charts - the last number one Lennon would have in his lifetime.
One of my favourite tracks on Walls and Bridges is the beautiful 'Old Dirt Road' which has some amazing slide guitar work coupled with strings and brass from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It's very reminiscent of songs that ELO would later go on to copy. This song was also co-written by Harry Nilsson.
The nest track is the heavy disco-funk track 'What You Got' which sees Lennon tear the house down with his throaty vocal delivery (for some reason Lennon hated the sound of his own voice and would usually double track it to disguise himself). 'Bless You' comes next and is another love song to Ono - and to finish off side one is the weird 'Scared' which is like some bizarre Halloween track which again sees Lennon self-analysing his current fame.
'#9 Dream' is a decent song which is very often on Lennon best-of's. It's very dreamlike and mystical. Apparently the phrase "Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé" came to Lennon in a dream and has no specific meaning (in case you were wondering!).
'Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)' is one of the few songs that Lennon wrote about May Pang and is a bit of a throwaway track here. 'Steel and Glass' is a basis reworking of 'How Do You Sleep' (Lennon's audio attack on Paul McCartney), but here the target is former Beatles manager Allen Klein. Following this song is the instrumental 'Beef Jerky' which sounds very much like Booker T and the MG's.
'Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)' is perhaps my favourite song from the album. Very introspective and wistful, it's lyrically clever and well as musically brilliant. 'Ya Ya' finishes off the album and features a very young Julian on drums.
Walls and Bridges isn't Lennon's masterpiece, but there are certainly a good number of songs on here that aren't on any best-ofs that are well worth a listen. It's just a shame that the album doesn't have a rounded all encompassing feel to it. It sounds like a collection of twelve different songs that just happen to appear on the same record. I like the way the album tries to cover plenty of musical bases and doesn't get too lazy.
If you want to hear the sound of Lennon during 'The Lost Weekend' then here it is.
1. "Going Down on Love" - 3:54
2. "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" - 3:28
3. "Old Dirt Road" - 4:11
4. "What You Got" - 3:09
5. "Bless You" - 4:38
6. "Scared" - 4:36
7. "#9 Dream" - 4:47
8. "Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)" - 2:55
9. "Steel and Glass" - 4:37
10. "Beef Jerky" - 3:26
11. "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" - 5:08
12. "Ya Ya" - 1:06
If you ask someone to name a John Lennon album, then this is probably the last one they will mention. I can't see why though. It's not as if it is bad - it's anything but that. This album was released half way through Lennon's solo career and by this time he had a firm grasp of song writer and the particular style that he had adapted. Every song from this album shows Lennon's ability pushed to the limit. The great thing about this album is the way that Lennon sings softly one minute and then the next minute he is nearly bursting his lungs in song. Some of the instumentals and backing tracks used on this album are astonishing and show Lennon's capability as a writer of music as well as great lyrics. Highlights of this album include Going Down On Love, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, What You Got, the excellent Beef Jerky and the follow up to How Do You Sleep - Steel And Glass. Every track on this album is equally as good as the next one. This album should be owned by not only fans of Lennon, but people who enjoy all styles of music.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Going Down On Love
2 Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
3 Old Dirt Road
4 What You Got
5 Bless You
7 No 9 Dream
8 Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox)
9 Steel And Glass
10 Beef Jerky
11 Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out)
12 Ya Ya