While John and Yoko's first album "Two Virgins" got plenty of attention because of its nude album cover photos, their second album "Life With The Lions" only got scant attention. The album is a continuation of John and Yoko attempting to present their lives together as art. The opening track "Cambridge 1969" was recorded live at Cambridge University during an unusual avant-garde jazz concert. For 26-minutes, Yoko is heard screeching, screaming, cackling, howling and doing who knows what else while John Lennon brutalizes his electric guitar with atonal feedback behind her. This piece continues in this fashion for much of its duration. It's only towards the end that some additional help comes along. Percussionist John Stevens and Sax player John Tchicai join John and Yoko during the last six minutes. After Yoko shuts up and John turns off his amplifier, the two other John's continue playing alone as the piece fades out. The second half of the album was recorded at Queen Charlotte Hospital in London where Yoko was pregnant but ultimately suffered a miscarriage. "No Bed For Beatle John" consists of Yoko (with John in the background) putting various press articles on the couple to music. It is sung in a the style of a Gregorian chant. This is followed by "Baby's Heartbeat", a five-minute tapeloop of the heartbeat of John and Yoko's unborn child who was miscarried shortly after this recording was made. Next up is the self-explanitory "Two Minutes Silence". This was obviously influenced by composer John Cage's piece entitled "4:33" which sounds exactly like "Two Minutes Silence" only longer. The album closes with "Radio Play" which is 12 and 1/2 minutes of someone rhythmically shutting a radio on and off while playing with its tuner.Read more ›
What do you hear when you put "Life With the Lions" in your stereo? Well, first comes "Cambrige 1969", an extraordinarily long jam with John simply abusing guitars to produce feedback as Yoko screams and yells for about 26:30. The you hear a soft ballad, sans-instruments, about John losing his hospital bed, and various other things going on in the lives of John and Yoko. Then "Baby's Heartbeat", wisely followed by "Two Minutes Silence." Finally (for the old version) "Radio Play" a piece where John speaks in the background as Yoko flips through the various stations on the radio, producing one-nanosecond bursts of sound along the way. Two bonus tracks follow on the new version, "Song for John", and "Mulberry". "Song for John" is as close to a normal song you will find on "Lions," where "Mulberry" is more of the Avant Garde. When you know the story of the album, it is so much more interesting. Basically, Yoko is pregnant, due in February. She goes to the hospital for observation with John at her side the whole way. (He loses his bed and has to lie on a sleeping bag, however.) Well, Yoko's baby is miscarriaged. I do not know when it happened, that would change a lot about track #3, "Baby's Heartbeat." Laughing at the beginning of the track would suggest that the baby was alive at the time of the recording, but either way, it is a very sad, touching expirience. They may have had so much hope for the baby, only to have it flushed away. "Baby's Heartbeat" may have become a gift for the baby, instead it stands as a memorial. This CD is a lot of noise, however it was definitely structured.Read more ›
Track by track: 1. "Cambridge 1969" -- Yoko sings free jazz (in the same manner that people play it on wind instruments). The sounds she makes are absolutely astonishing. How does she do it without frying her voice? How does she overcome physiological barriers? If you know how to listen to a pitch or timbral curve, she not only calls and responds with her own phrases, she calls and responds with John's feedback guitar. I once spoke to John Tchicai about this track and he smiled really wide and recalled it very fondly, so they must have been having fun. He also informed me the performance went on much longer without John & Yoko (John & Yoko's sets blended with Tchicai and John Stevens), typical for free jazz performances. Check Alan Silva's "Seasons" for a 2 hour and 26 minute big band freakout -- something really astonishing and scary if this floats your boat. 2. "No Bed For Beatle John" -- Funnily enough the chants in this song are catchy enough that I find myself sometimes humming the melody to this song. This is a nifty trick. I wonder what John & Yoko were thinking about as they were reading these newspaper accounts. 3. "Baby's Heartbeat/Two Minutes Silence" -- I've always thought these tracks went together. You hear John and Yoko shuffling to get the microphone onto Yoko's belly to record the heartbeat, and you hear it churning along like a Hafler Trio track. And suddenly it quits just as you've hit the point that George Clinton calls "where repetition becomes sacred." The vigil for the loss of the baby in the two minutes silence gives you plenty to ponder as the track passes and you hear the ambience of your surroundings. 4.Read more ›
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