Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, ‘Take Me To the Land of Hell’ (Chimera Music)
Yoko Ono, who turned 80 this past February, baffled rock audiences when she released her first album, “Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band,” in 1970. But when you hear it today, it’s easy to recognize it as proto-punk — the bridge between the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith. And while her vocals grated on ears more accustomed to classic rock back in the ‘70s, she’s right at home in the post-alternative rock age, where her avant-garde approach is seen as an asset, not a liability.
Her new album is jointly credited to Ono and the current edition of the “Plastic Ono Band,” which features her son Sean, among others, and also includes guest appearances by Lenny Kravitz, as well as Adam Horovitz and Mike D of the Beastie Boys, who bring their programming and remixing skills to “Bad Dancer.”
Ono largely draws on the dance beats that have made her a reigning queen on the “Billboard” Hot Dance Club Play chart (in the past decade, remixes of her songs have topped the chart 10 times). And she’s mellowed with age — at least in comparison to the fierce rock that made her 1995 album “Rising” so incendiary. You’ll still find those trademark Ono warbles on “Shine Shine,” but they’re balanced by the quiet grace of the title track, a meditation on loss, presumably about her late husband, John Lennon.
She’s also playfully wry on the anti-war song “Cheshire Cat Cry,” gives her humorous break up song “Leaving Tim” a vintage 1940s setting, and finds poetic inspiration in the sky on the opening track “Moonbeams,” in which she observes, “People are planets/their souls are suns/orbiting the dance floor/of our cosmic club.”