John Lennon – Wonsaponatime

Yoko Ono opens the vaults on first official collection of Lennon’s home, live and studio recordings

Compiled by Yoko Ono, Wonsaponatime is a one CD collection of 1998’s four disc Anthology, whose 96 tracks are here condensed down to a mere 21. Yes, the box set is far more authoritative, and clearly the one every Lennon obsessive must own. But for those who are less devoted to the ex-Beatles’ solo output, then Wonsaponatime is probably all the curious fan will ever need.

Much of the material presented had been doing the rounds on various bootlegs, so there is perhaps very little that any hard-core collector hasn’t yet heard (some will no doubt grumble over what was and wasn’t chosen for inclusion), but with excellent sound quality, and detailed liner notes, I’d rather take this than a bootleg any day.

Beginning with “I’m Losing You,” recorded in 1980 during the Double Fantasy/Milk And Honey sessions, and ending with a home recording (also from 1980) of “Serve Yourself,” if anything, Wonsaponatime is a choice reminder of the creative process that went into Lennon’s work.

“Working Class Hero” is as invective as ever, while “God” and “How Do You Sleep?,” even as outtakes, lack none of the emotional intensity of their more polished brethren. “Imagine” is given more of a church feel, thanks to Nicky Hopkins’ electric piano, followed by a tepid run-through of “Baby Please Don’t Go.” “Oh My Love,” John’s delicate paean to Yoko, is as beautiful as ever, but it’s not until we get to a live version of “Woman Is The Nigger Of The World,” recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1972, that Wonsaponatime truly gets going (imagine coming up with a song title like that nowadays?).

Solo demos “I Found Out” and “What You Got” are intriguing private snapshots but little more, as are domestic home recordings “A Kiss Is Just A Kiss” and “Sean’s In The Sky” (is there anything he didn’t record?). John’s rock ‘n’ roll period is represented by enthusiastic renditions of “Be-Bop-A-Lula” and “Rip It Up/Teddy Bear,” a genre which suited Lennon’s voice to a tee.

Included is a pensive “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out),” reminiscent of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (minus Phil Spector’s production values), along with an unaltered version of “Real Love,” a song which pointed to a whole new potential direction for John as a songwriter. Lennon reprises the main riff of his interpretation of “Stand By Me” for “Only You,” after which is the sentimental “Grow Old With Me,” another home recording produced by George Martin (which explains the overdubbed string arrangement).

Wonsaponatime is an endearing personal tribute by Yoko to her late husband, a man who was by no means perfect, but then who is? Yes, Lennon scholars will find much on this disc to salivate over, yet for the more casual listener, Wonsaponatime will serve as a beguiling document in its own right, and one which definitely deserves to sit in any fan’s collection.