John Lennon | Signature Box

Capitol (2010)
By ZETH LUNDY  |  October 5, 2010
3.5 3.5 Stars

Part absurdist wit, part domestic romantic, and part quasi-revolutionary, John Lennon had a restless, albeit brief, post-Beatles career. His 1970 solo debut, Plastic Ono Band, was a rebirth of sorts; raw, angry, and cathartic, it served as a jarring de-Beatlization. For the rest of the decade, Lennon flitted between incendiary politicking ("Woman Is the Nigger of the World"), jogging down memory lane (Rock 'n' Roll, his album of '50s covers), and checking out of celebrity life ("Watching the Wheels"), all the while maintaining the cheeky tack that made him the Thinking Man's Beatle. That dichotomy is at the heart of Signature Box, an 11-disc set that, in addition to eight album reissues, includes a disc of unreleased recordings, an EP of non-album singles, and a "stripped down" mix of Double Fantasy. A loose but rollicking home demo of "God," Lennon's new-decade free-will mantra, is a great example of the worthwhile rarities here, and the remasters blow off enough dust to reveal worthy deep cuts like the Chuck Berry–esque "New York City." This is, naturally, the go-to choice for would-be Lennon completists, but it's also a comprehensive overview of a brave and occasionally brilliant discography.
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