For the last five decades or so, Yoko Ono has been the subject of controversy in the world of rock music. As the widow of John Lennon, Beatles fans have lashed out against her- often scapegoating her as the reason why the Beatles broke up. Personally, I think Yoko Ono gets a bad rap. In all honestly, I think she’s amazing. From her work as an artist to her activism, Ono has had a extraordinary career. When it comes to the woman’s music, this is where I feel she is underrated. Looking at her discography, she’s quite diverse and isn’t afraid of taking risks. Now at 85 years old, Ono has released her 13th studio album- Warzone. The album, which consists of reimagined versions of her earlier work, was released just this last fall. While albums of re-recorded tunes are often seen as uninspired, this is the rare case where it is an inspired effort.
The album opens with the chaotic title track, originally taken from Ono’s 1995 album Rising. While the original was an all out punk-thrash metal crossover, the re-recording is a monster of its own. With sounds of animal cries and machine guns firing, it sounds like an actual war zone- which makes it the perfect starting point for the album. With these re-recordings, they use minimalism to its advantage- giving the songs a bleaker tone.
Looking down the tracking list, some people might notice that a majority of the songs originally come from Ono’s album Starpeace. Released in 1985, Starpeace served as Ono’s response to then President Ronald Regan’s Star Wars program. While certainly a dated concept for an album, the songs that Ono chose to re-record for this new album are surprisingly relevant for today. Based on the song title alone, “Hell in Paradise” is especially relevant to the world today. While I find myself preferring the original, the re-recorded version here simply works: it’s haunting and simply eerie. As for the other Starpeace re-recordings, I think some of them are better than their originals. With Starpeace, it’s an album that’s dated with its use of synthesizers. Hearing the new takes on these songs, the use of minimalism really helps the songs here- making them stronger. The songs that Ono chose to re-record all fit with the theme of the album. While I prefer most of the original versions, I like how Ono didn’t re-record these songs note-for-note.
Another thing worth mentioning is the vocal work from Ono. Over the years, Ono has often made lists as one of the worst singers in music. Personally, I don’t think she belongs on any such lists. Then again, she isn’t the best singer either. When it comes to Ono’s music, it can be seen as an extension of her artwork. If you’ve seen any of Ono’s artwork, you’ll see that it falls along the lines of experimental and avant garde. Ono has not only branched out into music but also in film, having made several short films over the years. With that being said, does it really matter if Ono can sing or not?
The album ends with Ono’s heartfelt rendition of “Imagine.” While many will roll their eyes at that last sentence, I truly believe this is unique. Looking down the tracking list, this albums reads out like Ono’s message to the world in 2018. After going back to some of her most intense songs, Ono decides to close out the album by singing her late husband’s signature tune. In doing so, Ono is reminding us of Lennon’s message. Look at it from Ono’s perspective: now at 85, Ono has been without her late husband for nearly 40 years. Keeping that in mind while listening to this rendition of the song makes for more emotional experience.
Overall, Warzone is a strong effort from Yoko Ono. While I still find myself preferring Ono’s last two albums (Between My Head and the Sky and Take Me To The Land of Hell), I still think this is a good album. Seeing how she’s getting older and no longer performing, I get the feeling that this just might be Ono’s last album. If this is the case, I think Warzone is the perfect album for her to go out on.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.