The release of the Instant Karma collection, which I reviewed here, got me thinking about Lennon's solo music and I continue to enjoy listening to what new artists have done to reinterpret Lennon's songs. With the release this week of Lennon's catalog on iTunes I noticed a best-of collection called Working Class Hero, the Definitive Lennon and, as I looked at it, I found myself thinking that this was a great collection of songs. Now I already have most of the Lennon stuff, having bought both the original boxed set, called Lennon, and the John Lennon's Anthology, which did for Lennon's solo music what The Beatles' Anthology did for the group's music – present out-takes and alternate versions along with a few unreleased gems. As I looked at Working Class Hero I realized that I had every one of the 38 songs on the collection so I made my own version of it using the discs I had and iTunes.
Listening to this collection a couple of times made me realize that this is, perhaps, the best way to listen to Lennon's solo music. First of all, this is a long collection, thirty-eight tracks, so there is a lot of music here. It takes more than two-and-a-half hours to listen to it all. Second, while a few of Lennon's albums are classics, most notably Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, the rest of his releases have quite a bit of stuff on them that is less than stellar. And I can only listen to Plastic Ono Band when I'm in a certain mood because that album is really intense. Plus, Lennon's singles were really good. "Give Peace a Chance," "Instant Karma," and "Happy Xmas" are among his best work and they don't live on any regular albums. That's why I enjoyed Shaved Fish, Lennon's first greatest hits collection, so much in the old album days.
All the expected songs are here. You'll be hard pressed (or at the very least a hard-core fan) to be able to name any significant song that has been left off. And this collection includes the Lennon-only demo of "Real Love" and, as an added bonus, the George Martin orchestrated version of "Grow Old With Me" closes out the album. I'm generally not a "greatest hits" kind of guy, preferring to think that albums are conceived and created as units and therefore ought to be listened to as such, but Working Class Hero is one case where pulling out the best songs works out really well.