She's really back; one of the most gloriously influential and notorious women in the history of rock has returned with a new album at the age of 76, and thank goodness. With Between My Head and the Sky, Yoko Ono has courageously and outrageously revived the Plastic Ono Band moniker; a group she and husband John Lennon formed together; only this time, instead of the late John, it's with the couple's son Sean Lennon. Audacious? Oh yeah, but wait until you hear it! On 2007's Yes, I'm a Witch, Ono gave a bunch of her old tracks to artists like J. Spaceman, Chan Marshall, DJ Spooky, and the Flaming Lips, to name a few, and re-recorded them. This time out, she surrounded herself with New York studio players, Sean's own band, and guests such as Yuka Honda from Cibo Matto, and members of Cornelius. The end result is a stunning collection of 16 wildly diverse tracks that were written in six days and recorded very quickly. The centerpiece is an electronic-cum-acid rock spoken word peace called "The Sun Is Down," with screaming guitars, crisscrossing beats and breaks, and Honda offering sung vocal support drifting entrancingly in the backdrop. Then there is the funkier material, such as the wonderfully surreal "Ask the Elephant," with some stellar feedback and heavy guitar work by Sean, and the overtly rockist title track, where Ono speaks more emphatically than she has in decades. This isn't just rock as spoken word, it's got groove, crunch, noise, and vulnerability as well as authority, and in places, yes, her trademark ululating wail. "Watching the Rain" is a midtempo ballad with shimmering blips and beats, her singing voice is expressive in its limited range, and her words are deeply moving. The shamanistic, trance-like quality of "Moving Mountains" melds acid folk and new production styles with a beautiful layer of horns -- trumpets mainly -- in the background. Come to think of it, there are a lot of trumpets on this record. Ultimately, however, Between My Head and the Sky is perhaps the most accessible album she's recorded, and yet the most forward looking, too, because it is ultimately contemporary in that it takes the past into account while pushing its margins to the breaking point and pointing to the known -- check the jazzed-up funky reggae in "Hashire, Hashire." This set is not full of ballads; there is little of the fragility of Walking on Thin Ice here, though its desire to heal individuals and the world is ever present, and has none of the overt self-conscious excesses of Plastic Ono Band projects of the past. This is a deeply focused, wonderfully colorful, and deeply expressive work that showcases a collaboration between mother and son and displays depth, strength, creativity in spades, and intense beauty.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek