Friday, July 14, 2017

Yoko Ono LPs

In November of last year, three early Yoko Ono LPs were reissued on vinyl and compact disc by the Secretly Canadian label, partnering with Ono's own Chimera Music. The albums Two Virgins and Life with the Lions (both made in collaboration with John Lennon) and Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band (originally released alongside Lennon's Plastic Ono Band/Primal Scream LP) were made available on vinyl for the first time in decades. All three came with bonus tracks and 'rare photos'. 

Today the second series of three has been released: Fly (1971), Approximately Infinite Universe (1972) and Feeling the Space (1973). 

Fly is one Ono's best. The double LP includes the twenty-two minute soundtrack to the film of the same name, the 16-minute track "Mind Train" (which would later inspire Stereolab's best song), and "Don't Worry Kyoko [Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand in the Snow]", a pain-cry for Ono's kidnapped daughterThe record also features contributions from Fluxus colleagues George Maciunas (the cover design) and Joe Jones (the self-playing music machines on "Airmale", "Don't Count The Waves" and "You").

On Approximately Infinite Universe Ono is accompanied by the NYC band Elephants Memory, a Greenwich Village politically active street band who had worked with Lennon and Ono on Sometime in New York City and the live performance that was later released as Lennon's Live in New York City. While their blue-rock stylings are ill-suited to Ono's music, there are some stand-out tracks on the double LP, such as "Death of Samantha" and "Yang Yang". The latter closes with a call to "join the revolution" but the lyrics that precede it seem to suggest it's a personal cry to her husband, who spends all of his time on the phone and whose "chord's never long enough to reach your mommy's trick." 

"I Want My Love To Rest Tonight" offers a gentler look at both interpersonal and revolutionary politics: 

Sisters, don't blame your man to much,
You know he's doing his best.
You know his fear and loneliness,
He can do no more, no less.
He was told by his mothers to never trust girls,
He was told by his fathers to never shed tears.

The feminist themes continue on Feeling the Space, Ono's last recording for Apple Records, and her last solo record for eight years (she returned in 1981 with the brilliant Season of Glass, which included many songs that addressed Lennon's murder the year before). 

Pitchfork reviewed all three LPs today, assigning ratings of 8.7, 8.2 and 7, respectively. The first two were awarded the site's "Best New Reissue" accolade. 

Buy the disks from Bandcamp, here, and read the Pitchfork reviews here.

Update: I just noticed that the Apple logo on the disc label has been replaced with what looks like a grapefruit. This is not likely a slight to the Beatles' label, which I've always assumed was named Apple after Lennon's early encounter with Ono's Apple, below.

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