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Shaved Fish
John Lennon

Apple 3421
Released: November 1975
Chart Peak: #12
Weeks Charted: 32

John LennonShaved Fish is a collection of singles, some of them hits, released during John Lennon's post-Beatles career (1969-present). Ordinarily, such Christmas gift ideas aren't worth writing about but, as with almost everything else Lennon has done, Shaved Fish is different. There is nothing spectacularly unfound about the music here, although finally having an LP with "Instant Karma" -- Lennon's best solo track and as full a statement of the rock philosophy as we are likely to get from anyone -- is a significant event in my house. One is first drawn to the package, a typically mad collage of literal interpretations of the 11 tracks here -- "Instant Karma!" is represented by a jar, as though it were a name-brand pharmaceutical -- and to the lyric sheet, which offers the most convincing evidence yet of Lennon's verbal felicity.

More than that, however, the feeling of this record is so diffuse that it probably does present an accurate overview of Lennon's confused career since leaving the Beatles. The best tracks are obsessed, driven by a special idea about the usefulness of rock & roll, as on "Instant Karma!," "Cold Turkey," "Imagine" and even "Mother." Although "Give Peace a Chance" is the best example extant of Lennon's talent for random lyric writing, neither it, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" nor "Power To The People" has held up. Unlike Dylan's best topical songs ("George Jackson," say), or even the Beatles' "Revolution." Lennon's polemics were entirely too ad hoc to last beyond the era in which they were made. Nevertheless, there is a cohesion of style present in these which dwindles in the later parts of the record: "Mind Games," "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" and "#9 Dream" are all without the purpose of his best work. This is convincing evidence, then, not only of John Lennon's genius but of his continuing career difficulty. Hopefully, as the cover drawing for "Power to the People" suggests, the green card he'll be receiving from Immigration will resolve that crisis happily.

- Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone, 12-18-75.

Bonus Reviews!

Really a greatest hits, featuring the best of Lennon in his various stages over the past five years or so. LP includes solo work, his projects with Yoko, and material from the Plastic Ono Band. Several cuts on here that were major AM hits, though there are many that are simply known as Lennon specials through repeated FM play. Best example yet of the wide variety of material this artist is capable of handling. Since Lennon generally changes styles somewhat with each LP, one tends to get a rather one dimensional look at him each time out. This is really the first opportunity to get a complete look at the man on his own. Above all, it's all rock and roll, and that's what Lennon is best at. Best cuts: "Give Peace A Chance," "Mind Games," "Instant Karma" (a classic single), "Imagine," "Whatever Gets You Through The Night," "#9 Dream."

- Billboard, 1975.

Hmm. Someone must have dropped John Lennon on his head again. This is a collection of old Lennon-Yoko songs -- "Imagine," "Happy Xmas," "Power to the People" and others that should give you an instant case of déjà or at least make you ask the musical question: What price do you have to pay to get out of going through all these songs twice? -- as Dylan said back when. Listening to these songs again you get the impression that Lennon has become stuck in the Sixties, doomed to think that wearing a Kotex on your head in public is amusing and to implore all of us to "imagine all the people sharing all the world." The fact that he's reissuing a song that demands "power to the people" when Congressional investigations are telling us that the CIA goes out and dusts off anybody it pleases on Saturday night makes you wonder if old John maybe wasn't asleep last year.

- Playboy, 3-76.

Eleven shots in the dark from the weirdest major rock and roller of the early '70s. All the hits are here, many of them misses, with the number-one single as out of place as "Happy Xmas" and "Woman Is the Nigger of the World." Not just because it's bad, either -- in retrospect, "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" and "Power to the People" sound equally bald, equally stupid. Not counting the two available on must-own albums, the only great cuts are "Instant Karma" (Lennon's best political song) and "#9 Dream" (catchier nonsense pop than McCartney's ever managed). So I don't play it much. But I'm sure glad it's on the shelf. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A collection of post-Beatles sloganeering -- but the message is so important and the artist was so sincere that it rises to pure rock & roll. While not everything included is of lasting quality, each cut does evidence the rock production sensitivities of one of the best to ever record within the form. The CD's sound varies appreciably from cut to cut; i.e., at times it is a bit bright, at others it's afflicted with hiss and some compression, but, on average the dynamic punch and enhanced clarity make it a clear choice over the LP. A-

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

Although superseded by The John Lennon Collection, this greatest-hits album is the only place to find such singles as "Cold Turkey" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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