Mr. Jim wrote:The gospel sound of "God" is of course enhanced by the fact that it was Billy Preston on piano. Lennon's piano (as on "Mother") playing reminds me less of gospel per se than of '50s. Certainly the chords harken back to those '50s kinds of chord progressions. His guitar playing is more sophisticated though, with traces of Hendrix in "Hold On John".
Yes. This offers supporting evidence (exhibit A, anyone) that Lennon may well have been thinking of Hendrix's rhythm guitar style in playing ``Don't Let Me Down,'' which I consider to be one of the two great Hendrix-inspired tunes.
What makes "Mother" sound gospelly to these ears is the space everybody leaves. I don't recall if there is any reverb on the instruments, but it feels almost like it's being played in a hall or church.
This is as good a time to note specifically that I think there is a tape echo or slapback on Lennon's voice here. This is how Lennon gets the effect when he says, ``Mama, don't gooooooo,'' and slides up in pitch. There is a second voice just following him (that's the echo). This is similar to Hendrix's solo (while we're on the subject of Hendrix) in ``All Along the Watchtower'' when he plays slide. It's not reverb; it's that old Sun Sessions effect that Sam Phillips used.
Now in general, I also wanted to make a rebuttal to a claim* that the loveless made quite a few pages back, namely that there isn't that much studio adornment on the sounds and the vocals.
Christgau noticed** (and if my memory serves me right) I agree with him (see Living Without the Beatles, 1970) that except for a very few places such as ``I just believe in me...'' almost all the vocals on Plastic Ono Band are processed somehow with significant amounts of EQ, reverb, echo, etc.
The lyrics say, ``we're being direct, for once.'' The instrumentation says, ``no more Sgt. Pepper bullshit here, just straightforward playing.'' The engineering, though, says, ``we are manipulating things here. This is a studio album, not a direct transcription of a live performance.''
*the loveless wrote:On this record, however, Lennon managed to get something unusual from Spector - a direct, focused, raw, and uncluttered sound. More often than not, the vocals are bone dry and single tracked.
Robert Christgau wrote:
I also believe, however, that music overwhelms lyrics on Plastic Ono Band. Carman Moore, who is a composer as well as a critic, thinks John has emerged as the most musical Beatle in terms of chords, melodic lines, and other such arcana, which only shows what I've said all along--that you can perceive that stuff without analyzing it. For me, the musicality of Plastic Ono Band can be summed up in one word: strength. At first, of course, what came through was crudity. The music sounded stark and even perfunctory compared to the free harmonies and double guitars of the Beatles' rock and roll. But the music of the album inheres not in its instrumentation but in the way John's greatest vocal performance, a complete tour of rock timbre from scream to whine, is modulated electronically. Like so much great rock and roll, it depends on studio gimmickry, with the greatest of the gimmickers, Phil Spector, providing the expertise while stripped of his power to grind sixteen tracks down to mush. John's voice unadorned appears only twice: on "Working Class Hero" and after the nonbelieving malediction of "God," when John says, "I just believe in me/ Yoko and me/ And that's reality." Elsewhere it is echoed, filtered, and double-tracked, with two voices sometimes emanating in a synthesis from between the speakers and sometimes dialectically separated. In addition, the guitar and even the drumming is distorted. http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/bk-aow/beatles.php
More trivia, but I think Lennon either read this review or read Carmen Moore's comments. If you read the Lennon Remembers interview, he talks about the fact that even though he's totally unschooled as a musician, he feels that POB was the most sophisticated stuff he's done, and he cites that some critic says this...although, true to form, he can't remember who the critic is.