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The Signature Box
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214 of 222 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2010
First off, let's be clear about what is in this box and what isn't.

The box includes the Lennon solo albums "Plastic Ono Band", "Imagine", "Mind Games", "Walls and Bridges", and "Rock and Roll" -- all of his officially-released solo albums.

It also includes the John and Yoko albums "Some Time in New York City", "Double Fantasy", and "Milk and Honey".

For a bonus, it also includes a rather short (six songs) disc of John and John/Yoko singles, which includes the songs "Power to the People", "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", "Instant Karma!", "Cold Turkey", "Move Over Ms. L", and "Give Peace a Chance"; and a second bonus disc of John's home demo tapes, mostly devoted to songs that appeared the "Plastic Ono Band" and "Imagine" albums.

It does NOT include any of the following:

- The experimental John and Yoko albums "Two Virgins", "Life with the Lions", and "The Wedding Album"
- The album "Live Peace in Toronto" (John and Yoko with the Plastic Ono Band)
- The new remix of "Double Fantasy"
- Other non-album tracks that have been included on previous CD versions of the albums, such as "Do the Oz"

Each album is in a cardboard double sleeve in the style of old LP packaging. Original front and back cover artwork is used in all cases, and has been reproduced very well. Each album has a gatefold photo of John (sometimes with Yoko) from roughly the same time period as the album itself. Each album also comes with a small CD booklet that discusses the album and its songs. Complete lyrics are included in each of these booklets.

The CD sound is excellent, and I approve of the decision to return to John's original mixes rather than the posthumous remixes that have been used on the most recent CD releases prior to this. These CDs give us the music as John intended it to be heard.

The packaging is very much in John and Yoko's style: very simple and elemental, mostly in white and blue. The box is surprisingly large and includes a fair amount of dead space; this results in a nearly perfect cube shape, and provides enough room for a small hardcover book entitled "Yes" that discusses John's life, a separate piece of folded cardstock with individual messages from Yoko, John's son Julian, and John and Yoko's son Sean, and the package's last bonus, a small drawing by John enclosed in a hardback cover. I don't know if every box has the same picture, or if there are different ones. Mine is a peaceful drawing called "Family Tree" showing a couple resting underneath a tree, much as John and Yoko do on the covers of the two "Plastic Ono Band" albums. Like much of John's artwork, it is expressive and elegant, the product of a natural and largely unschooled talent. His ability to convey an image with a minimal number of lines reminds me of some Japanese art.

All in all, I am happy with the box and I recommend it. It's a fine companion to the recent Beatles box sets, and in some ways it feels more artistically assembled, no doubt due to Yoko's personal involvement.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
"Suddenly your 30 and there's so much more to do"/"Life begins at 40"-John Lennon

Released as part of the celebration of what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, the "John Lennon Signature Box" gathers the 5 solo studio albums Lennon made between 1970-1975, Lennon's recordings that were exclusive to his singles, John and Yoko's 1980 album "Double Fantasy", the posthumous release "Milk and Honey" and a disc of previously unreleased demos/alternate takes from 1970-1971 in a handsomely designed box.

Missing from this set are the trio of avant garde albums that Lennon and Ono recorded together prior to 1970--"Two Virgins", "The Wedding Album" and "Life with the Lions". Also missing is "Live Peace in Toronto" and while we get "Double Fantasy" we don't get the "Double Fantasy Stripped" disc which features the album without the overdubs which is a missed opportunity and it SHOULD have been included but both EMI and Ono want you to shell out the extra bucks for that album (which means if you buy this set you'll have two discs with the original "Double Fantasy" mix).

The remastered sound done by the same team that did The Beatles remasters from last year are a marked improvement over the original late 80's CD releases for the first 5 albums. These will sound different from the 2000 reissue of those albums because those were remixes. These are the original mixes that Lennon prepared. The remixes had their merit as well since often the remixing improved the overall clarity of some albums (Particularly "Mind Games") but they were flawed as they were heavily compressed (which makes things louder and sacrifices the dynamics, i.e., the range between the quietest and loudest moments on an album. It's the dynamics that often give the music it's power for example without the dynamic build up of sound from "A Day in the Life", the song would lose much of its power). They also suffered from harsh peak limiting which causes digital distortion.

