Kronomyth 2.5: MOTHER GOOSE, YOU HAD ME BUT I NEVER HAD YOU. The idea has been advanced, not without merit, that both “All You Need Is Love” and “Instant Karma!” are based on the nursery rhyme, “Three Blind Mice.” When my musical elitism gets the better of me, I remind myself that I (apparently) have the same musical tastes as a two-year-old. This song has always held a special place in my heart and head. After four albums and two singles, John finally got serious. “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” is the first work from the man that actually holds up against the legacy of The Beatles. No hippy chants, no primal scream therapy, this is rock & roll magic at its finest. Alan White also hands in an inspired performance on the drums. Yoko delivers a lovely, complementary song on the B side, “Who Has Seen The Wind?” Featuring flute and harpsichord accompaniment, it’s a nearly beguiling number that presents Yoko as the antithesis of Nico.
Power to the people, right on! Not the people in power, or the people who voted for the people in power, but those other people. No, not the lazy ones who didn’t vote. To the right of them. The malcontents who voted for the wrong guy last time. Those people. Seems like a good idea in theory, and then one day you wake up and pumpkinhead is president. I never liked the politics of this song. Power is a gun, and you can argue endlessly that it’s a deterrent and not a weapon, but no one ever uses it that way. Musically, this song is another of John’s anthems, and I didn’t enjoy any of those except “Woman Is The Nigger of the World.” Brilliant track, that. The B side was Yoko Ono’s controversial “Open Your Box,” which was banned in the UK. The US single featured a different song in its place, “Touch Me” from Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. “Open Your Box” and “Touch Me” are both pretty amazing avant-garde compositions and make a strong case for considering Yoko as a serious artist. It’s too bad she began writing pop songs instead, since her strengths clearly lie in the field of musique concrète.
Worried that Ramshackled is a boondoggle? Relax. Alan White’s first (and only) solo album garnered its share of criticism, both from critics (because it was associated with Yes) and Yes fans (because it didn’t sound enough like Yes). But remembering for the moment that White had only been with Yes a short while, his music naturally draws equally from past employers such as John Lennon, Gary Wright and Joe Cocker. It’s an eclectic mix, sampling soul, rock, jazz, classical and even a little reggae (on the pleasant trifle, “Silly Woman”). You could say the same about Steve Howe’s Beginnings or the side of music Carl Palmer contributed to ELP’s Works Volume One. Ramshackled isn’t as good as all that, with White ceding the songwriting to his old Griffin bandmates Ken Craddock, Colin Gibson and Pete Kirtley. (Not to be confused with the Gryphon that supported Howe on his first album.) If Ramshackled fails, it’s because the rest of Yes were talented musicians with a vision. White might just as well have gone fishing during Yes’ hiatus. Instead, he recorded this low-key album of songs, including a few (“Avakak,” “Song of Innocence”) that tap into Yes’ vibe. Ramshackled’s great sin may be that Yes fans, who were curious for a window into what made White tick, know as little about his muse now as they did before. The revealing science of percussion it isn’t, but approaching this with realistic expectations will go a long way toward appreciating Ramshackled for what it is: a solo album from a ‘70s session drummer who had only recently hitched up with Yes.