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Joni Mitchell Shows Her Stripes   Print

by Betsy Powell
Toronto Star
October 10, 1998

"Before she recorded this spare and atmospheric follow-up to the Grammy-winning Turbulent Indigo, a fed-up Mitchell was close to retiring from music-making for good.

But you get little sense of her agitation here as she shifts her lyrical focus from childhood recollections of black burlesque review in "Harlem in Havana" to a withering assessment of American military chiefs after the rape of a Japanese girl in "No apologies".

Mitchell's lingering conflicts with her mother surface on "Face Lift" and she yearns for what seems an absent lover on "Man From Mars" - except that the "man" turns out to be her missing cat. (You wonder what's up when she sings: "I can't get through the day/Without at least one big boo boo").

Regrettably, Mitchell only hints at her antipathy toward the music industry. "I'm a runaway from the record biz," she declares on the title track. And she probably has good reason for restraint. But the frustrations that almost drove her to quit would make for more absorbing listening than songs about AWOL felines, though cat owners may disagree.

Indeed, Mitchell's voice sounds not bitter but contented as she moves through arrangements sewn together with the mellow, understated instrumentation of her digitally tuned guitar and Wayne Shorter's sweet sax lines. There are not memorable melodies a la "Free Man In Paris."

But the disc is accessible and her paintings displayed in the album notes ample proof she could have a fallback career as a visual artist should she call it a day as a musician."

 

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