Published Feb 17, 2016Oh, Yoko.
The 82-year-old artist/Lennon widow/self-proclaimed witch has once again opened up her collection of tunes to indie artist collaborations on Yes, I'm A Witch Too, the followup to 2007's Yes, I'm A Witch. Collaborators include indie darlings Death Cab for Cutie, tUnE-yArDs, Peter, Bjorn and John, and Portugal. the Man, as well as glam rock mainstays Sparks and her son, Sean Ono Lennon, among a host of electronic producers.
As on Yes, I'm A Witch, each artist has completely reinvented their respective tune, transforming and stripping it back so that the true strength of Ono's songwriting is revealed. Gone are the shrieks, shrill vocals and moans that normally pepper an Ono tune, which could very well be the reason why some folks are hesitant to give her music a chance. Her confidence, avant-garde stylings and fearless expression can be a tad intimidating — if not seen as self-indulgent — but this record is yet another chance for Ono naysayers to lend an ear. Yes, I'm A Witch, Too is a collection of decidedly more electronic-heavy reinventions, which could help expose her to a more dance-savvy audience.
Sparks' take on "Give Me Something" replaces the curious descending guitar riff with a waltzy, skipping piano melody and beefs up the chorus with backing vocals, later weaving her original bird-like caws with a robotic sounding break and glissando on the piano. Penguin Prison's version of "She Gets Down On Her Knees," a standout track on the record, is driven by a real groover of a bass riff, fleshing out what was originally a thinner-sounding song and making it irresistibly danceable (and again toning down Ono's vocal experimentation). Her son Sean reinvents "Dogtown," adding intricate synth runs and guitar licks, while Jack Douglas stays true to the punk-like "Move On Fast" by amplifying the song's killer riff and making it sound very fresh and new. tUnE-yArDs flips "Warrior Woman" on its head, adding electronic drums, a gnarly bass run and frantic vocals, transforming the relatively soft tune into controlled chaos.
There's a catch-22 at play here, though; while Yes, I'm A Witch Too makes Ono's work more accessible by sanding down the more experimental edges, in doing so, it somewhat detracts from what makes Ono's great. She's a wild woman, unhinged, unafraid to be unapologetically herself, and this collection tones down those qualities.
And yet, it that's what it takes to get her music to potentially attract new listeners, that's ultimately a good thing. Those curious to know what the original songs sound like will either be in for a treat or can at least see the potential that each song possesses (not unlike Ryan Adams' version of Taylor Swift's 1989). Some things need to be eased into, and exposure to Ono through reworkings of her songs is better than no exposure at all, right? (Manimal Vinyl)