You either respect Yoko Ono as an artist, the presence that loomed so heavily in John Lennon's post-Beatles career, or loathe her as a more pretentious Linda McCartney who broke up the band. Either way, she's part of pop history. For Yes I'm a Witch, Ono's tapped a who's-who of under-the-radar alt-rockers to remix and retool her originals, including the title track, which shows she's at least got a sense of humor about it all. Irony is giving the remix album idea an even heftier creative overhaul. (All the participants chose to work only with her vocals.) Ono's strength as a musician isn't her skills she sings off-key and is prone to sing-song lyrics. It's her sincerity. And that's framed nicely throughout this album, from the hushed confessionals to bizarre squawks.
Peaches turns in an appropriately pop-electro track for the sugar-sweet "Kiss, Kiss, Kiss"; Le Tigre lays down a lo-fi but anthemic "Sisters O Sisters"; and on each Ono's earnestness is undeniable. When she sings "Bless you for your fear/It's wisdom" on the Cat Power-rendered piano tinkle of "Revelations," she reaches Marianne Faithfull/Leonard Cohen heights. Throw in some inevitable Beatles referencing (the Sgt. Pepper-y horns of the Polyphonic Spree's "You and I" and the Flaming Lips biting the George Harrison's "It's All Too Much" for the all-too-much "Cambridge 1969/2007") and Witch becomes a deeper mix of emotion and styles that ripens with each listen. Ono is nothing if not a risk-taker; as she sings on Spiritualized's shiny bruised-blues take on "Walking on Thin Ice," "I paid the price." Witch or no, she has.
Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].