John Lennon
Menlove Ave.
(Capitol 46576)

"I just can't get enough of Walls and Bridges by John Lennon! It's so focussed and every song is so rock solid! I wish I could hear some outtakes from that album!!!!" Well, improbable person, Menlove Ave. is for you. Consisting of unreleased material and alternate versions from the Rock and Roll/Walls and Bridges sessions, Menlove Ave. was compiled in 1986 to offer fans another John Lennon album, since the guy was stubbornly refusing to make any new music following that unfortunate shooting accident. Certainly you can't fault Yoko for offering new stuff to the fans – they want new stuff, and they don't mind if it's crap. The main problem is that John just didn't leave us much good music after Imagine – the "lost weekend" period was seen as a lame Lennon era then, and it hasn't changed. This is one uncharted area of rock history that just won't improve with revision. You can't argue the "neglected" quality of this material, it's just bloated, lame music made by a very lost, very drunk guy (who happened to also have written "In My Life" and other fab favorites).

The first half is mainly Rock and Roll outtakes, featuring a couple of Lennon originals ("Here We Go Again" and "Rock and Roll People") that had been previously unreleased. Lennon might have saved these with any semblance of creative melodies or remote catchiness, but they're pretty unremarkable "undiscovered gems." A few "rock classics" get Lennonized ("Angel Baby," "Since My Baby Left Me," "To Know Her is to Love Her"), and they all suffer from Phil Spector's mid-70's production style, in which the "Wall of Sound" is revealed to actually be a "shower curtain of reverb." The remainder of the album consists of five Walls and Bridges outtakes – all songs from that album, but presented here in alternate versions. They're decent songs, but you gotta figure, the versions on the original album were sufficient, right? It's not like that album is The Basement Tapes or something, where you want to hear more.

It was hardly Lennon's finest hour, anyway – "Steel and Glass" is a poor rewrite of "How Do You Sleep," "Scared" sounds like Plastic Ono Band '74 – they're fine songs for what they are, but you'd have to be a Level 5 Lennon fan to really get into them (most people have only been granted Level 2 access, wherein your interest level wanes significantly past perhaps the Lennon Legend collection). "Old Dirt Road" and "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" are a bit more noteworthy, though they're pretty mid-70s LA sounding. "Bless You" is pleasant but forgettable – actually, it would make a pretty good funk song. If I heard it on a Jon Lucien album I'd like it. The whole thing might be more interesting in the context of a specifically-designed rarities collection, but as an album Menlove Ave. is a cul-de-sac clear across town from Abbey Road.

Review by Lane Salamanderi