Season Of Glass

Yoko Ono

Geffen, 1981

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


Yoko Ono’s 1981 album Season Of Glass was released in the summer after the assassination of her husband John Lennon. By nature a confrontational artist, she decided to feature Lennon’s blood-stained spectacles on the album cover, daring record buyers to face the shocking consequence of violence. Lennon’s death was met with raw grief and Ono channelled her personal pain into her work. Season Of Glass is an important record for many reasons and is a pivotal moment in the career of an oft-misunderstood and maligned performer. It was her first major work after her husband’s death and therefore it had to stand on its own considerable merits. It was also a transition from the more experimental, avantgarde music that she recorded throughout the 1970s to her interpretation of pop music and more traditional song structure that she explored throughout the 1980s. Though much of the record deals with brutal, unvarnished feelings, much of the music on this album is far more melodic and tuneful than expected. The best songs on the album show Ono’s strengths as a sensitive and compelling singer-songwriter.

The first track is a lilting, sad balled “Goodbye Sadness” which is a response to Ono’s slow healing after the unthinkable tragedy of witnessing her husband’s murder. Ono sings the simple song with little flourish nor does she employ her idiosyncratic vocalizations. Instead, her glittery, strange voice is small and vulnerable. The music is unadorned and clean, so the achingly sweet and vulnerable lyrics are pushed to the front. Though the anguish is palpable, she writes about wishing for happiness by singing “I hope you hear my song/Never want to cry again.”

The relative simplicity of “Goodbye Sadness” is followed by the far more dramatic “Mindweaver.” Sporting an epic, classic guitar, the song is reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.” The song reads like high school poetry, but this isn’t a criticism. Ono writes of a lover, someone who is quixotic and a source of anxiety and angst.

Five-year old Sean Lennon opens up the achingly romantic “Even When You’re Far Away.” The child starts to ramble a bit, starting to tell a story that he remembers his father telling him, urging Ono to join him in telling the story. Knowing that Sean Lennon recently lost his father in such a terrible way, listening to the child’s innocent babbling (his laugh is heart-breaking) is unbearably sad. The song is a moody love song about the endurance of love, despite obstacles and distance. In the song Ono pays tribute to the strength of her love. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Nobody Sees Me Like You Do” is a melodic pop number, slightly reminiscent of Lennon’s work with Paul McCartney. There are sweet girl group-style harmonies and it works as an affectionate nod to ‘60s Spector-style rock ‘n’ roll. Ono’s shaky and reedy voice shouldn’t work in this context, but it does. Much of her work is about guttural, primal noise, so it’s slightly odd to hear her in such a tightly-constructed context like this song, which recasts Ono as Ronnie Spector or Jackie DeShannon.

While Ono is paying tribute to ‘60s pop with “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do,” she throws her arms around honkytonk C&W with “Turn Of The Wheel.” A fuzzy guitar takes the place of a steel guitar but the melody swings waltz-like and though Ono’s not a powerful singer, she manages to pull off a credible performance aping a roadhouse chanteuse. And because she cares more about pop hooks on this LP than any time before, the song is actually quite catchy.

Though the album has some of Ono’s most mainstream music up to that point in her career, she doesn’t completely abandon her arty rock. “No, No, No,” has a driving beat and a deliberately harsh sound, starting off with the sounds of four gun shots and Ono screaming in the background. Though nowhere as experimental as her feminist proto-punk, the song is a great bridge from the more musical production of Season Of Glass to her signature sound. It’s a great bit of dirty 1980 New York New Wave rock pop. Like “No, No, No,” the challenging “She Gets Down On Her Knees” is the kind of unorthodox pop song that plays with song structure, lyrics, production, and melody. Ono’s otherworldly chirp mimics guitar licks and producer David Spinozza creates a thick, dense wall of production – funky rock guitars, California melodies, psychedelic flourishes, and disco percussion.

The highlight of the record – the best song on the album – wasn’t even part of the original release. “Walking On Thin Ice” is Ono’s shining hour. Released as a single in 1981 before the album’s release, the record is a perfect example of post-disco dance-rock and arguably one of the most important dance records of the 1980s. It doesn’t really fit into Season Of Glass and feels like it’s tacked on, but given that it features John Lennon’s last recorded work (he plays the scorching guitar on the song) it feels right that the jangly genius of the tune is included. The song’s lyrics also deal with Ono’s ruminations on the seemingly random zigs and zags of life as well as being brave enough to take risks and understanding that failure and tragedy can be inevitable.

Season Of Glass is not an easy listen, but then Yoko Ono never is. Even though she’s far more restraint and careful – she doesn’t shriek, yowl, growl, or belch – her voice is still wildly unconventional and idiosyncratic. But the record is a testament to a woman’s commitment to her art and to aim her personal tragedy to make a work of searing pop art.

Rating: A

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