Yoko Ono: Yes, I’m a Witch Too (Manimal) Review

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Manimal Vinyl

For being 83 years old, Yoko Ono hasn’t exactly been slowing down. In the last six years alone, she’s released tons of new music, had her art displayed in gallery showings around the world (including an upcoming one in France), organized benefit concerts, collaborated with numerous artists (including Sonic Youth and The Flaming Lips), and dominated the Billboard dance charts, beating out artists such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga at what is ostensibly their own game and having at least a dozen No. 1’s.

Ono has clearly made the case that she has always been, and will always be, an active and curious artist, one concerned with social activism and stretching the boundaries of whatever medium she works in.

One of the ways she’s accomplished this is by opening up her work to interpretation by others, and she’s had a virtual who’s who of artists remix her work during this fertile time in her career, starting as early as 1996, when remixes weren’t quite all the rage, and continuing into the present, with the Feb. 19 release of Yes, I’m A Witch Too (it’s a sequel to 2007’s Yes, I’m A Witch).

Manimal Vinyl
Manimal Vinyl

The collection is a generous one, with 18 tracks spread across double vinyl (or one very long disc). The album starts with the Danny Tenaglia string remix of “Walking On Thin Ice,” and the strings add a weighted poignancy to the original track – it was the last song that John Lennon worked on, with his wife, for their final record Double Fantasy, before his assassination.

Death Cab For Cutie do a suitably strange sendup of “Forgive Me, My Love,” the Penguin Prison dance club version of “She Gets Down On Her Knees” is undeniably body grooving, and Moby’s reimagining of “Hell In Paradise” is a nice, slow, ambient build-up.

Family and friends of Ono’s (Sean Lennon and Cibo Matto) also turn in some more psychedelic-flavored alternate universe dance gems that manage to get out there a bit, still have some toes tapping, and capture some of the more pop-oriented facts of Yoko’s catalog.

In short, this collection does a great job of taking Yoko Ono’s explorations and allowing all the collaborators to take them even further yet, and the diversity of the talent involved here is striking in how many directions that ends up meaning, and how many different layers of cultural strata Ono had managed to inhabit over the decades.

Yes, I’m A Witch Too is out Feb. 19 on Manimal.

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Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.