Yoko Ono Continues to Carve Her Own Path with Blueprint for a Sunrise

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Yoko Ono still feels an overwhelming desire to prove herself. It's odd that she feels thus. Her art has long been reexamined and acknowledged as both innovative and influential (her previous album, 1996's ambitious Rising, spawned an entire remix record, filled with interpretations from fans as diverse as Thurston Moore, Tricky and the Beastie Boys). She projects a serenity, and knowledge, in public that is rare indeed. She has continued to carve her own path through life's travails, unconcerned by commercial considerations in the way only the truly gifted or truly financially secure can. (I'd say she was both.) And yet Yoko, at the age of 68, is still jarringly insecure: still searching, still trying to forge new expression and light. (Contrast her with her peer Macca, who when queried as to why he decided against taking a "dance" direction on his just-released album, stated that he didn't want to upset pals like Elvis Costello.)

The proof of her insecurity is all over this schizophrenic, juddering album?in places a master(mistress?)piece, at times a stroll through Central Park with the radio turned up full, in others a simple reiteration of former glories. Songs leap from genre to genre. "I'm Not Getting Enough" discusses dissatisfaction with life over a cod reggae guitar, its cheery strains belying the song's morbid tone; "I Remember Everything" harks back to the solid 70s rock of the Plastic Ono Band; the cavernous album centerpiece "Rising II" has scraping violin and Japanese monologue like an Andy Warhol happening; "Is This What We Do" reprises feminist ideologies that seem almost quaintly (and possibly wrongly) old-fashioned in this go-getting world (although this is Yoko's point precisely, that women are still constrained by society, and that constraint is implicit in our refusal to acknowledge it). The astonishing "Soul Got Out of the Box" beats with the metronome of half-formed screams, almost still-born in the throat.

It's doubtful Yoko herself?despite her ability to remain simultaneously conscious and artful?is actually aware what she is seeking from this record. That she still has validity, probably, because the Shadow will never disappear (a sad irony: as any musician or fan searching out Blueprint for a Sunrise will give two snaps for any imagined weight). Yet her anxiety is placed, almost on a pedestal, apparent for all to see: from the opening, disturbing pair of tracks "I Want You to Remember Me" (A and B), the first the sound of a solitary woman continuing a heated discussion with herself. "Wouldn't it be nice to be a heroine/Cool and slinky with an appropriate smile," she asks rhetorically on "Wouldnit (Swing)"?a track that almost certainly borrows some of its Nilsson-esque tone and almost nauseatingly slick beat to the presence of son Sean on guitars and keyboards.

Yoko is of course being slyly ironic in her phrasing, but still the question resonates all over this twisted, rewarding album. Wouldn't it have been nice if Yoko had been the heroine to more than a select few of us? And don't you think somehow the world would be sweeter, cooler, if she had been, not fucking Britney or any other plastic doll? Hit me baby, one more time. It's almost like she's condoning it.

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