Open Your Box
If this were just a sampler of some of the hottest remix producers getting played in the clubs right now it would almost be worth it on that basis alone.
Open Your Box is a companion volume to the recently released Yes, I’m A Witch. A more successful one, to my ears. Witch had, as its not-very-secret agenda, the promotion of Yoko Ono as “cutting edge” and “the Queen Mother of punk.”
Box, collecting mixes released over the past five years, mostly just wants to make you dance, meaning Ono gets in her own way less.
Bimbo Jones opens the electronic stage with their “Main Mix” of “You’re The One,” and DJ Dan closes it down with a groovy but derivative “Vocal Mix” of “Give Peace A Chance.”
In-between, a highlight of the first half is Richard Morel’s (A.K.A Bob Mould’s collaborator in Blowoff) “Pink Noise Vocal Mix” of “Give Me Something.” This has a very listenable electric disco style. And you know I’ve got no problem with Pet Shop Boys’ “Electro Mix” off “Walking On Thin Ice.”
Basement Jaxx 1980s-influenced “Classic Mix” of “Everyman Everywoman” is a variant of Ono’s “Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him” redone. Now it says “Every man has a man,” and “every woman has a woman.” This was done reportedly to promote gay marriage, and the result was a #1 Billboard “Hot Dance Club Play” hit.
It’s by far the best thing I have heard Jaxx do (I usually find them overrated). It’s illustrative, perhaps, that two musicians whose work individually I have problems with (Ono and Jaxx) came together to make a track I like better than most things they’ve done on their own.
Speaking of problematic work gets us into “I Don’t Know Why.” The original of this song is from Ono’s 1981 album, Season of Glass. That’s the one with John Lennon’s bloody glasses on the cover. Guess what it’s about.
The lyric consists, in part, of Yoko’s sorrow and anger spilling out into the unanswerable “You bastards, we had everything!” The original, with its strummed rock backing, was one thing; an a capella version offered as a bonus track on the Glass CD was another.
The Sapphirecut mix is yet another: Disco for the dead. It hits slamming, but … well, does anyone really want to listen to a grieving widow while they’re getting down?
I suppose this is as good a place as any to say that everyone has their mixed opinions about Yoko Ono, and I’m no exception.
(For one thing, I wish she wouldn’t be such a selective editor of Lennon’s memory, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment)
My opinion of her singing/songwriting career is that it is Ono’s special curse as a record maker that she always sounds out of place, even on her most successful records. Then and now.
One of the best examples of that here is in fact the title composition, a song in which I think there may be some sort of play on words implied. Maybe back in 1971 this was empowering. Maybe. In 2007 it’s not hard to imagine that most wannabe Beyonces simply took it as insightful career advice.
Orange Factory, who gave “Walking On Thin Ice” one of its more festive mixes on that single, contribute a pleasing, straightforward mix to Ono’s single-entendre. But when she starts wailing “Open your box, open your legs…” it’s pretty hard to take.
The remixers and producers Ono’s been working with since 2001 do what they can, but that’s only so much considering they’re tethered to that voice. It is neither sexist nor racist to observe that Yoko’s records can be as hard to appreciate as listening to somebody else’s primal scream session. Hard but not impossible.
Although frankly, those remixers and producers could be doing more — if everyone from Neil Tennant to Nelly Furtado can be made to sound like they can sing, then anything is possible.