Most of Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The one exception came from “Just Like Starting Over”, which offered a 1.78:1 ratio. Given the very broad range of source materials, one couldn’t expect great visuals from Legend, and indeed the image seemed problematic.
As with all else seen here, sharpness varied. For the most part, the shots looked acceptably accurate but not tremendously well defined. The videos usually demonstrated reasonable definition, but quite a lot of variation occurred, and more than a few rather soft shots occurred. Occasional examples of jagged edges and shimmering appeared, and I also saw some moderate edge enhancement on occasion.
Not surprisingly, source flaws created many concerns. These varied from clip to clip but included varying levels of grain, specks, hairs, grit, spots, lines, and marks. None of these surprised me, but they definitely distracted at times.
Also unsurprisingly, colors varied considerably. Actually, the hues didn’t change that much, as they mostly seemed fairly flat and lifeless. Not a lot of vivacity appeared here, as the tones consistently looked mild and bland. Black levels seemed similarly erratic but tended toward somewhat inky tones and didn’t display much density. Shadows didn’t pop up often and seemed decent when they occurred. Ultimately, none of the visuals of Lennon Legend should surprise anyone, as no one could expect stellar picture quality from a project of this sort.
On the other hand, the audio fared quite well. Lennon Legend featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I noticed no differences between the two, as they seemed virtually identical.
That was fine with me, since both sounded very good. The songs opened up the normal stereo soundfield nicely much of the time. The tracks never went absolutely nuts, and they usually stayed with reasonably faithful stereo imaging. Main vocals stayed well centered, while instruments spread naturally and distinctively across the spectrum. Delineation seemed clean and tight.
Surround usage varied from song to song but seemed engaging. Some songs – like “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” – stayed surprisingly stuck in the front; given that track’s sonic busyness, I expected it to spread more actively to the rear. Other numbers did that, however, and worked nicely. For example, “Instant Karma” moved some piano and handclaps to the rear, while “#9 Dream” presented the song’s surreal insert vocals in the surrounds. These elements worked naturally and smoothly to create an effective soundfield.
Audio quality depended on the source to a degree but seemed generally excellent. Any distortion to vocals emanated from the original recordings. For example, “Instant Karma” always was rough, and that quality remained here. For the most part, though, Lennon’s singing was concise and natural. Instruments seemed cleanly depicted and nicely detailed.
Highs came across as clear and bright, while bass response often seemed surprisingly rich. A few tracks like “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” sounded a little thin, but others took on life I’d not previously heard. “Stand By Me” demonstrated a depth and clarity I didn’t recall from prior murkier editions, and the usually thin “Mind Games” was quite warm and inviting. I’ll leave to others to debate if this mucked with the original production intentions; the answer’s likely “yes”, but I won’t worry about that here. Suffice it to say that Lennon Legend consistently sounded very strong.
The DVD includes a mix of extras. We open with an alternate video for Working Class Hero. This provides the version of the song heard on the 1998 John Lennon Anthology compilation along with occasional Lennon soundbites. We also get a general montage of Lennon clips, old photos, and a few of his cartoons appear as well. It’s not a very interesting piece.
Next we get a rarity for this set: a clip that actually looks like a real music video. Shot for the 1975 Rock ‘n’ Roll album, Slippin’ and Slidin’ shows a mimed performance in the studio from John and band. It’s not the same as a true live clip, but it’s fun to watch John play for the camera, and it’s a highlight of this package.
Apparently John’s final true live performance, Imagine comes from an April 18, 1975 “Salute to Lew Grade” concert. Lennon strums an acoustic guitar and sings with band accompaniment. Though he plays to a seemingly disinterested crowd and doesn’t produce a great performance, this piece stands as a very cool artifact and marks one of this set’s best moments.
A brief and odd clip, Hair Piece comes across as a kind of weird public service announcement. John and Yoko tell us to stay in bed and grow our hair for peace. It didn’t work, but it’s an interesting bit to see.
Another short and strange piece, Everybody Had a Hard Year shows John and Yoko in a garden. They sing what would become part of “I’ve Got a Feeling” as he picks the melody to “Julia” on the guitar. It’s a curiosity, but an interesting one.
20 short Animations appear. These feature the well-known Lennon style of simple cartoon, and they last a total of 90 seconds. These didn’t do much for me. Finally, the Gallery displays a running montage of Lennon photos. These come accompanied by an instrumental version of “Imagine”. It’s a decent collection that lasts three minutes.
Though not without its moments, I must regard Lennon Legend as a disappointment. Occasional gems appear, but mostly we just get one fairly monotonous video montage after another. Picture quality displays many flaws due to the source material, but the audio sounded quite good. The extras include some fine elements as well; in fact, the supplements presented a few of the set’s highlights. Despite those, Legend remains best suited to Lennon die-hards.