It’s no coincidence two new John Lennon albums, “Acoustic” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll,” were released simultaneously earlier this week via Capitol. As its name implies, “Acoustic” features 16 Lennon tracks recorded acoustically at home. “Rock ‘N’ Roll,” originally released in 1975, captures Lennon singing tunes made famous by his idols.
“It’s very dramatic to have ‘Acoustic’ and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ together,” Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, tells Billboard. “They’re the totally opposite sides of John’s character. For Ono, overseeing the projects is a way of keeping Lennon’s memory alive. “We were partners, and then John kind of left it to me to take care of it. I feel honored about it,” she says.
As Ono culled through Lennon’s material for “Acoustic,” she sadly discovered that much of his piano acoustic works had been miked in a way that the piano overshadowed Lennon’s voice and “there was no way to fix it,” she says. Therefore, the 16 tunes on “Acoustic,” seven of which are available officially for the first time, are all guitar-based.
Ono says she learned something new about her late husband in the process. “I realized what an incredible acoustic guitar player he was,” she says. “We’re so used to listening to his electric guitar. But I thought this album has to go out because I want to encourage kids who want to learn guitar. And for the professionals, I think it will be inspiring to listen to his arrangements –they’re sometimes strange and sometimes beautiful.”
Work on the “Rock ‘N’ Roll” reissue was in some ways more challenging, Ono says, recalling the struggles Lennon and producer Phil Spector went through during the project before Lennon finished the album on his own.
“When I first heard it again, I was crying because the power of these classic songs hits you anyway, but it’s not just that,” she says. “This is his wife saying it, but I think his versions are better than the originals because of the love he had for these songs.”
As for the remaining material in the Lennon vault, Ono says there is not enough to make another album, but she expects that the songs will find other outlets, such as the new Las Vegas show planned by the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil or the upcoming musical based on Lennon’s material.