Misunderstood, even reviled during her first decade as a rock & roll singer, Yoko Ono, at sixty-eight, is in the curious position of being taken for granted as a punk godmother. Her vocal extremism is not as shocking as it was in 1968; in a new age of fear, Ono's keening wail and choked-breath seizures now seem prescient, the sound of life during wartime from someone who, as a child in Japan in the 1940s, knew the real thing. Her first album of new material since 1995's Rising, Blueprint for a Sunrise is a suite of live and studio reflections on loss, rage, renewal and memory. Women are beaten, and beaten down, in "Is This What We Do" and in the creepy jazz-funk remake of Rising's "Wouldnit." In the two parts of "I Want You to Remember Me," Ono first writhes in overdubbed vocal agony, then breaks into a gulping, wordless panic against air-raid-siren effects and cold guitar strum. Yet what distinguishes Ono as a singer is not her shriek but the stubborn joy inside. The short march "Soul Got Out of the Box" is a perfect metaphor for her art, and she gives herself room to roam in the concert versions of "Rising" — a resurrection epic worth hearing again — and "Mulberry," a primal guitar-vocal exercise that she first recorded with John Lennon in 1968. On the original tape, Lennon played lunatic, acoustic-slide guitar; here, his son Sean guts an electric with the same glee, matching his mother's primal dissection of the word "mulberry" — a reference to her experiences searching for food during the U.S. bombing of Japan in World War II. An uncanny echo of recent trauma, "Mulberry" attests to the best and worst in humanity: our ability to visit disaster on one another, then to transcend it. Blueprint for a Sunrise is Ono's way of saying we never learn from our mistakes — and that we should never stop trying.
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