For these new remasters the EMI team went back to the original mastertapes, cleaned them up, eliminated any imperfections due to edits and used every device they could to come as close to the sound of the master tapes as possible. The results are better low end, more detailed and powerful bass and drums and improved clarity in the vocals and instrument separation. Noise reduction was used minimally (the overuse of which was a flaw with the U.S. and UK original CDs of these albums particularly for "Mind Games" and "Imagine").

"Double Fantasy" and "Milk & Honey" were NOT worked on by the Abbey Road/EMI team but were remastered by George Marino for this set. While they are an improvement over the 2001 remasters for both albums,I don't think that they show quite as much improvement over the original CD issues of these albums. In a comparison to both "DF" and "M&H" 2001 editions and these, the ones included here don't sound signficantly different--not quite as loud perhaps but not Marino's best work either. Both suffer from hard limiting and compression and do not sound as good as the EMI/Abbey Road work done on the first five albums and singles on the first bonus disc.

The downside is that the bonus tracks that were included on the 2000 remixes aren't always here and none of them are attached to the original disc (some may prefer these that way although I don't since some of the bonus track editions were a bit odd to me). Some of the songs (such as some of the singles like "Power to the People") are included on the two disc singles/demos disc included here. The 13 previously unreleased tracks on the second bonus disc are quite good some of which are radically different arrangements ("I Don't Want to Be a Soldier"), some subtly so ("Mother" with guitar on the track as well as piano, drums and bass)and the veresion of "Serve Yourself" is superior to the one on the "Lennon Anthology" in my opinion. While "India" and the demo for "Nobody Told Me" are quite good as well. I do wish that the unfinished "Now and Then" (which the rest of The Beatles briefly thought about completing for the "Anthology" series)had been included.

The packaging is quite nice and includes a booklet with an essay, reproductions of original artwork and lyric sheets about Lennon, brief essays by Yoko, Julian Lennon and Sean Lennon. There's also a card for internet content included as well and a lithograph which is in a drawer at the bottom of the box. The CDs themselves are housed (without protective sleeves I might add--which is a negative given how much you may pay for this set)cardboard sleeves similar in design to The Beatles remasters. The drawer is not the best idea as the lithograph can easily become stuck and, quite frankly, it seems unnecessary and silly as the litho will fit on top of the CDs in the box proper.

The booklets are quite nice and include an essay on the making of the album as well as the original lyrics (except for "Rock 'n' Roll")and credits.

Bottom line: Will you like this set? If you prefer the remixes probably not but, if you want Lennon's original album mixes restored and presented with top notch sound and attention to detail, you will. The "bonus disc" with the demos/alternate takes aren't essential but they are nice to have and compliment the "Lennon Anthology" from a decade ago.

These sound exceptional although, like most remasters, there are some flaws one could nitpick about. These reissues beat the original CD issues of the original mixes. Overall this is a nice set and would make an excellent gift for Lennon/Beatles fans particularly the latter who enjoyed the Beatles remasters.

It's sad that we'll never know what Lennon had to say about being 70. Recommended.
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2010
The John Lennon Signature Box Set is a beautiful collection celebrating Lennon's 70th Birthday. Overseen by Yoko One Lennon, this collection contains eight original studio albums digitally remastered by the same team who remastered The Beatles stereo and mono box sets of 2009. Included is a 60 page hard book with photos and text. Also included is a nice essay pamphlet by Yoko, Julian and Sean. It's a really nice collection and worthy of any Lennon fan! Note: not included in this set is the new Double Fantasy Stripped Down release!

As for the sound of the discs, this is where the box set starts to fail. Gone are the remixed and remastered versions from the 2000-2004 releases of the same albums. Replaced are John's original audio mixes. Purists will rejoice but in my honest opinion, the results are historic but dated. Having listened to the discs in this edition as well as the 2000-2004 remixes, I have to say this set pales in comparison. Rock `N' Roll, in particular, sounds very bad and made me long for the remixed version.

While I do applaud Yoko and team for this wonderful collection, it would have been nice to include the remixed versions as well as the Double Fantasy Stripped Down release. I've listened to it and it is a really interesting release. While this box set is flawed, I do encourage you buy it! If you own the 2000-2004 mixes, live albums and unfinished works, you're pretty much set on your JL collection with this and the new Double Fantasy Stripped Down release!
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2010
I wouldn't say that I regret buying the box set, but I certainly don't appreciate it. For $150 you don't get Power To The People: The Hits (the DVD part anyway) or Double Fantasy Stripped Down [New Mix + Original Recording Remastered], which are available only separately. The entire product lineup for the remasters seems to have been concocted just to confuse shoppers.

