'MINGUS' - Joni Mitchell (WEA 5E 505) With each new album Joni Mitchell's music becomes increasingly inaccessible. In place of the remarkably successful blend of jazz and folk that characterized 'Court And Spark', her recent albums have featured headier sounds which are derived very largely from avant-garde jazz. Gone too are the emotionally wrought ballads. In their place is more allusive lyricism. 'MINGUS' is a tribute to Charles Mingus, the brilliant jazz bassist and features a number of songs that Mitchell co-writes with Mingus. The backing band features several members of Weather Report and also Herbie Hancock with Mitchell herself on guitar and vocals. The playing is of exceptional quality and totally sympathetic to Mitchell's unusual vocal stylings. The arrangements are spacious and uncluttered creating a sort of backdrop for the vocals. Where the album fails is in the quality of the lyrics. Joni Mitchell seems incapable of writing anything apart from that which is exceptionally trite and banal, and no amount of musical window dressing can compensate for the poverty of her recent song writing effort.
Somewhere in the liner notes, she calls this music: 'audio painting', and perhaps she is genuinely reaching for a new brand of musical expression, but be that as it may 'MINGUS' can only be looked at as a tentative step towards any such goal.
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