All Star Group Gives Peace a Chance

For some reason, this album became a Top 10 hit in America, but the Brits knew better and stayed away. Recorded live at a Toronto rock festival during which Lennon had fallen ill, the album features the Plastic Ono Band of Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman (bass and cover artist for Revolver) and Yes drummer Alan White doing a blah set of covers the Beatles had done better (“Money,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” plus “Yer Blues”) along with two new Lennon tunes, “Cold Turkey” and “Give Peace a Chance,” the hit single that drove album sales.

Side two consists of two Yoko Ono scream fests: “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand In the Snow)” and “John, John (Let’s Hope for Peace).”

When it was first issued in 1969, this album infuriated most listeners but got some traction with a few forward thinking critics who saw Yoko as ahead of her time. Beatles fans starved for anything new from Lennon put up with the oldies stuff, the mediocre recording and all of side two’s Yoko rants just to hear John’s voice singing something new and especially to hear his pleas for world peace.

You had to be alive and of draft age back then to appreciate just how much hope Lennon’s plea held out for people when they heard the song and imagined it creating a world-wide movement to stop the war in Vietnam, which of course it didn’t.

In retrospect, the album is better than it originally seemed, though the reissue makes a poor, but sloppy yet exuberant recording and mix sound even worse.

It’s gone from lively, boxy, flawed and raw to well-mannered and dull thanks to a 1995 Yoko remix for the CD reissue, which this LP was surely cut from. Particularly poorly served are Yes drummer Alan White’s kit. The cymbals are dead and gone from them and the outdoor air has been evacuated from the production. But it’s “clean,” oh so clean.

When John starts side two by saying “And now Yoko is going to do her thing all over you,” you get the idea he knew what he was talking about.

On the other hand, I have to admit that her screaming and shrieking was way ahead of its time and presaged the big-throated female singers that followed in the 1970’s and beyond. Yoko’s shrieking is incredibly well-controlled too. It’s not just random bleats. With her careening vibrato and round tone, she sound like someone playing a saw, if you’ve ever heard that, or a beached whale.

Capitol gives you the spiral-bound calendar packed with the original pressing. The reissue sounds nothing like the original but given that the original wasn’t anything special, I’m not sure it makes any difference one way or the other.

This reissue is strictly for “completists” or for those who have not heard Yoko doing her thing and want it all over themselves per John’s intro.

I have to admit that all these years later, count me among those who enjoy listening to her wail! It was audacious and annoying but ultimately liberating as is the long drone that ends the side.

forshac's picture

And I should know better than to ask, but....... How does this one compare to the MFSL?