If the lack of new mixes and including a DVD were shunned to keep the box to only "canon albums", I regret to inform Yoko, etc. that albums are missing from the remastered list. Live in Toronto. Live in NYC. Menlove Avenue. Wedding Album. Two Virgins. It's a shame, really a lost opportunity.

I see only two reasons to get this set. I hope they help you decide if they're worth $150 to you.

1) Lennon's rarely seen collages are sprinkled throughout the rather lovely book that comes in the box. I've only ever seen these in the book from the big Lennon show at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, and this book contains ones not in the Rock Hall book. There's a few photos I've never seen before either, including a nice one from 1966.

2) The Home Tapes CD featuring Dakota tapes and outtakes. To bootleg collectors, songs like India and One of the Boys are nothing new, but I believe these are unheard takes. The version of I Don't Want to Be A Soldier I Don't Want to Die is completely different and new to my ears.

The box also comes with a code to enter a John Lennon online universe, which I haven't entered yet but don't expect much but minimalist clouds from. The sound so far is good, but nothing earth shattering.

Guess I have to pick up Double Fantasy Stripped Down tomorrow. :(
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30 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2011
I have to start by saying this is a review of this package of music, not John Lennon or the music- THIS PACKAGE. So here goes- folks, do the math: Lennon's 8 CDs sell for around $13 each, except Sometime in NYC, which goes for $19. That's the new remastered 2010 versions right here on Amazon. 7x13=91 + 19= $110. So right there you've got all of John's CDs INCLUDING the stripped version of Double fantasy (not included here) for $60+ less than this! If you want the 6 "non album songs" you can pick up the new Power to the People CD for $13 which has them all except Move over Ms L (no great loss) (or the "John Lennon Collection" single CD used for pennies (which has them all). Then, you could get "wonsaponatime" CD for $14 for a better, longer version of what the "bonus CD" here attempts to offer. Frankly, I don't even think these "outtakes" belong in here, as this should be a box of his "regular releases". So purchased individually you can have All OF THIS, except for a few non essentials, and you'll have the Double Fantasy stripped to boot for $137!! Or leave out the outtakes, and just get the regular CDS ($110) + Power to the People $14 = $124!! Not even close to the $170+ this is going for!

NOW, if this box was the original 8 albums, + a 9th CD of DF stripped, plus a 10th CD of the "non album songs" plus some other outtakes and sold for $99 I'd buy it! I mean isn't a box set supposed to be less per CD than buying them individually! Missed opportunity!
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
I have to be honest, upon first hearing that the Lennon albums would be remastered once again I asked, "why?" It initially seemed like another way of Yoko cashing in on the already released catalog of John. My opinion changed when I read further into it and learned the specifics: the remasters would be culled from the original mixes (the last ones were remixed by Ono, although that take on the albums was interesting, they weren't the originals) and another selling point was they were handled by the same team that did the Beatles' issues last year, which were fantastic. After looking into what albums were exactly in the set and seeing a preview of the packaging; I ultimately decided it was worth my investment, especially since I didn't invest in all of the Ono remixes. Upon receiving the set today, it was everything I expected it to be.

The sound quality is a vast improvement on the original CD issues of the late 80s/early 90s, obviously, and this was the most important aspect of the set to me. All the studio albums are present from "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" to "Double Fantasy." Also included is the posthumous "Milk and Honey," which although wasn't supervised by Lennon at any point, is restored to the original 1984 mix. "Sometime in New York City", released in the remix issues in a truncated form, is presented in it's double disc format with the entire "Live Jam" present. The last time I heard the disc was in the mid 90s as an ignorant teenager, so getting a second chance to experience and opine it gave me another aspect of the set to look forward to. Getting to hear my two favorite Lennon albums "Mind Games" and "Walls and Bridges" in their released mixes with the restored sound is what really hit it home to me. As much as I find myself crediting Paul McCartney as the more melodically gifted Beatle, it's always Lennon's solo work I seem to be drawn to most out of all the boys. The supplements here are a disc of the non-album singles and another of demos and rehearsals. I could say the unreleased material was a bit skimpy, but after being graced with the "Lennon Anthology" and all the other positive aspects of this boxed set, how much more could be jammed into this? Anything further would really be overwhelming. Ono has spoke of attempting to figure out a clever way to release more of the rare stuff anyway. So, I think we can all sit back, bask in these remasters for the time being and patiently wait for more releases. After all you don't eat your dinner and dessert all at once, so let's space things out here.

