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What you hear on Fly is Yoko Ono's disarming combination of opacity and visceral, personal transparency in full bloom. It's one of the most unbridled, most captivating soul albums ever made. And that's right where she wants you: vulnerable, wide open to any-and-everything, ready to have your world tipped onto its head. She's a master of spinning your head around. First, you get the Bar Band from Hell of "Midsummer New York" to kick things off. It's about the last thing you'd expect from Ono coming off Plastic Ono Band. But here you are, listening to Ono channeling Elvis. Why am I all of a sudden bopping along to it? At 16-minute-plus, the tranced-out, motorik-inspired boogie "Mind Train" is rough-and-ready for your next basement get down. Movement and perspiration required. Then, we have the absolutely gutting blues of “Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand in The Snow)." Full of ache and raw emotion, the song is a love note, a plea for forgiveness, to her estranged daughter Kyoko shot across the universe on a flaming arrow. Ono follows this stampede of emotion with the self-referential torch song "Mrs. Lennon," a wounded song that gets right into the Universal Loneliness. And so here you are. You're devastated. You're exhausted. You're exhilarated. And you're only 1/4 of the way up the mountain that is Fly. Dig deep, traveler, it’s worth the climb.
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I'm not going to begrudge those who feel Ono's music is difficult to enjoy. Her "wailing" and "shrieking" practically invites such criticism. I can't claim full satisfaction with all that she produces either, even the collaborative albums she created with her husband alienates me. For me this album is a perfect balance between the extremes of early works like the no-holds-barred Plastic Ono Band and the comparatively subdued Feeling The Space.
The first half of Fly consists of more "Rock"-oriented songs. Some of these are quite good and others, like the piano-ballad "Mrs. Lennon," are excellent. Songs like "Don't Worry Kyoko" and the heavy jamming of "Mind Train" compliments her wild vocals with a more "traditional" Rock sense. For me Yoko is at her best when she let's all hell break loose, which is why I find the songs that comprise "side 3" (Airmale, Don't Count The Waves, and You) the most intriguing. Here the music becomes more otherworldly, almost shamanistic in parts. The title track is much like the animal whose name it invokes, always hovering, testing patience, and never easy to catch.
It's precisely that balance of musical dichotomy is why I enjoy Fly so much.