John Lennon – Imagine

John Lennon was a dreamer. But he had a good dream.

“Imagine” has got to be one of the most beautiful and powerful songs ever written. It’s a song about being a dreamer. It’s about having a dream where there is no war, no hatred, no killing. It’s a dream of universal peace. It begs us all, if only for a moment, to imagine a. world like that.

It can be impossible to believe the world as we know it today could ever be without personal possessions, religion, or nations, as Lennon asks us to imagine in the title track of his second solo album. I think he knows as well as any intelligent person (and John Lennon was very intelligent) it’s an impossible dream for mankind to ever achieve. But it’s easy to imagine it. But as he reminds us here, although the world around us can seem uncaring and cruel at times; though there always seems to be some war going on somewhere; though the news seems to present us daily with a barrage of mankind’s cruelty toward his fellow kind, sometimes it’s good to imagine a different world; a world where no contention exists. Though that world may not ever exist for us, for 3 minutes, John Lennon asks us all to just dream it will one day, then imagine if we at least tried to live that dream.

Jesus Christ Superstar

I never thought the album “Jesus Christ Superstar” was sacrilegious, but the BBC did, banning its broadcast in the U.K.

When I first heard “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 1971 it made me want to learn more about Jesus Christ and his teachings. It’s not an easy task to get a 9-year-old kid to want to learn about religion, but this album did for me.

Sacrilegious? I think not.

I think my favorite moment on the album is the song “Gethsemane (I only want to say)”. Where, in a brief moment of doubt, Christ initially asks God to “take this cup away from me” and moments later, realizing he needs die for our sins, tells God “I will drink your cup of poison, nail me to your cross and break me”. Ian Gillan (from Deep Purple) sings with such conviction I get teared up every time I hear it.

Since “Jesus Christ Superstar” is rock opera that tells the story of the final week leading up to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion that leads to His resurrection, I made it a tradition a few years back to listen to it every Easter Sunday.

Sacrilegious? I think not.

Queen

One of the joys I’ve always had with record collecting, is going back and discovering earlier albums by bands I like. After first hearing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, all over the radio, I was enthralled by their originality. After buying the album “A Night at the Opera”, and hearing “Sheer Heart Attack”, which a friend of mine discovered in his uncle’s record collection, I felt compelled to check out other music by this truly original band. Queen only had four albums out at this time and I had already heard two of them, so I figured I pick up their eponymous debut.

From the opening song , “Keep Yourself Alive” with is heavily phased guitar panning from the left to right speaker, I knew this was going to be a unique record that, just like their later records, would take full advantage of stereo sound. The production was a bit rougher than their later albums that I had heard, but it had a huge amount of variety and experimentation – a very ambitious album, especially for a band coming right out of the gate. The lyrics covered a wide range of topics from the mystic and medieval to religion; from personal introspection to songs that were about just having a good time.

When it comes to bands I like, I’ve always appreciated originality and innovation over virtuosity and technical ability, but I still highly regarded the latter. Queens first album had an abundance of both. It will always be one of my favorite albums of all time.

Jethro Tull – Aqualung (Original Master Recording)

Aqualung is the quintessential Jethro Tull album. If you own only one Jethro Tull album, this should be it.

Aqualung was one of the first albums in my collection that I “upgraded” to digital. Unfortunately, I got rid of the album before I actually listened to the CD – it sounded like s***.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a music snob. Scratch that, I am somewhat of a music snob, but that’s not why I thought the original CD release of Aqualung sucked. I thought it sucked because… well, it sucked… even the record company eventually admitted it. Because of litigation against them regarding the original CD release, Chrysalis records recalled it, offering a refund to everyone who had purchased the CD. They posted a recall of it in music magazines and it was announced on numerous radio stations, and I darn shure took advantage of it.

Care has to be taken when bringing an analog recording over to digital. When Aqualung was originally released on CD, that care was not taken. There was so much tape hiss and noise during the numerous quiet passages on the recording, at times it was overbearing of the music. The album was eventually, remastered as a 25th Anniversary Edition on CD where the time and effort were taken to do it right.

I always wanted to replace my vinyl copy of Aqualung. But again, because of the quiet passages, it was hard to find one in the condition of what I had gotten rid of. That is until recently, when I ran across an original master recording of it that was in mint condition.With as good of a job they did on the 25th anniversary CD, I can honestly say that this sounds way better. This is the best Aqualung has ever sounded, even compared to the 25th anniversary CD. This is the way it was meant to be heard.

If that makes me a music snob, so be it.

A lot of people think, because of the lyrics on Aqualung, that Ian Anderson was an atheist, or at least anti-religion. Nothing could be further from fact. What he was against was the corruption of religion, which he felt was the case with the Church of England.

He speaks of this revelation on the very last song on Aqualung. In it he tells of how, after some philosophical contemplation when he was a young school boy, he went to the school’s headmaster, and told him that the God he believed in was not the kind you “Wind Up” on Sundays. My beliefs couldn’t be more in line with his. Maybe that’s the reason I love this album so much.

U2 – War

U2’s third album, “War” is not an album about war. It is a protest album against it. I remember first hearing it when ironically…or maybe it was more fittingly, I was serving in the U.S. Army. Although war is the most common association made when one hears the word “army,” I served in the hope of defending freedom and the hope of one day having peace in the world. In 1983, this album spoke to me. It still does today – perhaps even more so. 

The closing song on War is “40”.  The song is based on the bible passage in Psalms 40 and is a plea for peace. The closing lyric to that song, “How long to sing this song?” is a beautiful loop-back to the same sentiment sung in the album’s opening song, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, a song about the torments of war. 

Yes, this album still speaks to me. I firmly believe that the song of war and torment we all too often sing today will one day end in a beautiful song of peace. 

The only question is…

How long?