Sunday, July 24, 2016

John Lennon - Mind Games (1973)

After getting overtly political on Some Time In New York City, John Lennon remembered that his songwriting talent rested not in making militant broadsides but in expressing his personal feelings, both about himself and the world around him.  Perhaps the failure of the New Left in the aftermath of U.S. President Richard Nixon's landslide re-election victory made him realize that radicalism was not the solution; Mind Games was very much a return to Lennon's earlier faith in pacifism and spirituality, as the title song, with its message of chanting mantras and love as the answer.  The songs mostly reflect a positive vibe, with messages of hope and personal fulfillment, with some fun rock and roll songs in between.  Alas, Mind Games was only a pleasant album, not a great one.
The music on Mind Games is competently arranged  but somewhat antiseptic; the session men play with precision on the lighter numbers and with some spirit on the pop tunes and the rockers but not with a great deal of passion.  Still, the overall vibe is encouraging, because Lennon is finding his voice again, as well as his humor; "Tight A$,"  a funky Tex-Mex tune with country leanings, shows our hero having fun again, and his heavy rocker "Meat City" is as raw as some of his late-period Beatles rock tunes.  His one blatantly political song here, "Bring On the Lucie (Freeda Peeple)," has some vicious descriptions of Nixon's mindset but is delivered with a smile.  He and his wife Yoko  (yes, that's her on the horizon on the front sleeve) also used this LP to promote their concept of Nutopia, a country of the mind where people would be free and live in harmony; the Nutopian International Anthem - three seconds of copyrighted silence at the end of side one (which is after "Bring On the Lucie [Freeda Peeple]" on CD) - was yet another diverting Lennonism.       
Some of the ballads on Mind Games, though, are a little stale.  "One Day (At a Time)" wallows in man-woman opposite clich├ęs, while "Out The Blue" is somewhat overwrought; neither of these songs, though written for Yoko, sound like they're specifically about her, as John's earlier love songs written during their relationship do.  However, "You Are Here," with its breezy, Polynesian-textured music and some heavenly backing vocals backing John's earnest voice, is a transcendent affirmation of how destiny brought him and Yoko together.  In sum, Mind Games shows John Lennon returning to form but succeeding only partially in finding his groove, as if his muse has left him.  Ironically, his muse - Yoko - would actually separate from him (for, as it turned out, a year and a half) shortly after this album was released.   He would never take inspiration for granted again.   

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