[GUEST REVIEW BY MADELINE BOCARO] (Chimera) Take Me To the Land of Hell is a pure Yoko fest – including screamers, dreamers and free form rock/jazz/funk excursions to places we’ve never been before. It’s not all peace and love. The dichotomy of life is passionately illustrated with hellish imagery and delicate moments of hope and love. Yoko was spun out of a cyclone that was the first half of her life. After all the turmoil and ugliness, she can still see the world as Oz with all its beauty. She keeps on telling us that if we just believe, all good things will come. Then…there is the dark side. During the recording sessions, Sean proudly proclaimed, “It sounds like the end of the world!” I couldn’t wait to hear it!
Sean re-formed the interchangeable Plastic Ono Band in 2009. POB was first revived for Between My Head and the Sky, reinstating the essence of Yoko’s instinctive primal rock sound. Other collaborators this time include Lenny Kravitz, a couple of Beastie Boys, Cibo Matto, Cornelius and many others. Yoko recently told The Independent, "People tell me this kind of music is young people's music, and I tell them, 'I was doing this kind of music before you were born.’"
The album’s opener ‘Moonbeams’ starts with a birdcall. Not the pleasant chirping of a sparrow, but a warning to us all. Our duality of good and evil is examined in this wild dance in a ‘cosmic club’. ‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…!!!’ ‘Cheshire Cat Cry’ is a warning disguised as a heavy rock jam. Yoko has always had a Cheshire Cat smile, and like the enigmatic creature, she is trying to tell us something. The mythical storybook cat is known to be philosophical, baffling, amusing and mysterious – just like Yoko, but her message is blatant. ‘Stop the violence, stop all wars’. The Declaration of Independence is reinterpreted to reflect our self-destructive urges. The Cheshire Cat is crying instead of smiling. Featuring Lenny Kravitz on drums and clavinet. ‘Tabetai’ is a reworking of song that Yoko performed live in 1974 on her tour of Japan. Meaning ‘I want to eat’, juicy steak, sweet pancakes and fried chicken are all on the menu. It is a playful commentary on famine/gluttony, in an upbeat/offbeat song. When there is no food left (as in her childhood in war-torn Japan) ‘let’s go to another country.’ Accented by strange and beautiful beats, and a bottle played like a Japanese flute. A collaboration with tUnE-yArDs. Who’s bad? She’s bad! Bad means good, get it? ‘Bad Dancer’ will most likely be Yoko’s eleventh No.1 dance hit on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play Chart. You will think of the B-52’s ‘Rock Lobster’, with its psychobilly surf-punk 4-note guitar riff… but wait, THEY were influenced by YOKO! ‘When your mind is dancing, your heart is bouncing!’ Members of the Beastie Boys collaborated on this one, and it was produced by Yuka Honda. Opening with the tinkering sound of a music box, ‘Little Boy Blue’ is a haunting lullaby, not far from Yoko and Sean’s own truth. ‘Mommy’s weeping, daddy's gone…’ Yoko’s delicate singing morphs into haunting screams. Also with tUnE-yArDs. ‘There's No Goodbye Between Us’ could be a beautiful love song about anybody, but obviously, John has never left Yoko. Mellophones and backward piano loops bring a wonderful other-worldliness to the song. The funky ‘7th Floor’ (with Questlove) has some crazy beats. Lyrically, it’s an amalgam of all the nightmares that Yoko must have had on the 7th Floor of the Dakota after John’s death. She sees a dead body on the sidewalk, imagining that it is her own, then realizes that it’s just a shadow. Angrily, she threatens a phantom killer. Yoko told The Arts Desk, “’7th Floor’ is the conceptual jump in a way. I just wanted to do something that furthered the form of my lyrics and music. The song is about a kind of reality that hasn’t been expressed or pursued yet. We are living in a three or four-dimensional world, and this is more like a fifth or sixth dimension. The stunning ‘N.Y. Noodle Town’ is Yoko’s anthem to her hometown, New York City, with a beautifully poignant guitar solo! ‘Take Me To The Land Of Hell’ is surprisingly a ballad. ‘Moon River’ becomes Blood River, which Yoko asks to take her to John. She is going through hell and back to reunite with him. ‘Where you and I meet soul to soul, to never be apart again’. This piano based lament echoes ‘Mrs. Lennon’ and also evokes Nico’s beautifully chilling, ‘You Forget To Answer’. ‘Watching The Dawn’ reminds us that we are ‘offsprings of lovers & dreamers, and ‘descendents of thinkers and builders”. Yoko ruminates about our transformation into evil leaders and victims. She is compelled to tell us that it is still possible to hold onto our dreams in this frightful world. This is hard to believe after all of her hardships, but Yoko is still trying, still hopeful. In the vein of ‘Yes, I’m Your Angel’ (Double Fantasy), ‘Leaving Tim’ is a playful old-fashioned tune. It’s great to hear the laughter! ‘Shine, Shine’ is the ultimate wakeup call. It is driven by an incredible bass line, similar to the powerful ‘Why’ (from Yoko’s first Plastic Ono Band solo album, 1970), but with positivity, love and light! The song ends in a vortex of sound that sucks every thought out of your brain except for the one that says, “This is now my favorite album of all time!” The silent ‘Hawk’s Call’ could possibly be a cover version of John Cage’s 4’33”, or a reprise of the 'Nutopian International Anthem'.
The very first form of music that existed must have been just like Yoko’s – millions of years ago - before language, before instruments...the first prehistoric bird call, the grunt of a cave man, the first vocal expression of joy or sadness. The music of the future will probably resemble hers as well (whether it be made by humans or aliens).
I really hope there is an afterlife for one reason only - so that John Lennon can see all of Yoko's triumphs, and know that his dream has finally come true. For all we know, he might be behind all of this.
TAKE ME TO THE LAND OF HELL features the talents of YOKO ONO, Sean Lennon, Yuka C Honda, Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada, Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu, Yuko Araki, Nels Cline, tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Ad-Rock & Mike D, Michael Leonhart, Bill Dobrow, Jared Samuel, Shahzad Ismaily, Lenny Kravitz, Andrew Wyatt, Erik Friedlander, Lois Martin, Joyce Hammann, Thomas Bartlett, Douglas Wieselman, Julian Lage, Toyoaki Mishima, Toru Takayama, Christopher Sean Powell, Christopher Allen, Andre Kellman, Michael H. Brauer, P.J. van Sandwijk, Bob Ludwig, Kevin Harper, Mark Bengston, Geoff Thorpe and Greg Kadel.
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