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Michael Epstein
John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Klaus Voormann
Writing Credits:
Joss Crowley

The story of John Lennon's 1971 album Imagine, exploring the creative collaboration between Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS 5.1
LPCM Stereo
Supplement Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $21.98
Release Date: 9/13/2019

• 2 Raw Studio Out-takes
• “Oh Yoko!” Bahamas 1969
• 1971 Chris Claudio Conversation
• Booklet


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John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 19, 2019)

Though diehard fans tend to view 1970’s Plastic Ono Band as John Lennon’s best solo album, 1971’s Imagine gets the most attention, likely because of its iconic title song. With 2019’s John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky, we get a new look at the album’s creation.

Sky uses a standard documentary framework. This means it mixes archival footage with modern-day interviews.

In the latter category, we hear from Yoko Ono, secretary Diana Robinson, journalists Kieron “Spud” Murphy, Doug Ibold, Kenelm Jenour and Ray Connolly, son Julian Lennon, assistant Dan Richter, recording engineers Jack Douglas and Eddie Veale, Indica Gallery’s John Dunbar, Everson Museum of Art’s David A. Ross, activist Tariq Ali, photographer David Bailey, DJ Elliot Mintz, Apple Records’ Allan Steckler, and musicians Jim Keltner, Klaus Voormann and Alan White. We also get archival comments from Ono and Lennon.

For the most part, Sky examines aspects of the Imagine sessions. It also spreads beyond that subject for a broader look at the John and Yoko relationship and aspects of the era, though it usually sticks with Imagine.

Given how much attention various books and videos have given to Imagine/John & Yoko, it becomes tough for Sky to find fresh material. This makes it an engaging show but not one that reveals much fans don’t already know.

Unquestionably, Sky fares best when it sticks with archival footage, especially the clips from the Imagine recording sessions. Again, some of this will seem familiar, but we find a good collection of shots and these deliver valuable insights into the processes.

Some of the footage from other circumstances works well, too. We see shots of John that show his early version of 1972’s “New York City”, and we get an extended take of Curt Claudio, the creepy stalker who popped up at John’s house in 1971.

All of this material delights, as do the occasional archival interviews. Honestly, I could watch hours of Imagine sessions alone.

As for the rest, it seems fine but less compelling. Part of the problem stems from Sky’s erratic focus, as it never quite seems to know where it wants to go.

I guess Sky posits itself mainly as a John and Yoko-based program, but it doesn’t concentrate in a concise way. This makes it erratic and less than coherent.

Given the documentary’s 90-minute running time, Sky lacks the space to adequately explore the enormity of the John and Yoko relationship. That’s not really enough time for a thorough assessment of Imagine alone much less the broader scope we find here.

All of this makes Sky an enjoyable but superficial hodgepodge. It becomes useful due to a nice allotment of good archival materials, but it could use either a tighter focus or a much longer running time.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc – mostly. We also get a fair amount of 1.33:1 material along the way, so expect mixed aspect ratios.

Like any program that mixes archival and new footage, picture quality varied. As always, I viewed the old material and the new shots with different expectations, and the archival stuff jumped all over the place.

It could look pretty good at times, but we also got some messy, clips. I didn’t have any real problems with those, however, as I figured they were about as good as we could get.

In any case, the flaws of the old bits didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the program. They blended just fine and didn’t cause distractions.

Overall, the new footage offered nice visuals. Sharpness was quite good, as virtually no softness impacted on the new footage.

Those elements appeared concise and accurate. Colors were reasonably natural, and no notable defects affected the new footage.

Blacks and shadows followed suit, as they seemed perfectly positive. Overall, the visuals were solid given the program’s parameters.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Sky, its reliance on music made it a little livelier than I’d expect from a documentary. Songs were a constant companion, and they spread to the side and rear speakers. Stereo delineation was positive and the overall soundfield seemed acceptable.

Audio quality was solid. The new interview comments sounded just fine, as they offered perfectly acceptable clarity. No issues with edginess or intelligibility occurred, as they provided warm and natural tones.

Music also demonstrated good range and definition, while the rare effects appeared decent. This mix did enough right to earn a “B-“.

A few bonus materials appear, and we get three related to music. These include raw takes (7:14) of “How Do You Sleep?”, a raw studio mix (3:19) of “Oh My Love” and a version of “Oh Yoko!” from Bahamas 1969 (4:25).

“Sleep?” and “Love” come with footage from the Imagine sessions, while “Yoko!” shows film of John and Yoko while he works through the song. All three are terrific – I’d love to get all the footage of this sort that exists.

A Conversation with Chris Claudio spans seven minutes, 56 seconds. Claudio is the stalker who pops up at John and Yoko’s house, and we see parts of his interaction with them in Sky.

“Conversation” brings a longer version of this. It’s good to check out the extended take of this foreboding event.

Finally, the package includes a booklet. It mixes credits and photos to become a minor addition.

When it concentrates on archival materials, John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky delights. Unfortunately, the documentary lacks much focus and comes with too little cinematic space to become a satisfying examination of the subject matter. The Blu-ray brings adequate picture and audio as well as a few bonus materials. The clips from the 1970s make this one worthwhile but I’d like to see a much longer version.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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