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Ahead of its time,
This review is from: Plastic Ono Band (Audio CD)
November 9th 1966 was quite an auspicious day for John Lennon, and for the rest of the world in some small way, because when walked into London's Indica Gallery he met Yoko Ono. The lives of both were forever altered by the other, perhaps more so for Lennon as Yoko introduced him to the avant-garde art world from a perspective that was wholly new to him, and a world beyond Beatledom.
Four years later the albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band were simultaneously unleashed on Apple, the name of the label inspired by Yoko Ono, each featuring matching photos of John and Yoko under a tree on the front cover and a photograph of them as a child on the reverse. Both albums explore the themes of basics, innocence and childhood. On the John Lennon album, Yoko is credited with "wind".
John Lennon's first solo album after splitting from the Beatles obviously had an inbuilt importance, and probably outsold the Yoko Ono album many thousands of times over, but Yoko's was probably the more innovative and ahead of its time, and still sounds heady, fresh and exciting today.
The album starts with the sound of a tape machine being turned on and the sizzling rhythm section of Klaus Voormann and Ringo Starr begins, abetted by the sounds of John Lennon's screaming guitar in a style far more liberated than on any Beatle record. When Yoko comes in, screaming the title of the song, "Why" (the only discernable fragment of lyric on the whole album), we realize that Lennon's guitar has been cleverly mimicking and anticipating Yoko's vocal, which has an awesome ferocity and intensity, and in that moment she redefines the role of woman in music for generations to come. The following track, appropriately, is Why Not. Some of this intensity no doubt derives from the "primal therapy" of Arthur Janov that she and Lennon had undertaken prior to these sessions.
The Plastic Ono Band accompany Yoko throughout the album with a confidence and empathetic sure-footedness that carries the listener along with them, embellished only by some evocative sound effects. Ringo plays with a freedom and swing we had never heard from him before. The sessions, at Abbey Road in October 1970, must have been something to behold and one envies the four engineers who presided.
Two of the pieces, Why and Touch Me, may be familiar to some American record buyers as they were also apparently to be found on the B-sides of the Plastic Ono Band singles Mother and Power To The People.
The Plastic Ono Band do not appear on one track, which is a rehearsal for an earlier free-jazz show at the Albert Hall on 29 February 1968. While the Beatles were recording Lady Madonna at Abbey Road, Yoko Ono had returned to London to perform her original composition at a concert with the innovator Ornette Coleman at his invitation, and on the piece AOS they are assisted by legendary bassist Charlie Haden, along with David Izenzon and Edward Blackwell. The piece demonstrates that Yoko was part of a tradition of experimental, revolutionary music before the Beatles explored any such ideas on the White Album. It was because of her return to London that she and John Lennon were able to renew their personal, musical and creative relationship, of which one of the first results was the White Album's Revolution Number Nine.
It is a landmark album.
The three bonus tracks on this overdue CD edition are disappointing. Only the unnecessary 44-second fragment "Something More Abstract" comes from the Plastic Ono Band sessions, whilst the previously unreleased 7:30 version of Open Your Box is a raw early version of the piece, probably recorded in September 1969, before its final tempo and structure had been established. The finished version that debuted on the Power To The People single in the UK, dates from 1971 (confusingly, the same recording was re-titled Hirake for the album Fly). The final improvisation, The South Wind, features John and Yoko at home in New York, which puts it in a different time-frame, and more properly belongs on an album like Life With The Lions. After 16 long, long minutes, we are grateful that a telephone call brings the piece to a conclusion. Far more welcome would have been the Plastic Ono Band B-sides Remember Love and Who Has Seen The Wind? which have yet to make a CD appearance
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 21, 2009 6:47:58 PM PDT
I've always found this to be an amazing, incredible album. YOKO did a lot to help John find the courage to explore the avant guarde beyond sound effects. John's guitar playing on this album, Ringo's drumming, Yoko's vocal performance, Klaus's bass playing....a perfect union. YES, the B-sides are ALL on CD. LISTEN THE SNOW IS FALLING is on WEDDING ALBUM, (along with WHO HAS SEEN THE WIND), and REMEMBER LOVE is on TWO VIRGINS. I suppose the B sides were put on the experimental albums, so people buying them, wouldn't feel "cheated" if they expected regular music. Did you hear LISTEN THE SNOW IS FALLING by Galaxy 500? Cool version.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2009 2:03:36 AM PDT
John and Ringo both played with an intensity and liberation rarely matched on Beatle records, didn't they? Yoko must have been a great facilitator, and the sound was quite unlike her own previous music, too. I'm glad to hear the other tracks are on CD, but for me it would make sense to gather the Plastic Ono Band B-sides on this album, and also on the Ono Box. They are considerably more musical than South Wind, after all, which to my mind belongs with something like Listen To The Lions. I love the Galaxie 500 version; there is also one by Ten Benson. Yoko Ono cover versions are strangely thin on the ground but Fuzzbox did an excellent job of Walking On Thin Ice, a song also recorded by Elvis Costello back in 1984.
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