In conclusion, this set for a true Lennon fan, or maybe even a casual admirer, is a good deal. People have complained of the "Double Fantasy: Stripped Down" mix being absent, and I can say I wasn't too deterred from having to purchase it separately as it's moderately priced. Anyone that's complaining a lot probably set their standards way too high and don't realize that all of our fantasies and dreams cannot be catered to exactly as we concoct them in our imaginations. "Signature Box" reached my expectations one hundred percent and I highly recommend it.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2010
Let me start by saying I have only just received this box and have not yet listened to the entire set. First of all, I was disappointed to discover that the 'Double Fantasy' disc does NOT include the 'stripped down' remix, which means a separate purchase of that disc is required. For some reason I had assumed that this high-end box would include the remix also, as the single disc (without the remix) cannot it seems be purchased separately. Nice way to annoy those fans willing to spend up big on the boxed set!

I was aware that the box did not include Lennon & Ono's first three so-called "experimental" albums. This may be understandable from a commercial point of view, but surely these three albums are an important part of Lennon's solo output, which is supposedly celebrated in this box. Same goes for the Live Peace in Toronto LP, as well as several worthwhile compilations and live LPs from the '80s (Menlove Avenue, Live in New York City). Surely it is clear by now that fans willing to fork out for an item like this are also the kind of people who want *everything* included - b-sides, non-album singles, live LPs, compilations, and so on. Is it really that difficult?

The packaging seems overblown and unnecessary, and in some ways poorly designed. It's tasteful for sure, but the fact that the box is about three times the required size seems over the top. I haven't seen so much wasted space inside a box since I bought Windows 95. The CD sleeves sit open edge down so the discs and booklets can easily become dislodged. The slide-out tray is an interesting touch I suppose, but overall the size of the box is a problem. Trying to fit this box as well as the differently shaped Beatles remasters (plus the Lennon Anthology etc) on a shelf is more difficult than solving Rubik's cube. Finally, the annoying habit of attaching cardboard to the *outside* of the box annoys the hell out of me. Once the shrinkwrap is off there is nowhere to put this oversized piece of cardboard, which is really only there to act as eye candy on the shelf.

Other reviews have commented on the poor sound quality, and I tend to agree based on my first listens. At first I thought my 'Double Fantasy' disc was faulty, so poor was the sound quality to my ears.

Overall, I am mighty unimpressed by this box considering the hefty price tag. Up until now I was reasonably positive about Ono's handling of Lennon's catalog, but this has changed my mind.
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2010
To the extent that i do or have ever "idolized" anyone, john lennon is certainly in my personal pantheon, absolutely. unquestionably one of the greatest composers, performers, visionaries of twentieth century music, his solo career was unfortunately inconsistent. we can take a critical approach to lennon's solo work without being iconoclastic or knocking him off his aphoristic pedestal. here i go....

Two reviews: here's the SHORT REVIEW first:

three stars to the box; four for the music as a whole, though five star music abounds within.

the box set may not be worth the money.

it's a fancy package, but the book adds nothing to the "lennon legacy", as it were, and the brief statements from yoko, julian, and sean are obvious and unilluminating.

the lithograph that comes with the box is nice, but it and the other printed matter aren't worth the additional expense of the box over the individual discs.

and now let's turn our attention to the discs, since they are what really matter.

the remastering definitely provides improved sound quality: good! does the average lennon fan need "some time in new york city", "rock and roll", or "milk and honey"? probably not. the worthwhile tracks on those discs are available on the "gimme some truth" compilation. of the two discs unique to the box set: one contains a handful of non-lp singles that are on "gimme some truth". the other contains outtakes that are unlikely to be of interest to all but the more (if not most) hardcore lennon fans. get them from a friend who has the box set or buy them as bootlegs or download them from somewhere online--they themselves don't merit the price of the boxset.

