New Internationalist

Between My Head and the Sky

November 2009

by Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band

It’s a rare thing for artists to be able to keep their ears and minds open to new developments in their medium, but the phenomenal Yoko Ono is like no other. Between My Head and the Sky sees the artist a few years short of her 80th birthday and is as fresh and challenging as any of her early work, with famous husband John Lennon, or without.

Sure, this album has plenty of Ono’s trademark vocals – the yelps, the breathy gasps, the free-styling verbiage – but there is also a taut control. Backed by a revamped Plastic Ono Band – including son Sean, Keigo Oyamada, Yuka Honda, and improvisation specialists Erik Friedlander, Indigo Street and Shahzad Ismaily – there’s a commitment to spontaneity too.

Above all, this is an album that moves, both rhythmically and emotionally. ‘Waiting for the D Train’, all skronky guitars and an attitude that anticipates the New York No Wave of the early 1980s, falls into the first category. But the album’s most lovely moments belong to songs such as ‘I’m Going Away Smiling’ in which Ono sounds like her own valedictorian, or the mesmerisingly beautiful ‘Unon. To’.

Earlier Ono albums were startling for their generosity and this is no different. And for those who miss her Fluxus experimentalism, there’s a wonderful 20-second sign-off track, which runs, ‘It’s me. I’m alive’. And that, bar the sound of some gentle hammering, is it. 

LG

This column was published in the November 2009 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 427

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