John Lennon and Yoko Ono Double Fantasy Review

Released 1980.  

BBC Review

A far tougher record than is understood by those who have only heard the singles.

Sean Egan 2010

Upon its release, Double Fantasy by no means attracted universal acclaim. Within weeks of that initial scepticism, however, a work that had at first seemed irredeemably self-absorbed was transformed into poignant by John Lennon’s murder at the hands of a gun-wielding ex-fan.

We will never know whether a critical rehabilitation would have naturally occurred when people got over their initial shock: first, at the fact that half of Lennon’s comeback album after a five-year absence was composed of cuts by wife Yoko Ono, and secondly at John’s evident lack of interest in living up to his previous image of scornful rock‘n’roll revolutionary. However, it has to be said that much of the world has an erroneous impression of this album's contents. It is a far, far tougher record than is understood by those who have only heard (Just Like) Starting Over, Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy), Watching the Wheels and Woman. The heavy airplay said cuts (all Lennon songs) received created an impression among those who did not possess the album of a soporific, gushing work on which John let his domestic bliss overwhelm his usual descriptive and analytical gifts. This impression will have put many off purchasing the album – and prevented them from apprehending that it contains some biting music not even hinted at in those songs. Ditto for its nuanced examination of marriage.

Completely unexpectedly, Yoko’s songs are just as good as her husband’s, an example being Kiss Kiss Kiss, in which avant-garde drop-outs and spoken-word Japanese overdubs go hand in hand with piercing guitar work. She consistently sings beautifully, banishing forever memories of her infamous caterwauling on the Live Peace in Toronto album. Not that John is slack: his Cleanup Time is powerful rock which incongruously celebrates his househusband status, and while Dear Yoko sees him giving thanks to his wife simply for existing, such sentimentality doesn't preclude a delightful strutting old-time rock‘n’roll backdrop.

Meanwhile, on three pulsating tracks sequenced together – Give Me Something (Yoko), I'm Losing You (John) and I'm Moving On (Yoko) – the couple seem to be engaging in a dialogue about the sometimes perilous terrain of marriage. In a perfect symbol of the way that the two have become one, the closing Hard Times Are Over is a Yoko track that, in its vulnerability and surrender to love, would make you swear it was a John song.

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