beyond that, most fans of lennon will likely be well-served with the single disc editions of "plastic ono band", "imagine", "mind games", and "walls and bridges", which present a lot of overlap with "gimme some truth".

i was one of apparently many who thought the "stripped down" version of "double fantasy" was in the box set. it isn't. (my response, which seems to be quite disagreeable to its audience, to the disc is offered in a separate review.)

unless a lennon fan is a real fan of his albums--and i can understand why many who appreciate lennon's music wouldn't be great fans of his often inconsistent albums--i think "gimme some truth" definitely provides a good overview of the music. i don't like the sequencing: in this era of ripping and burning, i'd resequence the songs to have a sort of lennon album highlights collection.

the box set did encourage me to begin listening to my lennon bootlegs again, and i enjoy the demo sessions and rough mixes of his albums a whole lot more than the commercial products with their horns, glossy production, and muddy mixes. that's why i'm looking forward to the "stripped down" "double fantasy". i wish EMI would release a box set of each of his "stripped down" albums. they are much better!

BEFORE THE LONG REVIEW, if anyone is still reading, one Amazon reviewer asked me why i was disappointed with the box set since the sonic qualities of the music are undeniably better than ever before, even the original vinyl releases. my response: That's a good and fair question, and one i still struggle with each time i look at it or take discs from it or listen to lennon. to respond to the question, i have to split my response to the box set in two: first, with regard to sonics, there is absolutely NOTHING disappointing about it. as you indicate, lennon seemed always to master his albums as though each was a single destined for AM radio airplay. finally, we can hear these albums as though they were recorded and mastered as albums.

but--big but--do we need a huge, fancy, celebratory, and quite costly box set to appreciate the improved sonics? i do not think such a box set is necessary: each album can stand (or fall) on its own merits (or lack thereof). the sentiments of that last sentence are, i think, where my disappointment with the box set begins. john lennon, beatle, and john lennon, solo artist, are two fairly distinct personae. as a beatle, i think lennon could do no wrong. as a solo artist, he produced an unfortunately inconsistent body of work. to the extent that his solo career is to be presented in a box set, that box set will not be one that could possibly measure up to, for argument's sake, the "bob in mono" box: those first eight albums are each important and groundbreaking. same for the beatles box sets, mono and stereo. however much i like lennon, and it is a tremendous amount, the same cannot be said of his solo catalogue. if there's any truth to what i'm saying, then it leads right to the question of what is the purpose of this box set? if i did not know lennon's career well and was introduced to the depth of it in this collection, i think i'd walk away very confused about what is the big deal: certainly, i'd say to myself, "what the hell is this "some time in new york city" thing?" at best i'd find it an interesting artifact in lennon's career, but not something that would get lots of play on my stereo/ipod. if the purpose of the box set is to provide this sort of insight and overview, then it misses the mark by omitting the zapple releases and "live peace in toronto". of course, there is little commercial viability in those records, so, yes, it's kind of obvious why they were omitted. the textual matter in the box set simply leaves me flat: it reveals little to long term fans of lennon; little to neophytes. nice photos, etc., but all that stuff could be in cd booklets.

in terms of box sets, to look at lennon's music critically, i think the "lennon anthology" box provides a much more insightful, revelatory perspective on lennon's career because of its selectivity. i think "gimme some truth"--despite the forced and awkward sequencing--provides a much better perspective on the significance and importance of the commercial product (and i use neither word on its own or both in conjunction as pejorative to any extent whatsoever) of lennon's solo career.

finally, i just don't see the big box set as anything other than an expensive and sort of self-congratulatory collection of lennon's commercial solo recordings. sonically, we do get to hear lennon better than ever before; no question. but that opportunity is not contingent upon the box set itself. i suppose i'd've liked the box set better if it either: cost about $30 less and was a handsome box containing just the discs; or if it were a lavish production that allowed me to gain some new perspective on or insight into lennon's career, life, musicianship, etc. but the box set just occupies some nebulous position between the two, and looks to my eyes like some tawdry bit of ornamentry for a music collection.

and here's the LONG REVIEW.

Three stars to the box; four for the music as a whole, though five star music abounds within.

