What you hear on Fly is Ono’s disarming combination of opacity and visceral, personal transparency in full bloom. It’s also one of the most unbridled, most captivating soul albums ever made.
And that’s right where she wants you: Vulnerable, wide open to any-and-everything, ready to have your world tipped onto its head. She’s a master of spinning your head around. First, you get the Bar Band from Hell of “Midsummer New York” to kick things off. It’s about the last thing you’d expect from Ono coming off Plastic Ono Band. But here you are, listening to Ono channeling Elvis. Why am I all of a sudden bopping along to it?
At 16-minute-plus, the tranced-out, motorik-inspired boogie “Mind Train” is rough-and-ready for your next basement get down. Movement and perspiration required. Ono’s band of session heavy hitters burrows deep in a sort-of locomotive raga while Ono’s punchy vocables and rhythmic syllables do interpretive dances around one another. If Ono’s voice were Miles Davis’s trumpet, “Mind Train” might not sound totally out of place on Davis’s Jack Johnson or On The Corner.
Then, we have the absolutely gutting blues of “Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand in The Snow).” Full of ache and raw emotion, the song is a love note, a plea for forgiveness, to her estranged daughter Kyoko shot across the universe on a flaming arrow. “Don’t Worry…” is the only song on Fly to feature the truly legendary line-up of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman — all masters laying down a totally crude assault on the blues form. Ono follows this stampede of emotion with the self-referential torch song “Mrs. Lennon,” a wounded — personally wounded, spiritually wounded — song that gets right into the Universal Loneliness. And so here you are. You’re devastated. You’re exhausted. You’re exhilarated. And you’re only 1/4 of the way up the mountain that is Fly. Dig deep, traveler, it’s worth the climb.