John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s musical collaboration “Double Fantasy” was originally released on Nov. 17, 1980, just three weeks prior to Lennon’s murder at the hands of Mark David Chapman. Following the tragedy, the album went on to win the Grammy award for “Best Album of the Year” in 1981, and in 1989, it was ranked #29 on “Rolling Stone” magazine’s list of the 100 greatest album’s of the 1980s.
Now, 30 years later, Yoko Ono has collaborated with co-producer Jack Douglas to bring us “Double Fantasy Stripped Down,” the new remixed and re-mastered version of the album. All 14 original tracks have been “stripped down,” which essentially means that many of the outdated and downright distracting studio effects and embellishments are gone. The second disc is unchanged aside from the tracks being generically re-mastered.
Lennon and Ono’s vocals are now more prominent in each track, where they were somewhat buried in the original mixes. It’s amazing how much more organic and timeless the songs sound now that they have been remixed to a stage nearly resembling demos. Lennon’s love for his wife is more present then ever here, as most of his song’s deal with being a husband and father, settling down from his rambunctious life on the road with The Beatles, and beyond.
Although the stripped down album is clearer and feels more natural, the first half of the album is stronger on John’s part, with brilliant remixed versions of “Just Like Starting Over,” “I’m Losing You,” and “Cleanup Time.” What makes these new versions work so well is strength of the vocals, which are allowed to breathe without being suffocated by needless studio excess.
The second half of the album proves to be less impressive, as Lennon’s songs “Watching the Wheels” and “Beautiful Boy,” both great songs, don’t shine much brighter than their original releases. “Woman” is the clear exception, as the new remix is astoundingly fresher than the previous recording.
Unfortunately, Ono’s songs fall far short of Lennon’s both in songwriting and overall catchiness. Her first three songs, “Kiss Kiss Kiss,” “Give Me Something,” and “I’m Moving On” are nearly unbearably screechy. However, where Lennon’s songs waver in the last half, Ono’s last four songs are exceptionally moving, and it is here that we can finally hear the beauty and artistry that Lennon fell in love with. Songs like “Beautiful Boys” and “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him” are what musical passion and discovery are all about.
“Double Fantasy Stripped Down” is wonderful in parts, but as a whole it’s hard to say. Because the tracks alternate between Lennon and Ono songs, there are times when the fluidity of the album is interrupted by the couple’s need to create a “double fantasy,” representative of their undying love. Ono should however be proud that the album is still relevant today, 30 years later, and that with the remixes she has perhaps introduced the great songs written by her and her late husband to an entirely new generation of music lovers. Grade: B