Spin - 1/99, pp.120-1219 (out of 10)
- "...Surprisingly intimate and immediate-sounding, ANTHOLOGY resurrects the cranky, funny, stoned, passionate, judgemental, sentimental, experimental, and temperamental reality of a man who otherwise survives as a cleaned-up legend..."
THE JOHN LENNON ANTHOLOGY is a 4-CD box set containing more than 100 previously unreleased tracks and a 60-page booklet including liner notes by Yoko Ono, Anthony DeCurtis, John Lennon and Rob Stevens.
Personnel includes: John Lennon (vocals, whistling, acoustic & electric guitars, piano, rhythm box); Yoko Ono (vocals, electric piano, percussion); Wayne "Tex" Gabriel, Rick Nielsen, (guitar); Eddie Mottau, (acoustic guitar); George Harrison (electric & slide guitars); Earl Slick, Hugh McCraken, David Spinozza (electric guitar); Stan Bronstein, Bobby Keys (saxophone); Nicky Hopkins (piano, electric piano); Ken Ascher (electric piano, keyboards, clavinet); Billy Preston, George Small (electric piano); Adam Ippolito (keyboards); Tony Levin, Tom Petersson, Klaus Voorman (bass); Ringo Starr, Bun E. Carlos, Jim Keltner, Andy Newmark, Jim Gordon (drums); Arthur Jenkins (percussion); Harry Nilsson (background vocals); The Plastic Ono Band.
Producers include: Yoko Ono, Rob Stevens, John Lennon, Phil Spector, Richard Perry.
Compilation producers: Yoko Ono, Rob Stevens.
Engineers include: Andy Strange, Peter Cobbin, Steve Orchard.
During the great John Lennon revival of the late '80s, Yoko Ono licensed to have the Westwood One Radio Network air scores of unreleased home recordings and demos as the Lost Lennon Tapes radio show. At the time, there was endless speculation about when highlights would be released, likely as a box set. The proposed set never materialized, yet most of the material was heavily bootlegged, as the producers and Ono must have suspected. Despite the bootlegs, Ono didn't agree to an official collection of unreleased Lennon material until 1998, after the Beatles' Anthology series proved a critical and commercial success. Hence, the birth of Lennon's Anthology -- a four-disc box set, comprised entirely of unreleased home recordings, demos, and outtakes, many of which have never been previously bootlegged. As it's constructed, it's more of an aural biography than a music album. All the dialogue snippets, half-finished songs, throwaways, and parodies ensure that it's never casual listening, yet that very approach creates an intriguing portrait of Lennon -- a portrait of the man, not the artist. As such, there aren't really any forgotten treasures buried on the collection, even if many of these songs and takes are either completely unheard of or legendary among collecting circles. For every small pleasure, such as the Cheap Trick-backed version of "I'm Losing You," there is a small disappointment, such as how the Dylan diatribe, "Serve Yourself," doesn't quite live up to its legend. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if there are no major works or revelations, just a few good alternate tracks, because Anthology goes a long way toward capturing Lennon with all of his strengths and weaknesses. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine