Ocean Child – Songs of Yoko Ono – Various Artists: 13th Floor Album Review

Ocean Child – Songs of Yoko Ono is a superlative collection of contemporary Dream Pop songs which sound like healing spells for troubled times. Yoko Ono first met John Lennon late in 1966. After the pinnacle of Revolver and prior to the exalted Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It may require an opening of the mind for some who may have regarded her as a discordant irritant and the initiator of the Beatles road to separation.

In truth she was more a calming spirit for the hallowed group who were trying to find the pathway out of the madness that was Beatle worship. The recent Peter Jackson documentary opus Get Back would lend support.

Her influence on Indie Pop and the myriad forms and shapes it has taken could date from the B-52’s debut album, when John Lennon noted the similarities of Kate Pierson’s singing to Ono’s.

The album has been curated by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. The band contributes Waiting for the Sunrise, which comes from the Approximately Infinite Universe album (1973). The sound of bright Sixties Pop with an eye on childhood innocence. So, I could see your hair/ Shining in the air.

This tribute collection also coincides with Ono’s 89th birthday.

Ocean Child - Songs of Yoko Ono

Yoko was born in 1933 in Tokyo into a wealthy family. She experienced the fire-bombing of Tokyo in 1945, the most devastating attack on Japan prior to the two atomic bombs. Fleeing the city, she was forced to beg for food with her mother and siblings. A fierce spirit was forged. Lennon explained in an interview that she was as tough as any man he had ever met.

Ocean Child - Songs of Yoko OnoLived in New York City in her twenties. At Sarah Lawrence College studied poetry, English literature and music composition. She gravitated to the avant-garde, admired Edgar Varese and took instructions from John Cage.

A major performance at Carnegie Hall in 1961 of radical experimental music combined with dance.

Loosely connected to the Fluxus Art Collective which took inspiration from the boundary breaking Dada movement which began in the wake of World War One and continues to erupt like a rumbling volcano. The most recent time being Punk.

From that connection she collaborated with La Monte Young on a series of guerrilla events involving music, movement and sculpture. Young had a keen young Welsh student in John Cale and that influence was brought to emerging musicians who developed into the Velvet Underground.

Growing Pain performed by Jay Som. Begins with the intro to the Velvets Waiting for the Man which then evolves into a dreamy floating melody similar to Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ from the VU’s Loaded album. Melina Duterte is a super vocal stylist of dreamy Pop, sitting on a drone bed laced with an edge of melodrama. The original from Feeling the Space album (1973) is quite ethereal in itself.

Ocean Child - Songs of Yoko Ono

If the Beatles were heading for the Toppermost of the Poppermost, then it was a natural fit for Ono to be threading her way to their heart with her genuine Futurist vision. She met Paul first before meeting John.

Run Run Run performed by Amber Coffman. Naked voice singing, slightly breathy and Folky. The acoustic guitar accompanying is quiet and reflective. Run to the light/ Run for your life. Evocative of the Beatles song off Rubber Soul.

Toyboat performed by Sharon Van Etten. Country Folk opening out into a perfect Dream Pop tune. Ethereal Girl Group sound. I’m dreaming of a lake I’ve never seen before. A simple bass drum triple beat leads the song.

Dogtown performed by Sudan Archives. Who is violinist and Experimental Beat Pop singer Brittney Denise Parks. Gentle Jamaican Dub and Toasting similar to Jerry Dammer’s Specials. Strings and flutes add Klezmer Jazz touches. A bonus track on Approximately Infinite Universe (1973).

Who Has Seen the Wind performed by David Byrne and Yo La Tengo. A gentle lullaby and Byrne sings in a soft Folk tenor which is rarely heard from him, similar to Art Garfunkel.

Yellow Girl (Stand by for Life) performed by Thao Nguyen. Creepy and thronged with spooky sounds evoking Bryne and Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. A Jazz bass guitar bends and undulates, combined with primitivist African percussion.

Radically different from the original off Feeling the Space (1973). Which sounds closer to a Top Forty Pop mega-hit like Christie’s San Bernadino.

Listen, The Snow is Falling performed by Stephin Merrit (of Magnetic Fields). Keyboard echoes like a cathedral organ. Simple naïve lyrics of cold and ice and blanketing whiteness. The music wells up in Phil Spector grandeur bubbling over into Jesus and Mary Chain dissonance. A measured baritone voice gives the song added depth.

The original is from the Plastic Ono Band sessions produced by the gun-toting troubled genius.

No,No,No performed by Deerhoof. Closest to what many would consider to be Ono’s harsher vocal style from singer Satomi Mitsuzaki. Quirky and angular and evoking a mechanical toy dancing with sproiking arms and legs. Don’t touch me/ I don’t like it. Original from Season of Glass (1981).

Flaming Lips contribute their take on Mrs Lennon, from Fly (1971 album). Theatrical Pop with a cinematic scope. Twangy guitar playing in a jukebox diner late in the evening to a slow-dancing pair. Checking the sky to see there’s no clouds/ I guess it must be alright.

Informed by Beatles tones and Wall of Sound production touches through many of the songs.

Yes, I’m a Witch she confessed, as the title to her 2007 album. An important 20th to 21st century artist and has been close to the zeitgeist of Popular music from the time Dylan was just starting to create himself in New York City and some young scruffy Liverpool lads got it together in Hamburg.

Japanese Breakfast cover Nobody sees Me Like You Do from that album. Addresses her soul mate.

 These feelings of loneliness, hangs over like a curse/ No one can see me like you do/ No one can see you like I do. 

Rev Orange Peel