Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

John Lennon: Wonsaponatime [Capitol, 1998]
As someone who scoffs at the outtake collections of known improvisers, I doubt I'll be delving into the box too often, although the live stuff is worth hearing. But not only does this one-disc distillation spare borderline obsessives financial anxiety, it proves Lennon the great singer he's rarely remembered as. Whether the alternate rearrangements are drastic (Cheap Trick on "I'm Losing You," strings on "Grow Old With Me") or subtle (pianoless "God," single-tracked "Oh My Love"), every song is renewed by a vocal commitment that shades the canonical take, usually toward sweetness or rage. There's new material, too: blues cover, Platters cover, pledge of love, and the priceless Dylan answer song "Serve Yourself." Lennon wasn't above dabbling in religion. But he never got so down he mistook God for more than a concept by which he measured his pain. A-