On the flip side

Joni Mitchell balances 'Night Ride' with profound, precise music

by Harry Sumrall
Knight-Ridder Newspapers
May 11, 1991

In the course of her (more than) two decade career, Joni Mitchell has constantly walked a fine line between the profound and the precious. At one time or another, she has tumbled off on either side. With "Night Ride Home" (Geffen) she does both.

The title cut is a dizzying ride through surreal country with insects clicking in an odd land and people-scape and Mitchell's voice rasping and growling out the richness of its 47 years.

Others, such as "Passion Play (When All The Slaves Are Free)" and "The Windfall (Everything For Nothing)" display Mitchell's remarkable ability to juxtapose strident, biting lyrics with luxuriant chords and melodies in ways that provoke the mind and soothe the ears.

But Mitchell just can't stop the cleverness before it becomes cloying, and she bubbles over into cuteness on songs like the dreary "Ray's Dad's Cadillac." And not content with cute, she defaces W.B. Yeats on, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" with a sing-songy country-folk sound that thoroughly portents of Armegeddon.

"Night Ride Home" is hardly a Joni Mitchell album to end all worlds. But it is, for the most part a nice cruise.


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