I was always told that you should give credit where it is due. Yoko Ono has never experienced that truth. She has always been seen in the light (or dark) of her relationship with John Lennon. It is an unfair context. Yoko was a real artist long before she met her Beatle John and has been making records now for 30 years after his tragic death. Those who laugh her off as some whacky Japanese screamer are not without an argument but they are not seeing the whole picture either. Yes, you need to acquire the taste of her screechy accented high pitched vocal, and sometimes you don’t even acquire an entire affinity, but you ignore this woman’s work to your detriment. Yoko Ono was making music with the likes of John Cage and Ornette Coleman before Lennon had even sniffed a record deal and was married to two musicians before she met her Beatle. Her songs on her collaboration with Lennon, Double Fantasy, released just before that dreadful New York night in December 1980, were so much more edgy and contemporary than her more accepted husband’s; Kiss Kiss Kiss had a real late seventies CBGBs punk feel and Beautiful Boys was a touching ballad with more mood and sophistication than Lennon’s more traditional songwriting on that particular record. Yoko Ono is a poet, artist and musician of a very high quality and intrigue.
Between My Head and The Sky is yet another remarkable piece of art considering it comes from a 76 year old woman. Yes, Leonard Cohen is rejuvenated at a mere 74 but Ono out strips even Cohen with her ability to stay fresh and contemporary. She can be found here mixing indie guitar rock as in the opener Waiting For The D Train, to electro in songs like The Sun Is Down and jazz as in Memory of Footsteps. Her native New York is a place hiving with avant-garde performance art and the fusion of all kinds of art forms. This is another work of a poet, performance artist and eccentric musician but it might also be one of her most accessible records. The ambience is beautiful and atmospheric and the spoken word is at times poignant, provocative and always poetic. There are a few uses of her scream as an extra instrument but these are restrained. There is no doubt that Ono has an advantage in having her son as a band member and producer but it is also a mark of her credentials as an artist that keeps her imagination fertile.
And of course imagining has been a word synonymous with the Lennons since John took an idea from Yoko’s book Grapefruit and added a thought from some Christian Prayer Book they were given, to write his most famous solo song Imagine. On this record Ono is still imagining peace, seeking actions and love of brother and sisterhood. Her continual message has been a love for Creation and a love for the world. Her art is her way to contribute to the healing of both and you always feel she is on to something. She probably needs another thing to make her something happen but she is still on to something. Fair dues!