Joni Mitchell has always been one of my favorite female vocalists. In recent years, she has moved away from the easily accessible folk-jazz-pop format towards more experimental forms of music. Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" is Joni's most daring effort yet.
The sound of this album is an extension of that which she established in "Hejira." Bass phenomenon Jaco Pastorius appears on every track save one. His luxurious riffs dominate over Joni’s multiple rhythm guitar overdubs. After last year's Weather Report show at Livingston I spoke with Jaco. He told me that Joni’s sessions were all fucked up. She didn't know what she was doing. She had to get a plane and fly me out there to fix things up. I had to produce the whole fuckin' album." No producer is listed on "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter," but Jaco's influence can easily be heard. He also brought along three other members of Weather Report to help out.
But this is still Joni’s album. Some of the better songs which appear here are "Talk to Me," "Cotton Avenue," and "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter." Joni’s lyrics delve deeper into her consciousness than ever before. This may be great for Joni, but I can't relate to whatever it is that she is trying to talk about. The re-recorded version of "Jericho" which appears on this album isn't better than the one which originally appeared on “Miles Of Aisles."
Joni has included a sparse version of her composition "Dreamland," but it's nowhere near as good as the version of Roger McGuinn put out two years ago. The side-long epic "Paprika Plains" just doesn't make it. Joni’s choppy piano ramblings in front of a large orchestra aren't very interesting, and the majority of the song's lyrics remain unsung only to be seen printed on the album jacket. The six and three quarter minute piece entitled "The Tenth World" is also something I could do without. The instrumental features the rhythm section of Weather Report rousing it up with Joni, Airto, and Chaka Kahn. Unfortunately, it doesn't hold up to repeated listening.
As a double album, "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" is nothing short of a joke. The total playing time of all four sides exceeds that of the single LP "Hejira" by a grand total of eight minutes and. seven seconds. There’s enough empty space on this album to put up a parking lot. Had Joni decided to leave out the percussion solos or the remakes, all the material would easily have made it into a single album. Or if Joni’s artistic integrity prevented her from cutting out a song, it could have been put on a 45 and been included as a bonus single. But as a double album, "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" is a rip-off. Hard core Joni fans will buy it anyway, but the general public is advised to beware.