Artist: Yoko Ono
Album: Yes, I’m a Witch
Comments: Here are the facts.
1) There once was this band back in the 60s named The Beatles. They were from England.
2) They came to America and took shit over. To use the parlance of our times, they were kind of a big deal.
3) This guy in The Beatles, John, met this girl named Yoko and they fell in love. She was an artist.
4) A little bit later, The Beatles broke up, and John and Yoko made an album called “Plastic Ono Band”. People hated Yoko, and later, John died.
I don’t really have an opinion on weather or not Yoko Ono had anything to do with The Beatles breaking up. In my mind, most of it is probably just outrage at such a widely loved act splitting up and the need for a reason. However, there’s always the chance that Yoko cast some sort of spell on John that hypnotized him. Yoko always kind of struck me a fruit loop, and I wouldn’t put hypnotism past her. Regardless, 37 years after John Lennon turned Yoko from some nut-bar, post-modernist into a recording artist, we are given “Yes, I’m a Witch”.
Feelings on Yoko Ono aside, I really have to give her some points. For this record, she did something that is undeniably cool. See, this isn’t a new record of songs from Yoko; it’s more of a career spanning compilation that is meant to bring her into the 21st century, and maybe even get her some young, new, scarf wearing, coffee house hoping fans. But this isn’t the usual mass collection of pre-recorded songs. Allow me to explain; 17 different acts signed on to do a reworking of some Ono songs. This album brings together a mix of indie darlings (The Flaming Lips, Cat Power), dance DJs (Peaches, Le Tigre), a bunch of cats I’ve never even heard of (who the fuck is Shitake Monkey??), and Sleepy Jackson. Ono opened her entire catalogue of songs to these people, and told them to take whatever they wanted. As a result, most songs just feature her original vocals, while the music itself is completely reworked. This is a pretty excellent way to make a compilation in my opinion, and I give Ono credit for giving these acts access to all her work, warts and all.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I know a damn thing about anything Yoko Ono has ever recorded. I think I have “Plastic Ono Band” somewhere on my computer, but I’ve never listened to it. So I can’t provide any sort of commentary on how these new remixes stack up next to Yoko’s actual work. The only context I have to work with is what I’ve heard, and what I hear is a pretty good remix album that may not gain a whole lot of new fans, but has a few nice songs on it.
First, the goodness. “No One Can See Me Like You Do”, which is reworked by The Apples in Stereo, lays Ono’s vocals on top of a tender love song layered with strings, bells, and minimal drums. The song works really well, and creates a real emotional response. This song would sound good in a movie soundtrack somewhere, when two lovers are pining over each other; likewise with Cat Power’s “Revelations”. DJ Spooky reworks “Rising” into a trippy electronica track, using synth and background howls to create some pretty good tension, only to relieve it with scratching as the song breaks down. “Yes, I’m a Witch” , which appears to be Ono’s career manifesto, is reworked with surprising skill by the Blood Brothers. Considering how abrasive and absurd the Blood Brother’s albums usually are, this is a surprisingly accessible remix that sticks to traditional rock and serves as a reminded that maybe rap rock COULD work, if done in the right hands.
The rest of the album is pretty good, if not nessisarily standout. There are a few miss-steps. “Cambridge 1969/2007” is just a straight up Flaming Lips song; it has their usual “wall of joyful noise” style of play, and, unlike the other tracks on the album, I cannot really tell where Ono is being used on this song. It’s not bad; it just doesn’t fit with the album. Peaches’ rendition of “Kiss Kiss Kiss” is pretty awful; it not only features some really shaky minimal production, but it also features the erectile-dysfunction-triggering sound of Yoko Ono having an orgasm, which is about number 4 on the “top ten things I’ve never wanted to hear” list. And Sleepy Jackson’s disco soul rendition of “I’m Moving On” just falls on its face.
Maybe to you, Yoko Ono is the evil, twisted bitch who ruined one of rock music’s most important groups. Or maybe, she’s just a misunderstood artist who will forever have to deal with the public opinion that she ruined her dead husband’s life. Regardless, “Yes, I’m a Witch” won’t change your opinion of her either way, but it may start a conversation about her with a whole new generation. If nothing else, it’s a pretty good electronic record.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Key Tracks: Rising, No one can see me Like You Do, Yes, I’m a Witch.
Worth The Money: Only for some, not a must have