Yoko Ono


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Arriving in the year of Yoko Ono's 85th birthday, Warzone doesn't just revisit her greatest hits. On her first new album since 2013's Take Me to the Land of Hell, Ono eschews some of her better-known work in favor of songs that highlight the importance of peace and humanity in her music over the years. In their original forms, Warzone's tracks spanned folk-rock, revolutionary funk, '80s AOR, and feral proto-punk. Here, Ono opts for a more uniform palette of piano, acoustic guitar, subtle electronics, and sound effects that's as stark and fragile as the album's artwork (wisely, however, she chose not to tamp down the album's lone rocker "Woman Power" too much). This approach lets her words, and especially, her weathered vocals dominate; the industrial-tinged arrangement of the title track -- originally from 1995's Rising -- sounds bold, but Ono's voice is wounded and weary as she continues to rail against a world out of order. Similarly, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band's cathartic "Why" is more haunting than the all-consuming original version, conveying the exhaustion of asking the same questions for nearly half-a-century. While searching moments such as these and the sorrowful "Where Do We Go from Here" and "Teddy Bear" are among Warzone's standouts, Ono also leaves plenty of room for hope. Nearly half of the album's songs come from 1985's Starpeace, her idealistic, brightly colored response to President Reagan's Star Wars defense initiative. Stripping away the busy mid-'80s production highlights the emotional purity of these songs, which range from "Children Power"'s optimistic bounce to the philosophical "It's Gonna Rain." On "I Love All of Me," an inclusive, empathetic love note to humankind, the echoing piano and lyrics like "I just wanna be" make the connection to songs such as "Imagine" -- for which Ono finally received a co-writing credit in 2017 -- clearer. An ethereal version of that song closes Warzone, underscoring the timelessness of Ono's songwriting ("we've no time to lose," from 1971's "Now or Never," is another evergreen statement). An inventive way of uniting her body of work, Warzone furthers her legacy as a promoter of peace and understanding.

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