There is little to add to the Martlett and Klein reviews: what i feel inclined to add is my disappointment that presentation of package trumps production of music. Lennon turned me on to music and to a whole new plane of mental existence. He was my childhood hero, and i never tire of his music and his words however humble or bombastic they were depending on the day, the size of the tumorous chip on his shoulder, or the phase of his career. The package is beautiful. But similar emphasis on the presentation of his musical legacy, which--except for the album booklets that are available without the box set--is missing. The box set seems to take the music for granted and feels lazy.

Similar to the Beatles' box sets of 2009, but to a much greater extent, i wonder who is the audience for this product. I guess i'm one: against my better judgment i bought it, but only after being persuaded that the sound quality merits the purchase of the remasters. The box set is an attractive concatenation of paper and cardboard, but it itself is not worth the price of admission. Consider how exciting the package of "The Wedding Album" was, or the original "Live Peace" with its calendar, or even the original cover of "Walls and Bridges". Even "Imagine" and "Some Time in New York City" had their very cool inserts. Aside from the well-presented lithograph, nothing in the box besides about 60 % of the music merits the purchase of the package.

While the digi-packs and booklets are worthy accompaniments to the music, the fancy little book and ancillary matter in the box are trite, especially given all the material published about Lennon since his solo career began and since his murder in 1980. I cannot imagine many purchasing it will be new to Lennon: novices will probably buy individual discs based upon the myriad reviews of them and the buyers' favorite tracks. Most people, i assume, will buy the four disc compilation, and they will likely be best served by it. Many will buy the "successful" Lennon albums. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the "Double Fantasy Stripped Down" is the biggest seller of all. (So why not include it in the box set?!? We all know why! The answer is too obvious and insulting to waste time putting into words! And yes, i'll be buying it too.) The book feels hastily put together, unsurprisingly congratulatory, too Ono-oriented, too dull! Some overview of Lennon's solo career that could put it in perspective thirty years on, some thoughtful, insightful statement about Lennon's work, its successes and failures, where it came from, whom it has influenced, its relevance today, would be a pleasure for all to read, be they new to Lennon or those who remember anticipating the releases of his new albums way back when. So, i'm back to my question about who the audience for this product is supposed to be.

Despite the painful self-indulgence of the Zapple recordings and "The Wedding Album" and "Live Peace in Toronto", these recordings are not so irrelevant that they deserve to be omitted from this collection. Do they merit repeated listening? Probably not. Are they essential recordings? No. But neither is disc two of "Some Time in NYC", or almost half the content of at least of five of the discs in this set. Better questions would consider their relevance as artifacts and and their influence on music and "pop art" ever since: tremendous! Do they provide insight for those interested in the person John Lennon? Absolutely! Do they contain moments of brilliance? Listen to "Radio Play" on "Unfinished Music, No. 2: Life With the Lions" for another moment of "genius" along the lines of "Revolution 9". But with the sort of revision in which this box set and reissue program engage, many listeners may never get that opportunity. And if insight into Lennon's career is important, there are many, many more "bootleg" recordings that could have been included: alternate takes, demos, songs Lennon gave away, sketches from the hours of "Dakota demos", etc.

Definitely Lennon's catalogue, perhaps more than any other analogue-era musician, needed remastering. Lennon was self-destructive in so many ways, and his choice of producers on every commercial solo recording (save for "Plastic Ono Band", which by virtue of Lennon's arrangements avoided the infernal and antithetical sensibility of Phil Spector) was a manifestation of that self-destructive tendency or at least the self-destructive consequences of his equally massive insecurities. And how Lennon ever accepted the final mastering of most of his 70's output astounds me--noise reduction and compression that anticipated the MP3 era by decades! Lennon's albums are well-served by the improved sound quality of these remasters. But i don't need the whole box set to enjoy that--just the discs. So again, to whom is this box set being targeted?

This box set being targeted at any sucker--there's one, like me, born every minute--willing to shell out the bucks. I'll flatter myself and claim that my ardent devotion led me to it. But to quote Lennon out of context, i'll offer this advice in closing: "Children, don't do what i have done"!

[ADDENDUM: I listened to the box set three times yesterday (I had it playing all day at work), and was so frustrated by the lack of revelation it offers that I began listening to Lennon bootlegs last night and this morning, especially the Vigotone sets featuring "stripped down" versions of "Imagine", "Mind Games", and "Walls & Bridges", the last of which is actually an outstanding collection of songs when stripped of overdubs and studio "jiggery pokery". So here's an idea for a box set that would be worth the price: a whole series of remastered, stripped down Lennon albums. Such a collection would introduce a new John Lennon, one whose music would re-establish him with the public.]
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2010
The music is remastered. This collection sounds better and clearer than the earlier remixes. The remasters are not a loud as the previous remix collection, which is truer to Lennon's original tapes. The music sounds great. Listen to the remasters closely and you'll notice that the tinge of distortion that sits on top of remixes' sound is now gone. The dynamics are now punchier and more distinct, which is more satisfying to the ear whether you notice it or not. I appreciate Yoko releasing this collections all at once and not dragging out the releases dates over a period of months.
I will keep my remix collection but I will listen to the remasters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2014
This is a beautiful box set. It really is. And at $97 for all the contents you get here, the price is approaching reasonability at this point. So I'm a little disappointed to see that this product has a low average rating, even though it's not a bad product at all. Without worrying about what it isn't, if I'm rating this product on what it is and what it contains, it's at least a four star product on its own merits. Since this is a collector's remastered box set, most likely to attract established Lennon fans, I want to focus mainly on talking about this product, rather than discussing the content or artistic quality of Lennon's albums.

This latest series of Lennon remasters was mounted to honor what would have been his 70th birthday in 2010. It's the third time Lennon's discography has been rereleased, including the first time they were put on CD back in the late '80s or early '90s. But the second batch of CDs, released in the early '00s, consisted mainly of remixes of the albums. They were good remixes but they were still remixes, so the original versions of Lennon's albums, as he intended them, had been unavailable or hard to find and had not had the chance to be properly restored and remastered. Also, Sometime in New York City was only available in a truncated version, removing parts of the original Live Jam portion. That album in its original format was unavailable in good quality. I would know, since I abided with the mediocre 1990s CD until this box set came along. Sure, the jam stuff is weird but it's how Lennon wanted the album--just like the albums that have Yoko's songs interspersed. He wanted them that way and that's how they always will be. Deal with it however you want, but that's the fact of the matter. I never bought Sometime in NCY reissued. I didn't want that version of it.

The 2010 remasters rectify this, as well as neatly rounding up all of Lennon's original studio recordings that he released in his lifetime while introducing no redundancy (except for one odd issue, to be addressed further below). The John Lennon Signature Box is what I would term as the archival or library edition of the (solo) works of John Lennon: his complete original studio albums and signals, as he intended them to be heard, in pristine audio quality, and that alone gives it a sort of purpose. If you haven't rounded up all of Lennon's albums on CD, or only own some of them as remixed editions, the 2010 remasters ( available individually or in this box set) constitute a fairly sound investment for a good music library. No, this collection does not include Menlove Ave. or Live in New York City, but those releases were posthumous, archival albums overseen by Yoko, so it doesn't make much more sense to include them than if they'd included the entire Lennon Anthology box set of demos and studio outtakes. Live Peace in Toronto is somewhat of an odd oversight but that album is available in fine quality on its own and some tracks from it are included on the separate Gimme Some Truth box set, a multi-disc overview of Lennon's work. That set also includes one or two tracks from Menlove and Live in NYC. I think that set is more for casual fans as is the one-disc hits package. I would only buy those, as an established fan, if you want to sample the new remasters at relatively little expense.

So this series is all about restoring Lennon's original studio recordings and it succeeds brilliantly. The original mixes may not be as shiny and "clean"-sounding as the remixes but the sound quality is very, very good and these CDs are very faithful to the original recordings, reflecting Lennon's artistic choices. I don't think the original mixes have ever sounded better on CD. Which mixes you prefer is a matter of personal preference. For me, I particularly enjoyed the Rock 'n' Roll remix, but I'm absolutely pleased to have the original mixes of Plastic Ono Band and especially Walls and Bridges in place. Because the albums are strictly Lennon's originals, we do lose the bonus tracks from the remixed editions. That's somewhat of a pity but to be honest, I only ever felt that Walls and Bridges and Double Fantasy had really strong bonus tracks. And as a fan, I do feel it's important to have the original mixes here in good quality. A major thumbs-up and thank you, Yoko, for doing that. Lennon fans may want the new remasters just to have the original mixes. The differences are truly noticeable and striking at times and it's a great tribute to John to have all of these recordings available as he intended, housed in this beautiful box. It does him a great honor and patrons of the arts a positive service.

