John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Milk and Honey (1984)

History: During the recording of Double Fantasy John and Yoko had other songs they recorded but decided not to include on the album. They planned to do a follow up album titled Milk and Honey, though John’s murder ruined that before they could begin. Yoko sat on the tracks for three years before deciding to finish them for release, also adding a few new songs she wrote.

My own personal history and initial prediction: “I’m Stepping Out” and “Nobody Told Me” are the two I’m familiar with here, though I feel like I don’t hear them come up very often. I sort of forget they exist until they suddenly pop up again. I’m lowering my standards going in to this, just knowing that John didn’t really get to finish these songs so they may be a bit rough.

Review: That prediction is definitely accurate. So many of John’s songs here sound more like what you would hear on something like The Beatles Anthology or a bonus disc of demo songs that might get included with a regular release. You often hear his comments to the musicians leading in to the songs, and sometimes he even talks in the middle of them. I don’t think this is a bad thing as long as you know what you’re heading into. John’s wit and charm are on full display and I imagine that was a bit part of why they chose to leave them in. But the whole thing does have a very bittersweet quality to it all, knowing that they really had no choice but to give us these sometimes incomplete songs because John never had the chance to finish them.

“Nobody Told Me” is probably the strongest out of John’s offerings, or maybe that’s to say it’s the most complete, though there is a fair bit about it that reminds me of “Instant Karma.” I can’t help but think, would John have given it another take to try to make it a little more unique? Would his intended version with Ringo been much different? Beyond that his songs mostly have a similar feel to the ones on Double Fantasy, that strong classic rock n roll influence coming through with also a bit of reggae on “Borrowed Time.” It still feels very much like what he was doing in the 70s, with the exception of “(Forgive Me) My Little Flower Princess.” While it would be a stretch to call that one New Wave, there is something about it that is much more modern feeling than the rest of his songs here. By the time we get to “Grow Old With Me,” we’re at the same tape quality as the “Free as a Bird” demo the Beatles used to make their version. Add to it the theme of the song itself and it all just leaves you feeling very sad.

Yoko’s songs are a very eclectic mix, with a lot more modern 80s sounds. She was definitely very at home in this era of music. She floats between singing and spoken word pieces, sometimes within the same song. I enjoyed these more than I did the ones on Double Fantasy, though I’m not sure there are any here I would want to listen to again. “Your Hands” was probably the most appealing to me, primarily because she sings in Japanese and I just really love the sound of the language. Alternating between that and speaking in English also just really works for the mood of the song too. I also appreciate that she largely left her song “Let Me Count the Ways” in demo form to more properly fit next to “Grow Old With Me” since the two songs are linked together in theme and meaning.

Overall, I’m just sad that my journey with John’s music ends here. It seems inevitable that his music would have evolved in some form had he had a chance to keep going, and we’ll just never know how that would have sounded. His hiatus before death also really hurts that I think, because in a lot of ways he was still working with songs he wrote in the 70s and we weren’t getting too much of a feel of what he would have gravitated towards going forward. Would he have stuck more to his rock roots or would he have embraced some of what Yoko was doing? These days, would he be collaborating with Sean in some fashion? It’s so frustrating not to know.

Next Time: Paul gives his regards to Broad Street, which means I also have a film to watch.

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