ONO: Yes, I’m a Witch Too

Music Reviews
ONO: Yes, I’m a Witch Too

If those who laugh last laugh best, then Yoko Ono must be having a right chuckle these days. In the 1970s, her proto-punk music was widely reviled (she once told the author that people would mail her pictures of her albums in a garbage can). But in the new century, these same tracks have provided inspiration to a veritable who’s who of DJs, musicians and producers, who have eagerly remixed them into dance club treats, taking Ono to the top of Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart over 10 times to date.

Yes, I’m a Witch Too is a sequel to 2007’s Yes, I’m a Witch (the name taken from a song from 1974), though by and large Ono’s remixes aren’t limited to physical albums these days. In her dance club persona, Ono bills herself as ONO, and most of her remixes are only available digitally (writer Tom Frangione noted in an article there are over 250 remix variations of ONO’s work). Witch Too narrows the count to a more manageable 17, and reaches all the way back to 1969, with “No Bed for Beatle John.” It’s an unusual choice; Ono’s spoken word piece, from the audio verité album Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions (documenting Ono’s and John Lennon’s time in the hospital when she had a miscarriage), consists of Ono reading the text from newspaper articles in a sing-song fashion. Ebony Bones! makes it decidedly darker, adding a sinister, pulsating backing track, and this technique of mashing together two disparate styles results in some clever juxtapositions throughout the album. Cibo Matto takes on Ono’s 1920’s romp “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” and turns it into a light slice of trip-hop. And in the hands of Danny Tenaglia, the “maestro” version of “Walking on Thin Ice” becomes an elegiac classical music piece.

Conversely, “Approximately Infinite Universe” sounds like it was just waiting for Blow Up to slap on a galvanizing beat and give the song a real groove. Death Cab for Cutie drops “Forgive Me My Love” into the blender, stripping off the sometimes tinny 1980s instrumental backing it originally had, and turns it into something pleasingly grittier and fuzzier. “Move On Fast” was already a nice mid-tempo rocker when first released in 1972, but here Ono and producer Jack Douglas ramp it up to and heighten the rock quotient substantially; it’s a veritable headbanger now.

A track like Moby’s take on “Hell in Paradise” doesn’t add much to the conversation; its minimalist approach quickly becomes monotonous over the course of its nine minutes and 51 seconds. But overall, Witch Too mines Ono’s imaginative catalogue in search of hidden gems, buffing them up to sparkle anew. And ideally, the more inquisitive may even be moved to seek out the original versions of these tracks.

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