Along with the original albums, the box set also includes a disc of "singles"--Lennon's non-album tracks, now neatly rounded up , eliminating the need for otherwise redundant compilations. Here you'll find Give Peace a Chance, Cold Turkey, Instant Karma, Power to the People, Happy X-mas (War is over) and Move over, Ms. L. That last one is a rare b-side that hadn't been released on CD for years. It's not John's best but it's essential to a collection of his work and I'm very pleased it's here. This disc is short but serves its purpose in completing the archive.

The final disc of the set consists of previously unreleased studio outtakes and home tapes, which are cool to hear and major Lennon fans will want to own them. I suppose these were tracks left over from the Anthology project. Highlights include an alternate recording of Serve Yourself and outtakes of Mother and Love. Also, very nice versions of Isolated, Remember, and Beautiful Boy. There are also demos of a couple of songs Lennon had never finished and I'd never heard until now. This does a lot to make up for those bonus tracks from the previous reissues. However, I do think this Singles and Rarities-oriented section could have been expanded by including some of the bonus tracks from those CDs, as well as a few cuts from Menlove Ave. (Here we Go Again) springs to mind, as well as the acoustic version of Real Love from the Imagine documentary and George Martin's beautiful orchestrated restoration of Grow Old with Me. Especially as the Singles disc is short, there would have been space to include some more of this material without expanding the number of discs. But I do appreciate that this collection is not mainly about rarities but about restoring Lennon's original library, so I'm treating the "Home Tapes" disc as mainly a bonus to begin with. (Again, thanks, Yoko. I'm listening to this portion now and it's good stuff for fans.)

On the note, I also want to mention the exclusion of Double Fantasy Stripped Down from this set, as it seems to have caused some ire. That's entirely understandable, but if this box set was to round up Lennon's original albums, it does make some sense not to include the stripped remix. That is completely logical in terms of the concept. None of the other albums have remixed versions used; things are expressly to the contrary. On the other hand, if Double Fantasy Stripped Down was not going to be used, I do feel that it should have been sold without another copy of the original mix. That's the redundancy I was talking about above. If you buy this box set and you also want to buy DF Stripped Down, you get two copies of the original DF. The only alternative I know of is to purchase only the stripped down tracks as mp3s. (I actually bought the Stripped Down CD before I got this set, as I was originally not going to buy the full set. I eventually gave in to temptation and put it on my Christmas wish list. Otherwise I probably still would not have it. Thanks to my family!)

Before I wrap up, I want to touch on the packaging. It's a nicely made box set and cool to look at. I didn't need all the liner notes, but the photographs and John's drawings are always a joy to see. And I love the insert with briefs statements from Yoko, Sean, and Julian. I liked Sean's statement best. For all the talk about Julian not getting time with his dad--which is true--Sean was also deprived. His father died when he was only five years old. Think about what you remember from the age of five. Sean probably does not have that many clear memories of Daddy, although he obviously has some, which is a blessing. It has to be said that Julian, while he was neglected and quite possibly mistreated, did know is dad for a longer and more cognizant period of his life. To me, Sean comes across as sympathetic and warm here. He talks about having to "share" his dad with fans and admirers, which isn not always easy, but he is gracious generous to such people, opining that they did know John in a sense through his music. Sean sounds like an intelligent, thoughtful, and sensitive person trying to deal his best with what life has given him. Although I enjoyed reading all of the statements, I felt his and Yoko's were the best-written. Yoko has a unique voice and is, I think, a good writer. I think the key to good writing is to have a strong and unique voice (and perspective) and Yoko has mastered that. You can hear her attitude on the page and, to me, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Her comments made me smile and feel sad at the same time. She reveals that she still talks to John in her head. Wonderful insights abound in all of the comments.

As a final touch, when you unfold the insert containing the family's personal statements and hold horizontally, it spells out "Give Peace a Chance". I can see John smiling at that.

Overall, this is a beautiful library of Lennon, recommended for fans of the man who wish to make the splash. As I said, judging it for what it includes, I cannot fault it. It's also valuable in assembling John's complete original recordings as he wished them to be heard. A great addition to any music library and a beautiful gift and tribute to John Lennon. A beautiful box of music. "Yes" is the answer.
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