Call it a case of fascinating on paper but unworkable in reality. Myths and half-truths play a large role in shaping the largely unflattering public perception of Yoko Ono, causing her artistic achievements to be all-too-often overlooked. Commercial success has largely eluded her, but Ono remains one of her generation’s more dynamic and forward-thinking creative minds. So even if it mostly fails as an album, I hope Yes, I’m a Witch, with names such as the Flaming Lips and Cat Power attached to it, succeeds as a vehicle for a new generation to discover Ono’s music.
It was an intriguing idea: Ono handpicks artists to rework songs from her back catalog under her original vocal tracks. The holes in the logistics of such a project, however, begin to reveal themselves once the cast of contributors is revealed. Given the eclectic nature of Ono’s music, it’s only natural that an equally eclectic group of artists would be chosen for the album. The occasional artistic misfire is expected (the Sleepy Jackson’s “I’m Moving On” being the worst), but it’s the impossibility of melding such divergent styles into a coherent whole that prevents Yes, I’m a Witch from translating theory into practice. The awkward transition of the somber, emotionally revealing “Death of Samantha” is sandwiched between Le Tigre’s feminist raver “Sisters O Sisters” and DJ Spooky’s trip-hop take on “Rising,” and that’s typical of the peaks-and-valleys track list. And it prevents a listener from getting comfortable with the music.
Yes, I’m a Witch has some standout moments. Peaches’ minimalist rendition of “Kiss Kiss Kiss,” with its synth stabs and incessant handclapping, is surprisingly infectious, and the Brother Brothers’ riffage embodies the middle-finger spirit of “Yes, I’m a Witch.” The album’s pinnacle is the Flaming Lips’ ambitious “Cambridge 1969/2007,” successfully mutating the famously disturbing track into something strangely hypnotic. Yes, I’m a Witch may be less than the sum of its parts, but notable tracks such as these make it worthwhile.
“Revelations” (with Cat Power)
“Cambridge 1969/2007” (with the Flaming Lips)