One Track Mind: Plastic Ono Band + Lenny Kravitz, “Cheshire Cat Cry” from Take Me to the Land of Hell (2013)

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Lenny Kravitz brings a crunchy sense of propulsion to this advance song from the forthcoming Plastic Ono Band album, though Yoko Ono handles the vocals alone — whizzing past an even more intriguing intersection.

“Cheshire Cat Cry” is part of the forthcoming guest-packed Plastic Ono Band release Take Me to the Land of Hell, to be released on September 17, 2013 via Chimera Music. The rhythmic, largely spoken-word “Moonbeams” will also be part of this project.

Sean Lennon, Ono’s son with the Beatles’ John Lennon, leads this reconstruction of a band that began as a collaboration between his parents. Lennon and Ono actually performed as the Plastic Ono Band in 1969, before the Beatles had split. Her participation in that ad-hoc grouping — which featured Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann and Alan White — involved free-form vocalizing over a series of conventional rock tunes. (Ono recently debuted a tough new track called “Waiting for the D Train,” which found her collaborating in a similar manner with Iggy Pop.)

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Alan White on participating in a series of seminal moments with the Plastic Ono Band – including their 1969 live debut, “Instant Karma” and the sessions for ‘Imagine.’]

The smash hit single “Instant Karma!” was credited to Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, and both Lennon and Ono produced albums in 1970 under that banner. But “Plastic Ono Band” fell into increasingly secondary usage through 1975, and wasn’t officially jump started again until 2009 — nearly two decades after a deranged fan ended Lennon’s life.

The rejuvenated Ono has since released two EPs and the 2011 full-length Between My Head and the Sky, and been brought together former Sonic Youth leaders Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon for a fascinating piece. Take Me to the Land of Hell features Nels Cline, Questlove, Michael Leonhart, Ad-Rock and Mike-D from the Beastie Boys, Erik Friedlander, Julian Lage, Bob Ludwig and Kravitz, among others.

“Cheshire Cat Cry” certainly shows the promise of such an all-star affair, even if ultimately it ends up feeling less like a complete collaboration than did Ono’s earlier work with Gordon, Moore and Pop. The track’s muscled thump and fiery guitar immediately bring to mind the best of Kravitz’s sound, but “Cheshire” unfolds without showcasing his distinctive voice. Considering Kravitz’s long-held fascination with Lennon, that feels like an opportunity missed.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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